Erratic rains, civil strife and desert locusts seriously threaten food security in sub-Saharan Africa
Crisis in Sudan pushes millions off the land. Elsewhere, drought and AIDS undercut agricultural production
6 July 2004, Rome -- Twenty-three countries in sub-Saharan Africa are facing food emergencies for the summer season, according to FAO's latest Africa Report, issued today.
Despite an overall decline in the region's food aid requirements, poor rains, internal conflicts, HIV/AIDS and a locust invasion have exposed millions of people to serious food insecurity and the need for emergency food assistance, the UN agency warned.
Sub-Saharan Africa's food aid requirement for 2004 is estimated at 2.9 million tonnes, compared to around 4 million tonnes last year.
Violence offsets good harvest in Sudan
The humanitarian crisis in Greater Darfur, Sudan, has had grave consequences for food security, the report said, with over 1.2 million people forced from their homes and fields.
Despite good rains and a record cereal crop last year, prospects for the 2004 season are extremely poor as a result, the report noted. "Reports paint a grim picture where the conflict has engulfed almost all parts of Greater Darfur, disrupting agricultural production and other essential activities."
An emergency operation was jointly approved by FAO and the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) on 3 June 2004 to provide over US$195 million in food aid assistance to 2 million affected people in Sudan.
Eastern Africa: harvest prospects unfavourable
In eastern Africa, poor rains and the lingering effects of past droughts and conflicts have increased the likelihood of serious food shortages in several countries.
"In Somalia, the situation is very alarming as the cumulative effects of recurrent droughts and long running civil strife have led to severe food insecurity," reported FAO, singling out the drought situation in the Northeast as "particularly worrying." Four years of below-normal rainfall have killed up to 80 percent of livestock in some areas. Intensifying civil conflicts in southern and central areas have compounded these problems.
In Ethiopia, despite earlier optimism, rains have been inadequate, while in Eritrea the likelihood of another drought-reduced harvest is very high. In Uganda, crop prospects are unfavourable due to erratic rains, adding to enduring insecurity in the North. Kenya's unfavourable crop prospects are compounded by cases of Aflatoxin poisoning in several parts of the country. The Government has stepped up food distributions in districts with contaminated stocks.
Conflict and locust invasion the leading problems in Western Africa
The overall food supply situation is western Africa remains satisfactory, reflecting good harvests in 2003, FAO said, but food difficulties persist in several countries.
An upsurge of desert locusts poses a serious threat to this year's coming crops in the Sahel; however, control operations remain severely hampered by lack of resources.
Insecurity and the unavailability of agricultural inputs continue to cause problems in Côte d'Ivoire, but there are signs of improvement in some areas, noted FAO. Sierra Leone's security situation remains calm and plantings are increasing as displaced farmers return and access to farming inputs improves. Still, internally displaced people and refugees in these two countries, as well as in Liberia and Guinea, continue to require food assistance.
In Chad, fighting in nearby Sudan has led to an influx of nearly 200 000 refugees, putting the food stocks of local populations under heavy strain and significantly raising cereal prices.
Civil strife in Central Africa undermining food security
Cereal production is expected to decrease for the third consecutive year in the Central African Republic as a result of civil strife, despite favourable weather conditions.
Similarly, in the Republic of Congo, a delicate security situation is still hampering humanitarian assistance, and many challenges for improving agricultural production remain, despite recent peace accords.
Burundi should see some improvement in food crop production in 2004, but an outbreak of cassava mosaic virus has pushed up prices for mainstay roots and tubers by 50 to 100 percent in some areas.
Southern Africa beset by HIV/AIDS and drought
The preliminary estimate of the 2004 cereal harvest in southern Africa puts production at about 20 million tonnes, roughly a 4 percent drop from last year. Production of maize, the region's most important crop, declined by 9 percent from the previous year, to 14 million tonnes.
Cereal harvests in Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe decreased in 2004, while Angola, Botswana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia enjoyed increases in production.
Angola has had a very good crop, with abundant rains raising cereal output to 713 000 tonnes, up 9 percent from last year and 27 percent over the previous five-year average.
To the south, however, Lesotho continues to reel from the effects of drought; its estimated 2004 cereal production is less than half of last year's, necessitating emergency food assistance to large numbers of people, FAO said.
Cereal production in Zimbabwe also remains well below average levels, with anticipated food shortages for 2.3 million rural people -- and at least as many in urban areas. The report cited a number of underlying factors, including late and erratic rains, shortages of seeds, draught power and fertilizer, underused commercial farms, and the impact of HIV/AIDS.
In addition, "Hyper-inflation, combined with extremely high levels of unemployment, greatly limit access to food for the most vulnerable people," noted FAO.
The cereal harvest in Malawi was also below normal, and 1.26 million people in the south and some central regions will require food assistance, FAO said.
The Africa Report is produced by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service and is partly based on joint FAO/World Food Programme assessment missions to African countries throughout the year.
Information Officer, FAO
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