The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: West Africa

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: West Africa
Nov 2008

Much of the population of West Africa suffers from poverty. Many people who are not officially classified as poor are only slightly above the absolute poverty line. In 2008, agricultural output was lower than anticipated for the second consecutive year. The agricultural livelihoods of many vulnerable households have also been impacted by rising commodity prices, displacement, disease epidemics and natural disasters.

Several West African nations are facing protracted refugee crises, though progress in reaching resolutions has been achieved in many cases. More than 200 000 refugees are currently being hosted throughout the region, most of whom are native to Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone and Togo. Thousands of refugees have returned to their homelands in 2008, a trend which is expected to continue in 2009. Furthermore, the people of West Africa have recently been confronted with outbreaks of meningitis, sporadic yellow fever and cholera. Agricultural livelihoods have also been consistently affected by recurring floods and drought.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

According to regional estimates, cereal production for the 2007/08 agricultural season was 1.6 million tonnes lower than the previous year. Cash crop production, particularly cotton and groundnuts, was also less than in the previous season. These production deficits, coupled with the global trends of soaring prices of food and fuel in 2008, have led to sharp price increases for locally produced cereals and imported commodities.

As prices escalate beyond their reach, people who are dependent on markets for access to food face further reductions in purchasing power. Urban and peri-urban areas are particularly hard hit, as demonstrated by recent protests in several cities across West Africa. Coastal communities that are dependant on imports for the bulk of their cereal supply are also suffering negative impacts of increased grain prices. In particular, prices for imported rice have risen throughout the region, as older and cheaper stocks are consumed and available supplies are less able to fulfil local demands.

In many areas across West Africa, food security and nutrition will deteriorate as stocks will be depleted in the coming months and the crops are not yet ready to be harvested. Rural populations are expected to benefit from their upcoming harvests and milk production, though needs in urban areas may remain high for a longer period as people adapt their coping mechanisms to the context of higher prices. Damage to infrastructure caused by recurring floods has also disrupted the transportation of goods to markets, which may lead to further increases in prices at local levels.

FAO response

In 2009, FAO will reinforce support to food security analyses at national and regional levels. Regional-level assistance will include coordinated food security assessments, demand-driven support to methodological developments and the identification of action for rapid responses to severe food insecurity crises. Country-specific response plans will provide seeds, fertilizer, tools and animal production inputs to vulnerable households identified through the comprehensive assessments.

FAO aims to enhance crop production in the following year through the provision of agricultural inputs to selected beneficiaries in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, the Niger, Senegal and Togo. Project activities in Mauritania will also include the reactivation of seed banks and the provision of phytosanitary products. Additional agricultural assistance provided to the Niger will include the construction of wells and irrigation systems, as well as the development of fire breaks. Furthermore, training in improved crop production techniques will be provided through the proposed projects.

Livestock assistance will also be provided in selected areas. Beneficiaries in Burkina Faso will be assisted through the provision of ruminants for reproduction, as well as feed and sanitary products. In Togo, FAO’s intervention will include the vaccination of birds against Newcastle disease, as well as training and awareness raising about the disease. Anti-parasites, mineral additives and multivitamins will be distributed to livestock owners in Mauritania, whereas animal feed and veterinary supplies will be provided to beneficiaries in Senegal. Project activities in Liberia will establish a small-scale pilot poultry feed production unit, as well as facilitate the construction of poultry shelters. Livestock owners in the Niger will benefit from small ruminant restocking, improved sanitation and the establishment of animal feed shops.