Africa Report 05/96

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A combination of unfavourable factors threaten sub-Saharan Africa's progress towards food security. Aggregate cereal production in the region in 1995 fell by 9.5 million tons from the good 1994 level. Rising import requirements in the current year come at a time when the global cereal supplies are tight and international prices have risen by more than 50 percent over the past year. Reflecting this sharp rise in prices, the cereal import bill of the low-income food-deficit countries of Africa in 1995/96 is forecast to increase by some U.S.$ 1 400 million over last year. Moreover, global food aid availability in 1995/96 is projected to decline further to 7.6 million tons, virtually one-half of the 1992/93 level and the lowest volume since 1975/76, while the stiff competition from the Commonwealth of Independent States and eastern Europe means that Africa's share of the food aid in the current year will remain low. At the same time, a bleak economic outlook and continuing balance of payments difficulties facing a large number of African countries will seriously constrain their capacity for commercial imports.

There are no signs of an imminent improvement in the food supply situation in the current year in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. There are currently about 22 million people in the region facing food emergencies of varying intensity. Despite some early optimism created by peace process in Liberia, food production and distribution activities are likely to be further disrupted by the volatile security situation caused by recent civil disturbances in the capital, Monrovia. Continued fighting in Somalia and a sharp reduction in cereal output, point to a deterioration in the already precarious food supply situation in the months ahead. Food aid pledges in Eritrea cover less than one-third of the 1996 requirements while only 8 percent of the food assistance has been delivered so far; substantial food aid pledges in 1996 and their prompt delivery are urgently needed to avert an impending food emergency in the country. Despite a good 1995 harvest in Ethiopia, some 3 million people need emergency assistance. Continued relief assistance is also required for the vulnerable and conflict-affected population of Sudan. The Great Lakes region is carrying the burden of over 2 million refugees and internally displaced persons. In southern Africa, although a recovery in 1995/96 crop production is in prospect, the effect of last year's drought will nevertheless continue to afflict populations in several parts, while assistance is also required in the flood affected areas in the sub-region.

There are, however, some positive signs. The food supply situation is generally satisfactory in western Africa, following good harvests in most Sahelian and coastal countries. Ethiopia, one of the major recipients of international food aid over the last decade, will require smaller quantities of food aid imports in 1996. Restoration of peace and political stability to much of civil-strife ravaged sub-Saharan Africa should improve food security of millions of affected people. While Angola, Mozambique and Rwanda are gradually beginning to reap the dividends of peace, a recent peace agreement in Sierra Leone offers the hope of a partial recovery of food production and marketing in 1996.


Recent resurgence of civil disturbances in Monrovia highlighted once again the fragility of the peace accords which had failed twelve times in the past six years. Serious fighting between various factions in early April spread to the capital, Monrovia, from the Sinkor suburb in the northeast. Thousands of civilians had to flee their homes. A complete breakdown of the law and order situation brought all economic activities to a halt. Serious shortages of food and drinking water and outbreak of cholera had been reported from sections of the city. The volatile security situation could undermine agricultural production in 1996 and hamper relief operations, which are generally coordinated from Monrovia. The planned return of refugees from neighbouring countries could also be delayed.

Six years of civil strife have dealt a serious blow to all economic sectors, particularly agriculture. Rice production in 1995 dropped by some 80 percent from the pre-civil war level. Cassava production has also been similarly affected, possibly falling by as much as 50 percent. Extensive and continuous population displacement has left large tracts of agricultural land deserted. Insecurity in settled areas outside the ECOMOG controlled zone has made it difficult for farmers to store seed for planting, and most are depending on emergency seed distribution programmes. The deployment of ECOMOG forces to disarm various factions has been delayed due to insufficient resources and fights between the factions continue to cause large population displacements. Land preparation for the planting of rice is underway in the relatively secure areas. Current estimates point to substantially larger plantings to rice in 1996, compared to last year. However, the expected recovery in production in 1996 will not materialize if the peace process started last year proves to be illusive. Rehabilitation programmes which include distribution of planting materials, farm tools and agrochemicals, technical support and establishment of seed multiplication centres by international NGOs, would also be affected.

In Sierra Leone, the security situation improved since the declaration in mid-March of a cease fire by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and internally displaced persons are returning to their places of origin in Bo and Magburaka provinces. However, frequent violations of the cease fire in the south are disrupting farming activities. The 1995 cereal output is estimated at 380 000 tons, which is about 70 percent of pre-civil war production. Rice production, which represents 85 percent of national cereal output, has been the most affected by the past civil war. The security situation remains precarious in the south-east of the country, where many villages in Bo and Moyamba districts have been virtually devastated. Ambushes on roads from Freetown to Bo, Kenema and Makeni are severely disrupting commercial trade and food aid deliveries. Peace talks between the RUF and the government are now underway. The number of internally displaced persons is currently estimated at 1.6 million. In addition, 250 000 Sierra Leonean refugees are reported to be in neighbouring Guinea and about 120 000 in western Liberia. A new WFP emergency operation of 41 500 tons of food commodities, including some 33 000 tons of cereals, has recently been approved by the Director-General of FAO and the Executive Director of WFP, to provide relief food aid for war-affected populations during 1996. The caseload has been increased from the 1995 planning figure of 500 000 to 841 650 internally displaced persons and refugee beneficiaries, including 121 650 beneficiaries under targeted and institutional feeding programmes. The main locations for general food distribution are in Bo (235 000 persons), Kenema (175 000) and Makeni (110 000).


Despite some partial improvement in food production in Rwanda, the full recovery of the agricultural and food production in the Great Lakes region continues to be hampered by political instability, insecurity and the large number of refugees and internally displaced people. While there are still 1.9 million Rwandan and Burundian refugees in camps of Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi, the internally displaced in the region are estimated at around 500 000 persons. Continued relief assistance will be required for these populations during 1996.

Burundi: Continuing insecurity in the provinces of Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Cibitoké and in parts of the provinces of N’Gozi, Muyinga, Muramvya and Karuzi, coupled with dry spells in some areas during the second half of 1995, resulted in a reduction in the production of the 1996 first season food crops, estimated 15 percent below the normal levels prior to the civil strife. Emergency food assistance will be required for some 460 000 most vulnerable people, mainly the internally displaced persons and returnees. (See box on page 3).

The political situation remains unstable with violent incidents reported frequently, particularly in the endemically insecure northern provinces, the capital city Bujumbura, but also in the previously calm southern parts. The growing insecurity has hampered relief activities and resulted in fresh waves of population displacements, adversely affecting agricultural activities. If the deterioration of the security situation continues, food production could decline substantially in 1996.

Rwanda: Favourable weather conditions, improvement in the security conditions and the return of the internally displaced persons to their farms allowed an increase in the 1996 first season food production. However, with a substantial proportion of the population still outside the country, as well as the disruption caused by the civil conflict, food production remains below the pre-civil war level. The relatively good harvest, together with food aid distributions, have helped to stabilize food prices. Growing conditions for the recently planted 1996 second season food crops are favourable following abundant rains in the past months, but production will remain depressed due to the abandonment of many farms. Despite increased efforts to promote voluntary repatriation, the number of returnees in the last quarter of 1995 and early 1996 fell far short of expectations.

Elsewhere in the Great Lakes region, the food supply situation remains tight in the urban areas of Zaire. In Tanzania, despite an overall satisfactory food situation, food aid assistance is required for some 630 000 refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. In Uganda, following a good harvest from the 1996 secondary cereal crop season, the food supply situation has eased in northern parts previously affected by food shortages.


An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited Burundi from 23 January to 3 February 1996 found that 1996 season A production was 15 percent below normal because of continuing insecurity in the provinces of Bubanza, Bujumbura Rural, Cibitoké and in limited parts of the provinces of N’Gozi, Muyinga, Muramvya and Karuzi. In addition, unfavourable weather conditions, mainly in the form of dry spells and hailstorms, had hampered bean and maize plant growth in some areas. In contrast, disease and pest infestations were negligible and in regions where security and weather conditions were satisfactory, both planted areas and yields had increased compared to the previous season A, except for Irish potato for which seed was in short supply.

The Mission estimated food production for the 1996 season A at some 1.26 million tons. Prospects for 1996 season B and C are uncertain and will depend on the security situation, weather conditions and the supply of agricultural inputs and farm tools to returning displacees and farmers affected by dry spell and/or civil strife. Provided that these conditions are favourable during the coming months, the Mission provisionally forecast aggregate food production in 1996 at 3.5 million tons, some 4 percent below average. However, It must be stressed that the estimates are particularly predicated on the assumption of sustained improvement in the security situation. Thus, food production in 1996 will be substantially reduced in the event of a deterioration of the security situation.

Using historic consumption norms, food import requirements in 1996 are estimated at 54 000 tons of cereals and 59 000 tons of pulses. Commercial food imports are forecast at 31 000 tons of cereals and 5 000 tons of pulses, implying food aid requirements of 23 000 tons of cereals and 54 000 tons of pulses. The shortfall of 161 000 tons of roots and tubers and 125 000 tons of bananas would need to be partly covered by additional supplies of cereals and pulses.

Repatriates and internally displaced will continue to need food assistance in 1996. Because of persisting insecurity in the northern and western parts of the country and the consequent slow down of the process of resettlement, there is a need to maintain food aid distribution at an adequate level. However, where the security situation is improving, food aid should be increasingly used in rehabilitation and resettlement programmes.


The aggregate cereal production in the Horn in 1995/96 is estimated at some 5 percent below the previous year's harvest. Reduced crops in Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan more than offset the significant gain in production in Ethiopia. Production also declined in Kenya, but remained above average. Large numbers of vulnerable people and those affected by localized crop failures require continued food assistance throughout 1996. There are an estimated 9 million people currently facing severe food shortages in eastern Africa, including some 7 million in the Horn of Africa.

Eritrea: The 1995 cereal and pulse production is estimated at some 60 percent below the satisfactory level of the previous year, reflecting erratic rains coupled with localized pest damage to crops. After accounting for commercial cereal imports, mainly to cover the requirements of the urban mills, the gap to be filled by food aid amounts to 191 000 tons against which pledges so far amount to 58 000 tons. Of the total food aid, some 79 000 tons are necessary to assist the most vulnerable population, including farmers who experienced a significantly below-average harvest, mostly in areas of Seraye, Akele Guzai, Senhit and Barka provinces, as well as those groups without adequate financial resources to access food, including a large number affected by the past war. Whilst widespread food shortages have not yet been reported, the food situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming weeks as domestic production in 1995 would roughly cover four months of consumption requirements for 1996. Without an adequate and timely response these population groups will face severe food shortages.

Ethiopia: Average to above average rainfall in the third dekad of February and first half of March, following dry weather earlier, improved prospects for the 1996 “Belg” crops to be harvested from June. However, more rainfall is still needed in western areas of Oromia. The Belg season accounts for only about 7 percent of total cereal production but in some areas it provides over 50 percent of annual food supplies.

Abundant rainfall in March also replenished soil moisture for land preparation and planting of the 1996 main “Meher” cereal crop. Pasture is also reported to be in good condition, following an improvement in rainfall.

“Meher” cereal production in 1995 was an estimated record, reflecting satisfactory weather during the season, improved fertilizer distribution and absence of migratory pests. Assuming a normal “Belg” crop, aggregate cereal and pulse production in 1995/96 is expected to reach 9.4 million tons, some 13 percent higher than the above-average crop in the previous year.

The good 1995 cereal harvest has certainly relieved the food supply situation and reduced the need for substantial international food assistance but has not ensured food security for all. Food aid assistance is needed for large numbers of people in traditionally food deficit parts of Tigray, Wollo, Walaita and Hararghe, zones which gathered a poor harvest and/or lack adequate resources to cover their food requirements. Given the overall good production and satisfactory levels of food aid carryover stocks, the Government has appealed to donors to purchase most of the relief assistance locally.

Somalia: The secondary “der” cereal crop was estimated at last year's above-average level. But, as a result of inadequate rains, smaller plantings and serious pest infestations, output of the main “gu” season cereal crop was sharply reduced. In aggregate, the 1995/96 cereal production was one-third down from the previous year. As the “der” crop accounts for only 25 percent of annual production, food shortages are anticipated from May onwards, when stocks held by farmers who gathered a reduced main season crop will be depleted. The food supply difficulties are being compounded by disruption in trade flows due to persistent insecurity and banditry, as well as by the frequent closure of the Mogadishu port. As a result, post-harvest cereal price reductions have not occurred in many markets, while prices of imported food have increased. This has aggravated the situation of large sections of the population with limited access to food, including displaced people, returnees, and the jobless. In addition, poor sanitation has resulted in an outbreak of cholera and a significant increase in the incidence of acute diarrhoea as recently reported from Mogadishu, Kismayo and other areas of the country. Substantial food assistance is urgently needed to cover consumption in the months ahead until the next “gu” harvest from September 1996.

Sudan: Despite an average 1995 coarse grain production (though some 40 percent below the previous year's record harvest) and an anticipated good wheat crop, emergency food assistance continues to be required for vulnerable population groups in the southern states of Eastern Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal, where large displaced populations are present as a result of the persistent civil conflict. Close monitoring of the food situation is also needed in North and West Kordofan and North Darfur states, where production fell dramatically last year.


In southern Africa, prospects are favourable for the 1995/96 coarse grains crop, now being harvested. Despite the slow start of the rains in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, rainfall has generally been good in the sub-region with the exception of Namibia where cumulative rainfall remained much below normal until February. Initial indications are that the sub-region’s output may be above average and well up on last year’s drought-reduced level, on account of an increase in area planted and expected above-average yields.

In Angola, continued good rains and the current relative peace across the country have led to a sharp increase in area planted and an above-average harvest is expected although yields may be affected by input shortages in some regions as a result of transportation difficulties. In Mozambique, maize in the southern provinces has been adversely affected by an acute dry spell in January, followed by severe flooding in February resulting from excessive rains in the country and in neighbouring South Africa and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, these heavy rains may have caused some crop damage in the eastern corn belt and Kwazulu-Natal. Nevertheless, the initial forecast of the maize crop points to an above-average harvest almost double the drought-affected 1995 output of 4.6 million tons. Similarly, a good harvest is anticipated in Zimbabwe, the second largest producer in the sub-region, where a maize output in excess of 2 million tons is forecast. In Zambia, expectations of a bumper crop may be jeopardized by the reported spread of the Large Grain Borer, a new pest in the country. In Madagascar, the main rice producer in the sub-region, rainfall has been adequate but prospects for the harvest remain uncertain following January cyclones that may have damaged large areas of crop land.

Initial indications are that South Africa will be self-sufficient in maize and may even produce a sizeable surplus to replenish stocks and for export. Zimbabwe may also, for the first time in years, not only produce enough maize for its domestic market but also resume some exports this season. All the other countries in the sub-region are likely to continue to have deficits, but of somewhat reduced size.

Following the 1995 drought-reduced harvest, substantial price increases have been experienced in several countries during the current lean period as a result of relatively slow delivery of both commercial imports and food aid. This situation may persist into the new harvest in April/June as expectations of a bumper upcoming crop may discourage commercial imports.


Following average to above-average harvests in 1995, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory in most western African countries, with the exception of Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nevertheless, localized food supply difficulties are reported in several traditionally food deficit areas of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. In Burkina Faso, cereal production decreased significantly in several provinces, notably in the north. In December 1995, the government launched an appeal for international assistance. It estimated the food aid requirements at 24 000 tons for some 700 000 affected persons in 17 provinces and indicated that cereals could be purchased locally or borrowed from the national security stock. In Chad, some 333 000 people are reported to be vulnerable to food shortages and would need 9 600 tons of cereals for 4 months before the next harvest. In Mali, 4 000 tons of cereals are reportedly required for 7 months for 65 000 persons currently facing food shortages in Gao region, plus an additional 8 500 tons for 3 months for some 317 000 vulnerable people in several parts of Mopti, Tombouctou, Kidal and Gao regions. In Niger, the government launched an appeal in January for international assistance for populations in food-deficit areas. Most urgent emergency food aid is estimated at about 9 400 tons for 700 000 persons.


The cereal import requirements of the 48 countries in sub-Saharan Africa in 1995/96 are estimated at 12.7 million tons, some 5 percent more than actual receipt in the previous year. With anticipated commercial imports of 10 million tons, the food aid requirements are estimated at 2.7 million tons, a decrease of some 380 000 tons compared with 1994/95. Undelivered pledges carried forward from 1994/95 and new donor allocations reported to GIEWS as of late April, amount to 2.2 million tons, or 84 percent of the requirement. Of these pledges some 1.5 million tons have been received. So far, in 12 countries pledges equal or exceed the estimated requirements while in 9 countries no assistance is considered necessary. The uncovered needs of the remaining 27 countries are estimated at 0.9 million tons. Donors are urged to make further allocations of food against these unmet needs and to expedite the delivery of the pledged assistance.


Tight global cereal supplies, high international cereal prices coupled with serious balance of payments difficulties faced by many African countries, and low availability of food aid, threaten to undermine sub-Saharan Africa's food security. Severe food shortages and possibly starvation could emerge in Liberia, if the fragile peace accord fails once again. Continued relief assistance will also be required by large numbers of vulnerable people in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following concerns in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fourth, substantial financial and food aid assistance will be required to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable groups (refugees, returnees, drought-affected people, etc.) particularly in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and Sierra Leone.

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