Mauritania experiences structural food deficits, recurrent drought and environmental degradation, making access to food difficult for vulnerable households. The current Sahel Crisis, has put many agropastoral households at serious risk of food insecurity, and FAO’s work is imperative in order to ensure they can better access food and safeguard their livestock. FAO works to improve agriculture and livestock production by distributing much needed inputs, focusing on livestock health and training on agricultural techniques.
Responding to the crisis
Agriculture provides the livelihoods of about 67 percent of the population in Mauritania. Many families that own livestock, which provide both food and a source of income, have lost large numbers in their herds. FAO is redistributing meat from livestock that will not survive, in order to provide food and additional income to families. This additional income allows herders to buy animal feed and save their remaining livestock. In addition, FAO is distributing seeds to increase pasture production. Training on good livestock management practices and providing health care have also been key to rebuilding the livelihoods of those worst affected by the crisis.
There are thousands of Malian refugees that have fled from conflict and are seeking asylum in Mauritania, many of them travel with their herds. These large refugee livestock herds are a threat to local crops and are creating competition for the little available pasture and limited animal watering points. FAO is providing livestock animal health support to safeguard the only assets that refugees are able to keep during their displacement.
Boosting and diversifying agricultural production
Poor and erratic rainfall has meant failed harvests, and nearly 25 percent of rural households suffer from food insecurity and lack access to drinking water. However, the rainy season from July 2012 was particularly good in comparison with 2011. FAO was able to distribute sorghum and cowpea seeds in time to be planted for July (rain-fed season) and September/October (recessional agriculture season), and a good harvest is expected for November. FAO continues to support overall agricultural production in the country to ensure food availability.
Food prices have remained high, reducing the purchasing power of vulnerable households and making their access to food more difficult. FAO is also supporting gardening, by providing seeds for different varieties of vegetables. Sweet potatoes are becoming an important food for households since they have a high nutritional content, allowing households to improve their nutritional intake. FAO ‘s programme includes a training component to improve the production, management, use and sale of the vegetables produced. By selling surpluses many families will also have an additional income.
Monitoring the locust situation
Mauritania has been negatively impacted by periodic locust invasions. FAO is regularly monitoring the eastern region of the country, where locusts have been found. Small-scale breeding is in progress but locust numbers still remain low. FAO is maintaining survey operations, and may implement control operations should locust numbers increase.