FAO is working to protect and restore livelihoods in the Sahel.

Race on to help farmers and herders in drought-stricken Sahel


FAO calls for an additional $69.8 million to head off food and nutrition crisis - Several countries in the Sahel region of western Africa need urgent support to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition security crisis and to protect and restore livelihoods of communities dependent on livestock and crops, according to FAO.

The agency is calling for at least $69.8 million in additional funding to provide assistance to 790 000 vulnerable farming and herding households, who have been caught in a cycle of recurring food crises. At least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, in part due to localized, but significant, declines in agropastoral production. This includes 5.4 million people in the Niger (35 percent of the population), 3 million in Mali (20 percent), around 1.7 million in Burkina Faso (10 percent), around 3.6 million in Chad (28 percent), 850 000 in Senegal (6 percent), 713 500 in the Gambia (37 percent) and 700 000 in Mauritania (22 percent).

Interview with Federica Damiani, FAO Liaison and Operations Officer

The looming crisis is due to a combination of factors, including drought; sharp declines in cereal production and high grain prices; a shortage of fodder for livestock; a reduction in remittances from migrant workers in several countries; environmental degradation; displacement; and chronic poverty deepened by chronic crisis. Total 2011 cereal production in the Sahel was on average 25 percent lower than in 2010, but as much as 50 percent lower in Chad and Mauritania. There were also localized, huge food production deficits in other countries (up to 80 percent), according to the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA), a forum which includes governments, donors and others involved in food security issues in West Africa.

There were also reported increases in the number of displaced persons in the region. This includes a total of 63 000 internally displaced persons in Mali who have fled conflict in the northern section of that country, and more than 60 000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. “We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said. “Part of the solution is to improve the access of farmers and herders to local markets, encourage the use of local products, and apply risk-reduction good practices to reinforce their resilience”, said Graziano da Silva.