Reference Date: 22-July-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) continues to disrupt agricultural labour and farming activities in some districts
After several years of steady growth, rice production dropped by 8 percent in 2014 due to the effects of the EVD outbreak
Food markets continue to function at below-average levels
Number of food insecure people estimated at about 1.1 million people between June and August 2015
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) continues to affect farming activities in some areas
Planting of the 2015 main rice crop is almost completed. According to satellite imagery, precipitation was average to above-average from April to the first dekad of July, allowing for land preparation and planting. However, new cases of the EVD continue to be confirmed every week in the country and the Government has maintained the state of health emergency. As of mid-July 2015, Sierra Leone has reported 13 209 cumulative Ebola cases, including 3 947 deaths. Although ten of the 14 districts have been declared Ebola-free, having gone 42 days without reporting any new cases, movement restrictions continue to be implemented in affected districts such as Kambia and Port Loko. As a result, restrictions on the gathering of people as well as below-average incomes continue to limit farming activities in affected communities. According to a recent World Bank survey, while rice planting activities have not been disrupted, working hours are still below the baseline and may hamper the 2015/16 agricultural production.
Last year, the EVD outbreak resulted in a serious shock to the agriculture and food sectors in 2014. The epidemic started to spread when crops were being planted and grew during the crop maintenance period, and then expanded rapidly during the critical harvesting period for the staple rice, maize and cassava crops. Various farming activities, including crop maintenance (such as weeding, fencing and application of chemicals) and harvesting have been disrupted mostly through labour shortages. Production of rice, the main staple crop in the Mano River Region, has been most affected. Based on the GIEWS Disease Impact on Agriculture – Simulation (DIAS) Model and the findings of Rapid Assessments carried out in the country, the aggregate food crop production in 2014 is estimated at 2.09 million tonnes (including cassava in cereal equivalent and rice in milled terms), which is 5 percent lower than the record harvest of 2013. Of this total, milled rice production (using the milling rate of 66.7 percent) is estimated at 770 000 tonnes, 8 percent lower than the year before and accounts for about 85 percent of the cereal production. Total coarse grains (maize, sorghum, millets and other small grains) and cassava in cereal equivalent (32 percent of fresh weight) are estimated to have declined by 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. The relatively low level of impact at the national level masks the sub-national production and food security impacts. For example, the negative impact on rice production is estimated as high as 17 percent in Kailahun.
Food markets have been disrupted by outbreak and continue to function at below-average levels
Although the country’s dependency on imported rice has been decreasing in recent years, it still remains a net importer, with a cereal import dependency ratio of about 18 percent. Border closures, quarantine measures and other restrictions have seriously disrupted marketing of goods, including agricultural commodities. Trade activities are estimated to have declined significantly, particularly in quarantined districts.
According to a recent FEWSNet survey, as of May 2015, 46 percent of people surveyed reported that the most important market in their area was closed or operating at reduced levels. Twenty-eight percent of traders also reported that agricultural and market activities continue to function at below-average levels. The economic slowdown due to Ebola has resulted in low income levels and weak household purchasing power.
In May 2015, local rice prices remained mostly stable, except in rural parts of the Western Area where they rose by 5 percent and in Freetown where prices increased by 3 percent. Prices of imported rice increased by 13 percent in Kenema and by 7 percent in urban parts of the Western Area.
Food security severely affected by EVD outbreak
Beyond its impact on the agriculture and food sector, the EVD has seriously affected all other sectors of the economy. The mining, manufacturing and service sectors have been the hardest hit. According to the World Bank’s revised estimates, 2015 GDP will grow by 5.7 percent instead of the earlier forecasted 7.7 percent, with serious impact on livelihoods, income and access to food. The disruption of food chains due to the closing of markets, road blocks and quarantines, restricted cross border trading, as well as changes in traders’ behaviour due to the fear of Ebola has significantly reduced the income of EVD-affected communities including producers, consumers and traders. Specifically, income generating activities typically led by women, such as small trading, have been hit hard and the ban on bush meat has also deprived many households of an important source of nutrition and income. This has in turn negatively impacted on the food security situation of large number of people in the affected communities. Overall, according to the latest “Cadre Harmonisé” analysis, about 1.1 million people are currently estimated to be in Phase 3: “Crisis” and above and are in need of urgent assistance across the country.