Reference Date: 03-June-2014
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Unfavourable prospects for the current, 2014 cropping season due to insecurity
Food access constraints due to trade and market disruptions
The dire food security situation is continuously and sharply deteriorating since early 2013
Civil insecurity negatively impacted on prospects for the current 2014 cropping season
In the Central African Republic (CAR), harvesting of the maize crop is expected to start in July in parts of the Centre and the South, while still some sowing would continue in June indicating the extended cropping period in different parts of the country. In northern provinces, where sorghum and millet are predominantly grown, crops are either being sown or are vegetative and harvesting is expected to start from August.
According to satellite-based information and analysis, favourable weather conditions prevailed during the cropping season in most provinces. The FAO Agricultural Stress Index (ASI) and Normalized Vegetation Index (NDVI) data indicate favourable vegetation conditions, as adequate rainfall from March until the second dekad of May was received both in southern maize-producing areas (see NDVI graphs for Mbomou and Ouaka provinces) and in northern millet/sorghum growing areas (see NDVI graph for Bamingui-Bangoran province). However, the widespread conflict, which caused the loss and the depletion of the already inadequate households’ productive assets, together with shortages and soaring prices of inputs, is expected to severely affect the outcome of the cropping season. According to the findings of the Multi-Agency Multi-Sectoral Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) undertaken in December 2013, 94 percent of the interviewed communities reported that they would not have enough seeds to plant for the current agricultural season if not provided through humanitarian assistance.
In order to respond to the needs of crisis-hit farmers, the Food Security Cluster, co-led by FAO and WFP, planned to distribute tools and 1 800 tonnes of seeds by mid-June 2014. FAO has established strategic partnerships with NGOs to implement this plan and assist 80 000 farming families countrywide. Seeds distributions are coupled with food rations from WFP to avoid seed consumption and support farming activities. As of 20 May, almost all the purchased seeds (1 742 tonnes) and tools (97 percent) have been pre-positioned in FAO seed-distribution hubs in Bangui, Bambari, Bossangoa and Bouar. However, rising levels of insecurity on the main roads and in rural areas affected logistics and the transportation of inputs and, in turn, the distributions to farmers, while funding constrains limited the scope of operations.
As a result, a further and overall decline in agricultural output is likely and such a decline would exacerbate the dire levels of food insecurity and severely undermine the economy at large, as agriculture accounts for around 53 percent of the national GDP and a large share of employment.
Widespread insecurity and conflict resulted in sharply reduced crop production in 2013
The conflict which started in December 2012 in the northeast and quickly spread west and southwards in the following months severely affected the 2013 agricultural season as large numbers of households could not access their fields due to severe insecurity. Only a small fraction of the displaced households were able to farm small plots of lands, due to the lack of seeds which were either looted or consumed, and the destruction of agricultural tools and inputs, which were already inadequate even prior the conflict. Consequently, according to a joint FAO/WFP markets and food security assessment fielded in March 2014, in 2013 agricultural production declined by about 40 percent compared to the previous year, despite favourable rainfall received in most areas during the cropping season. According to the findings of the Multi-Agency Multi-Cluster/Sector Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA), undertaken in December 2013, 60 percent of the farmers included in the nation-wide sample have indicated that their crop production in 2013 was significantly reduced from last year’s levels.
Livestock rearing activities were also seriously disrupted with about 50 percent of livestock either killed or taken to neighbouring countries, particularly cattle. Around 45 percent of the households interviewed during the MIRA declared to have lost their livestock and poultry.
Agricultural exports, especially timber, cotton and coffee (the largest source of foreign currency, together with diamonds), were also sharply reduced.
High prices of several food commodities constraining food access and dietary diversity
According to a market survey fielded by FAO in March 2014, which collected prices of meat, fish and agricultural commodities in three markets of Bangui (Marché Central, Petevo, and Ouango) and in Bossangoa, in Ouham prefecture, several food commodities were in short supply and sold at very high prices. For instance, in Bangui, in March 2014 prices of beef meat were almost double than 12 months earlier and prices of the most consumed types of fish were almost 70 percent higher than 12 months earlier. Similarly, in Bossangoa, in March 2014 prices of beef meat were about four times higher than 12 months earlier, and prices goat meat and fish were 50 and 60 percent higher than in March 2013, respectively.
By contrast, prices of agricultural commodities showed a marked volatility since the start of the crisis, but are at comparatively low levels: in Bangui, in May 2014 prices of maize and cassava were 15 and 31 percent lower than 12 months earlier, respectively. The low prices of agricultural commodities are the result of a sharp decrease in production coupled with a serious decline in demand, as households, whose purchasing power was constrained due to destroyed livelihoods, reduced employment opportunities and availability of cash, partially shifted from market purchases to own stocks and production (mainly cassava) and gathering. Food aid distributions (mainly maize and palm oil) exerted additional downward pressure on prices.
According to the joint FAO/WFP markets and food security assessment, the population of CAR is facing serious and constantly deteriorating food access constraints, due to destroyed livelihoods, reduced own production, sharply curtailed market activity and availabilities, and access to markets. In addition, not only the quantity of food intake is reduced, but the dietary diversity is also drastically diminished, with the substitution of more nutritious cereal and vegetable staples with more cassava and the sharp reduction of animal proteins intake. This widespread dietary deterioration raises serious concerns, having a dire effect in terms of nutrition and health.
Dire food security situation
The civil conflict, which began in December 2012 in north eastern provinces, expanded and escalated further since March 2013, when violence spread to the capital Bangui and to the whole country. Since then, the Central African Republic has moved from a protracted crisis characterized by chronic underdevelopment and localized emergency situations into an acute and complex emergency affecting the entire population and territory. This has resulted in widespread disruption in agricultural and marketing activities and caused massive displacements (in late May 2014 the IDP caseload was estimated at 557 000), thus having a severe negative impact on both food availability and access. As a result, the food security situation, which has been seriously and sharply deteriorating since the start of the crisis, is alarming.
According to the analysis conducted by the FAO-supported Integrated Food Security Phase Classification in April 2014, about 1.7 million people (out of a total population of 4.6 million), are currently in need of urgent assistance, with 57 percent of them in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 43 percent in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency).The regions most affected by food insecurity (Phase 4, Emergency), are Ouham and Ouham Pende provinces in the north-west: in these areas the food security situation is likely to deteriorate further in the coming months until the start of harvests in August. All the other regions of the country except one have been classified as IPC Phase 3 (Crisis).
In response, the international community launched in December 2013 a Strategic Response Plan, which was revised and scaled up in late January 2014 following the aggravation of the situation. It currently plans to assist 1.9 million beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 565 million. The food security cluster plans to assist 1 250 000 beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 180 million providing food assistance to severely food insecure populations and supporting the agricultural sector by improving access to essential agricultural inputs including seeds and tools, through the rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment for production such as drying areas and warehouses, and support to animal and crop disease control. As of 22 May, only 32 percent (about USD 178 million) of funding has been received.