8 December 2003 Rome -- Though some regions in Sub-Saharan Africa can expect bumper crops, food shortages are forecast in 23 countries throughout the continent, according to the Africa Report released today by FAO.*

According to FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System, this provides an opportunity to enhance food security through trade from surplus to deficit areas.

FAO urges aid agencies to rely on local purchases or triangular transactions to carry out food aid activities. In triangular transactions a third party finances trading between two other parties.

For example, when a donor agency purchases grain from a farm coop and provides the grain to a non-governmental organization to use in nutrition programs, or to a government warehouse to replenish a grain reserves.

The Africa Report is a regional and country-by-country breakdown of crop prospects and food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa, including expected food aid requirements.

East African trouble spots

According to the report, in eastern Africa, the total cereal output is expected to increase over the last year's reduced amount. "However, the impact of successive droughts in parts of Somalia and south-eastern Ethiopia is a cause for serious concern."

Somalia faces a "serious humanitarian crisis" in the Sool Plateau caused by successive drought, crop failure and the widespread loss of livestock. "An estimated 93,000 people are in need of urgent food and other humanitarian assistance," the report says.

In Eritrea, despite improved cereal production over last year's extremely poor crop, 1.4 million people will need emergency food aid. But, Ethiopia and Sudan expect generally improved 2003 harvests that should enhance food security.

Tanzania faces serious threats to food security for the central, southern and northern coastal areas due to drought, but the food supply situation overall is stable.

Intensified civil strife in the north and east of Uganda has swollen the number of displaced people in the country and increased humanitarian assistance needs.

West Africa sees some improvement

In Western Africa, a bumper crop is expected in the Sahel, following generally favorable weather throughout the growing season. However, according to the report, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Mauritania still face food shortages.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the food situation is critical, particularly in the west and rebel-controlled north. In Liberia, the humanitarian situation is improving following a peace agreement in mid-August and the deployment of a West African peace keeping force, but the overall security situation remains precarious.

In neighboring Sierra Leone, despite below-normal rainfall, the overall food security situation has improved with returning refugees and displaced farmers resuming farming activities.

Central Africa continues to suffer from the aftermath of conflict in the two largest countries of the sub-region. Food production in the Central African Republic is not expected to increase this year, notably in the north, due to insecurity at planting time and a lack of seeds.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, food production continues to be hampered by insecurity.

Normal weather expected in southern Africa

The report forecasts normal weather conditions in southern Africa for the 2003/04 agricultural season which has just begun. But, it warns, several countries are still threatened by serious food shortages.

Zimbabwe faces widespread shortages of key inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, fuel and farm power, which will limit the area planted. Some 5.5 million people, or half of the country's total population, are in need of emergency food assistance.

In Angola, food assistance is needed for 1.4 million vulnerable people in spite of good harvests in 2003.

Madagascar has an estimated 600 000 people in need offood assistance due to a poor maize harvest causedby drought last season and in Mozambique, some 659 000 need food assistance due to near-total maize crop failure last season.

The report says that the HIV/AIDS pandemic has a major and widespread impact on sub-Saharan Africa's food security.

The Africa Report is published three times annually by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System.
*The 23 countries facing food emergencies:
Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

John Riddle
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53259