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West Africa and Sahel Programme

West Africa and Sahel Programme

In the West Africa and Sahel region, millions of vulnerable people who depend on the production, marketing and consumption of crops, livestock, fish, forests and other natural resources are confronted by recurring disasters and crises. These shocks undermine their livelihoods and threaten their food and nutrition security. Drought, floods, the locust threat, socio-political instability or rising food prices exacerbate the structural weaknesses of countries in this region, known for their decreasing soil fertility and desertification, insufficient agriculture investments, high poverty rate and population growth.

Food security and livelihoods challenges in 2014

Despite the 2013 harvest in the Sahel being equivalent to the last five years average, over 20 million people will struggle with food insecurity in the Sahel in 2014.

Vulnerable households have barely recovered from the previous food security crises (2005, 2008, 2010, 2012), and need support to become more resilient. Without adequate means to restore their livelihoods, they will be forced to turn to negative coping mechanisms (sale of livestock and agricultural inputs, reducing number and quality of daily meals, accumulating debt, decreasing expenditures for education, health and malnutrition-related care, selling their force labour on the detriment of cultivating their own plot, etc.) leaving them even more vulnerable to future shocks thus aggravating food insecurity.

In addition to the life saving and livelihoods restoration from current food insecurity, additional challenges should be addressed in 2014:

  • Possible erratic climatic patterns or drought which may cause loss of crops and livestock hence disrupting livelihoods;
  • Population displacements due to possible natural or man-made disasters;
  • Desert locust constituting a perennial threat to crops if not timely controlled;
  • Humanitarian access, regularly jeopardized by armed group;
  • Timely funding of agriculture and livestock activities;
  • Important livelihood needs unaddressed in the past years. In fact while the assistance provided in response to the Sahel crisis has been crucial, millions of households did not benefit from adequate support and will require reinforced assistance in 2014.

FAO and resilience in West Africa/Sahel

It is crucial to break the vicious cycle of crises by proactively building the resilience capacities of farmers, agropastoralist, pastoralists and fishermen communities to cope with these shocks. As part of its objectives to increase the resilience of livelihoods from disasters, FAO, with national and regional partners, (i) analyses vulnerabilities, (ii) protects the livelihoods and food security of the most vulnerable populations through prevention and mitigation measures, and (iii) restores and strengthen affected livelihoods to respond to crises.

FAO’s Regional Resilience, Emergency and Rehabilitation Office for West Africa/Sahel (REOWA) was created in Dakar in 2006 to enable FAO to liaise and coordinate with humanitarian actors at regional level. The Office also provides strategic humanitarian guidance for FAO’s country offices in the sub-region.

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