Locust attacks and civil strife compound effects of drought in sub-Saharan Africa
Food aid needs expected to increase due to production shortfalls
20 December 2004, Rome - Despite normal or above-average food production in some countries during 2004, food security in sub-Saharan Africa has taken a hit from a combination of factors, including drought, invasions by crop-devouring locusts and civil conflicts, says FAO's Africa Report, published today.
All told, 23 countries in the region are facing food emergencies. In the just-ending 2003-2004 period, food aid needs in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to 3.1 million tones, of which 2.8 million tonnes have actually been delivered so far. This compares with 4 million tonnes delivered in 2002/2003.
In 2004-05 food aid needs are expected to increase in view of production shortfalls in several countries. However, the actual aid requirements will only be known once the ongoing harvests in eastern and western Africa are completed.
In Western Africa, assessment missions by FAO and the UN's World Food Program (WFP) have found that the region's aggregate cereal production for 2004 will remain within the five year average of 11.6 million tonnes. But the mission also found that droughts and locust invasions have caused severe localized damage to crops and pastures in many countries.
In Mauritania, the most affected country, the FAO/WFP mission estimates that 2004 cereal production will drop 44% compared to last year. Cape Verde has also been badly affected by poor rainfall and locusts and will be facing a larger-than-usual food deficit in 2004/05.
To the south, an escalation of violence in Cote d'Ívoire has displaced thousands of people into Liberia since early October, making them dependent on food aid.
Several countries in Eastern Africa have had below-average crop production due to erratic seasonal rains and civil conflict, exacerbating the already precarious food situation in the region, FAO said. The region's 2004 aggregate cereal output is anticipated to be lower than last year's crop as a result.
In Sudan, over 4 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, mainly due to the conflict in Darfur, which has drastically disrupted agricultural production. FAO also warned that emergency needs in southern Sudan are also serious, despite improvements in security conditions in that area.
A "well-below average" maize crop in Kenya, coupled with poor rains in pastoral areas, has resulted in a precarious food situation, the Africa Report indicates. Overall, FAO estimates that nearly 2.7 million people in Kenya require humanitarian aid.
Conflict main problem in Central Africa
In the Central Africa Republic, what FAO characterized as "a strong agricultural recovery" is being constrained by persistent insecurity, while the volatile situation in the Republic of Congo continues to hamper humanitarian assistance there and increased tensions between Rwanda and the DR Congo have raised the spectre of renewed armed conflict and subsequent impacts on food production.
Southern Africa: hope of good weather, but problems persist
In southern Africa weather conditions for the main 2004-2005 agricultural season, which has just begun, are forecast to be normal, FAO noted. Still, the region's food security situation remains precarious.
For example, in Zimbabwe high prices and shortages of maize grain in some areas are causing serious food security concerns, the Organization said. Continued and widespread shortages of key agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and fuel are expected during the current planting season. Some 4.8 million people -- about 40% of Zimbabwe's population -- are in need of emergency food assistance.
For southern Africa overall, 2004 cereal production is estimated at 21.9 million tonnes -- a slight decrease from last year's output. Cereal import requirements for 2004-05 are estimated at about 7 million tonnes, 8% higher than last year's import requirements, and an estimated 930 000 tonnes of food assistance, beyond commercial imports, will be required to meet those needs.
The Africa Report is produced by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning Service, using data from a variety of sources, including from joint FAO/WFP field missions. It provides regional and country-specific breakdowns of crop prospects and food shortages in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as expected food aid needs.
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