Ebola in West Africa: Diaobe, subregional platform for trade and commerce

Ebola in West Africa: Diaobe, subregional platform for trade and commerce

01/12/2014

In Senegal, where food insecurity and malnutrition rates are still high in some areas, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working with the government to develop joint strategies in response to food insecurity and malnutrition. This is the theme of the Integrated Support for Food and Nutrition Security (AISAN) project, jointly implemented by FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). The project takes action on different aspects of food security over a large part of the country to respond to both immediate needs in terms of covering food requirements and also to ensure accessibility and a specific response to the particular nutritional needs of the most vulnerable groups.

Within the framework of the AISAN project, FAO Representative Vincent Martin visited the south of Senegal, a few kilometres from the border with Guinea – an area where questions are currently being raised about the potential impacts of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak and the closing of the border between Senegal and Guinea. The FAO Representative (who is also FAO’s Response Coordinator for Ebola) also visited Diaobe, one of the subregion’s main marketplaces.

Despite being the trade and commerce platform for seven countries in the subregion (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone), trade in Diaobe is now slow since borders between Senegal and Guinea were closed – a far cry from the hive of activity usually characterizing the place. The closure of borders with Guinea appears to have a direct impact on vendors and wholesalers, who are now out of work. 

Most of the produce usually sold at Diaobe’s market comes from Guinea-Conakry. The products most affected by the border closures are coffee, potatoes, honey and palm oil. Often, these products are not available at market, and if they are, the price is higher or affordable, but the quality is lower.

Because of its regional nature, the Diaobe market has always enabled local populations to develop income-generating activities, especially selling local produce such as rice and vegetables. As representatives of women’s associations report, “One of the biggest difficulties they face is paying back loans from microcredit institutions, as they no longer have income-generating activities”.

The Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa is therefore likely to have a serious socio-economic impact, especially in the food and agriculture sector. “This crisis has regional ramifications. Today, every organization involved in the response needs to grasp the implications. FAO’s priority is to understand these implications in terms of food and nutrition security so that we can decide upon the scale of our response”, said Vincent Martin.

In Senegal, assessments are currently underway to measure the level of food security in the country and in the Casamance region. These assessments are crucial and must take into account the potential impact of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak on livelihoods in order to adjust the national response within the framework of Senegal’s strategic response plan for food and nutrition security. FAO’s response to Ebola Virus Disease therefore now includes supporting the authorities in Senegal with this issue, even though it is currently considered a non-affected country.