The crisis in the Great Lakes region and
The affected communities and
- Armed conflict in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Zaire
has led to extensive suffering among local and refugee
populations in the Great Lakes region. The majority of
whom are of rural origin.
- The local population (excluding refugees) in Rwanda,
Burundi and Kivus (North and South) is estimated at 18
million persons (6.1 million in Rwanda, 5.9 million in
Burundi and approximately 6 million persons resident in
- A total of nearly 2 million refugees coming from one
or more neighbouring countries are living in the five
bordering countries of the Great Lakes region (Burundi,
Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zaire).
- Since mid-November the situation in Rwanda has
changed dramatically with the return of large numbers of
refugees from Zaire. The scale of this population
movement has surprised both the Rwandese authorities and
the international humanitarian community. Prior to this,
however, conditions in Rwanda had stabilized sufficiently
to allow the government, in collaboration with the
international donor community, to begin considering how
to restore the agricultural sector.
- Prior to the present crisis, camps in the Zairean
border area had housed about 1.2 million refugees. Since
the exodus began and as of 19 November, more than 300 000
refugees have returned to Rwanda from Northern Kivu. An
additional 150 000 refugees seemed likely to return from
Southern Kivu. In Burundi only 30 000 refugees had
returned, and more than 10 000 persons from the southern
provinces had fled to Tanzania because of fighting in the
- The five countries in the Great Lakes region are
linked by a web of political, economic, social and
cultural relationships. These linkages and
interdependency all point to the need for a regional
approach to the delivery of humanitarian assistance in
Burundi, Rwanda, western Tanzania, southwestern Uganda
and South and North Kivu in Zaire. Considerable financial
support and technical assistance is required to cope with
their humanitarian, environmental, economic and social
Crop and food supply situation
FAO's assessment of the crop and food supply situation is
Zaire - Kivu Region
- Insecurity and closure of roads hamper food aid
- Substantial stocks of food aid are available in the
region, but the food supply situation is extremely
- Returnees to Rwanda have reported that large numbers
of people are dying because of hunger and diseases.
- Elsewhere in Zaire the food supply situation is
- Planting for the the first crop season of 1997 is
under way, but work has been delayed in some provinces by
a dry spell in the second half of October.
- Prospects are poor as a result of local shortages and
high prices for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
- Food prices (mainly of beans and bananas) have
increased sharply since July.
- Planting for the first crop season of 1997 is under
- Despite the availability of large quantities of
seeds, the area planted is expected to be reduced because
many people are still outside the country.
- The food supply situation remains stable.
FAO's response and strategy
- FAO emergency assistance to the Great Lakes region
started in 1994 in Rwanda, immediately following the
outbreak of the crisis and FAO has kept the international
community informed on the deterioration of the food
situation throughout the crisis. FAO/WFP Special Reports
for Rwanda and Burundi have given estimates of the food
- FAO, with the financial support of numerous countries
and organizations, has established a programme of
technical cooperation permitting rapid interventions and
enabling FAO to put its expertise at the service of the
government, of international humanitarian organizations
- Contributions from donors (Sweden, Italy, France,
Finland, United Kingdom, Austria, the World Bank and the
Netherlands) amounting to about US$11.7 million have
enabled the procurement of agricultural inputs (seed,
tools and fertilizer).
- With the worsening of the situation, the FAO
Representatives and Emergency Coordinators in the Great
Lakes region, as well as the FAO Representative in Kenya,
have been instructed to support to the maximum the
Regional Humanitarian Coordination of the United Nations
Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) in its efforts
to assist returnees. The FAO Representatives in the
region have also been instructed to contact and cooperate
fully with other major humanitarian assistance agencies
such as UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP.
FAO's present strategy involves action in five
different but complementary areas:
1) Coordinating assistance and technical advice. FAO is
setting up a special agricultural relief and recovery
coordinating unit for Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire as well as a
unit to coordinate action within the Great Lakes region as a
whole. These units will help these countries to manage
agricultural relief projects, to move from an emergency
phase to one of recovery and rehabilitation and to establish
systems for the collection and management of essential
information. These activities will bring together all those
government institutions, donors and NGOs engaged in the food
and agriculture sector.
2) Monitoring the crop and food supply situation. Joint
FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment missions are planned
in Rwanda, Burundi and the Kivu Region in Zaire during 1997
to assess production of the first and second crop seasons at
January and June 1997 and to estimate the food aid
3) Assessing the situation and potential with respect to
the supply of agricultural inputs, rehabilitation needs and
activities to speed the transition from emergency relief to
recovery and development.
4) Rebuilding local capacities for assessing
requirements, formulating policies, revitalizing
institutions and the local economy and carrying out
5) Implementing emergency agricultural relief programmes
either directly or in cooperation with NGOs and other
- FAO will provide its support in close collaboration
with other UN agencies and programmes particularly UNHCR,
which has been designated as the lead UN agency for the
coordination of humanitarian activities, and DHA.
- FAO's humanitarian assistance will focus mainly on
people returning to Rwanda and Burundi, providing them
with basic agricultural inputs such as seeds and hand
hoes, but the Organization also plans to provide similar
assistance to vulnerable local populations in Burundi,
Rwanda and eastern Zaire.
- FAO provisionally estimates that US$4.9 million is
needed immediately to meet the most urgent needs of
returning refugees and local affected rural populations
in Rwanda, Burundi and in eastern Zaire. This estimate is
based on providing help to a population of 2.3 million
persons (469 000 farming families) in eastern Zaire,
Rwanda and Burundi. This figure will need to be updated
once the number of returnees and the needs of the local
population in eastern Zaire have been more precisely
Immediate action by FAO
- A regional emergency coordinator is being appointed
under a US$400 000 project funded by FAO's own Technical
Cooperation Programme (TCP). The regional coordinator
will supervise the activities of two emergency
coordinators based in Burundi and eastern Zaire and in
close consultation with FAO representatives ensure the
overall effectiveness of FAO's actions in the region.
- An FAO mission is in Rwanda in order to devise a
rehabilitation and development plan for agriculture in
the region. As soon as conditions permit, similar
missions will be sent to both eastern Zaire and Burundi
to build upon the work of this pioneer effort.
FAO has already started rebuilding agriculture in the
country, for example, by supporting seed production and
providing basic hand tools (US$400 000) and by strengthening
national support to farmers, for example, through the
resumption of extension services (US$330 000), radio
broadcasts on agriculture (US$208 000), developing marshland
for agriculture (US$275 000) and encouraging reforestation
(US$273 000). FAO is also cooperating with major donors such
as the World Bank in the preparation of investment
programmes. A joint FAO/World Bank mission to identify an
agricultural sector strategy and investment programme is
expected to complete its field work by the end of November.
FAO has obtained the agreement of the Organization of
African Unity (OAU) to lift partially sanctions to permit
the supply of fertilizer and seed to Burundi on humanitarian
grounds. One immediate result is that 4 000 tonnes of
fertilizer purchased by the Government of Burundi and 610 kg
of vegetable seed donated by FAO are being delivered to
Following a request for assistance from the Government of
Burundi, a project for the urgent supply of bean and
vegetable seed (US$400 000) is ready for signature.
A team of FAO experts (an economist, an agronomist, a
forestry specialist and a livestock specialist) is working
as part of a UNDP-funded project to assist reconstruction in
A total of 6 300 kg of vegetable seed belonging to FAO
(donation in kind) are in Dar Es Salaam ready to be
delivered to eastern Zaire for the benefit of the local
population once conditions allow.
Widespread deforestation, destruction of research and
extension infrastructures, loss of seed and farm equipment
and destruction of livestock have been reported. (The
national herd of cattle is estimated to have declined from
300 000 to about 15 000 head.) FAO made an assessment of the
most immediate needs to rebuild agriculture in August 1996.
The report included five project profiles requiring a total
investment of US$1.8 million.