FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report 02/97


The outlook for food supplies has improved in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa following better harvests in many countries. The latest available information suggests that cereal production in the region in 1996 increased to a record volume of 90 million tons, about 14 million tons more than the previous year. Despite this significant increase in production, large-scale emergency assistance will continue to be needed for millions of drought-affected, displaced persons, refugees or returnees in 14 countries in the region. A cause for serious concern is the situation in the Great Lakes Region where developments in recent months have further destabilized the food supply situation.

In eastern Africa, the food outlook is mixed: it is unfavourable in Kenya, Eritrea and Somalia, where harvests have been substantially reduced by dry weather conditions, while in Ethiopia and Sudan good cereal harvests have been gathered. Food security in the sub-region is further threatened by an outbreak of rinderpest which has been reported in Kenya and Tanzania and may be spreading to other parts. In western Africa, reflecting generally adequate crop growing conditions, average to above-average harvests have been gathered in most Sahelian and coastal countries, except in Liberia where insecurity problems continue to hamper food production. In southern Africa, prospects for the 1996/97 cereal crops are generally favourable so far, following widespread rains since the beginning of the season in November. However, there is a serious threat of Red Locust attack, with outbreaks reported in several countries of the sub-region. In the Great Lakes Region, the outlook for food supplies is bleak, particularly in eastern Zaire where continuing hostilities threaten to cause a famine situation for the refugees and local population.

Sub-Saharan Africa�s aggregate food aid needs, although less than in 1996, will remain high in 1997. However, despite a large rise in global cereal production, 1996/97 is likely to be marked by continuing relatively tight supplies, and the global food aid availability is unlikely to improve much over the low level of 7.2 million tons in 1995/96. In addition, as most low-income food-deficit countries in sub-Saharan Africa face acute balance of payments difficulties which severely constrain their import capacity, exceptional food assistance will be needed to avert suffering from underconsumption in several of these countries.


Fresh waves of population movements since October have been the dominant feature of the Great Lakes Region, exerting a strong destabilizing influence on the food supply situation.

In Rwanda, the additional upsurge in food needs due to the influx of returning refugees in November/December, coupled with a poor bean harvest last season, will aggravate the already unstable and fragile food situation in the country. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to the country in December estimated that production of the 1997 first season cereals and root and tubers increased by one-quarter from the previous year, while that of bananas and plantains rose only slightly. However the output of beans, the major crop of the season, dropped 12 percent below last year. Despite an overall improvement, food production remained below the pre-civil strife average due to low yields and crop losses in the southern parts affected by dry weather. The total food aid requirements (in cereal equivalent) for the first half of 1997 are estimated at 81 000 tons of cereals and 33 000 of pulses. The main beneficiaries, estimated at 2.6 million people, or one-third of the population, include recent returnees who were not engaged in farming during the last season, earlier returnees who must leave the farms they are presently occupying, farmers in southern prefectures who gathered a poor harvest, and vulnerable groups especially widows, orphans and other destitute people produced by the events of 1994. The resettlement and reintegration of the large number of returnees into the economy poses a serious challenge to the Government and the international community. There is also a pressing need for donor assistance with the implementation of a massive agricultural rehabilitation programme to restore food production to the pre-crisis level.

In Eastern Zaire, intensified fighting has resulted in further deterioration of the security conditions in the area. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and the local population continue to flee from the conflict and their food and health situation is precarious. Relief operations have been seriously hampered by lack of access to the pockets of affected populations. Several hundred thousand refugees remain in the area, about half of whom were until recently in three camps in Tingi Tingi, Amisi and Shabunda, and the other half in inaccessible forest areas. Recent reports indicate daily deaths from starvation and diseases in Tingi Tingi camp where some 120 000 refugees are located. The situation is desparate and everything possible needs to be done most urgently to assist these trapped people. Substantial donor assistance is needed, particularly in view of very high costs of transporting and distributing relief food and non-food assistance. Only urgent action will avert further human suffering and loss of life.

In Burundi, insecurity persists in much of the country, with increased fighting recently reported in the northern province of Kayanza. Renewed violence since December has resulted in some 100 000 new refugees entering Tanzania and increased displacement of local populations. Political tension has been heightened by the return of Burundian refugees from eastern Zaire, and it is feared that possible return of some 200 000 refugees presently in Tanzania could have serious security and humanitarian repercussions. Distribution of humanitarian assistance is being hampered by insecurity and fuel shortages following the economic embargo imposed by neighbouring countries. The food supply situation remains tight in provinces most affected by civil strife, where plantings and production were reduced in the past season, and for returnees and internally displaced people. Malnutrition rates in these population groups are reported to be rising. Overall, the combined effect of the reduced 1996 production and the current embargo has been a sharp increase in prices of basic foods, limiting the access to food for the majority of the population. Based on the latest on-the-spot assessment, total food production during the 1997 first season is provisionally forecast at 1.2 million tons, 7 percent down on the same season in 1996 and 18 percent below the pre-crisis average for 1988-93.

In Uganda, persistent civil strife in the northern districts has resulted in the displacement of a large number of rural households over the past several months. These people face a precarious food and health situation. Food prices in the region have more than doubled over a period of one year, while malnutrition is reported to be widespread. The Government has appealed for food assistance for 20 000 displaced people in Kitgum district. In addition, following dry weather in Eastern, Western and North-eastern regions, the output of the 1996/97 secondary crop season, now being harvested, is expected to be reduced, and a tight food supply situation is anticipated in these areas.

In Tanzania, a reduced 1996/97 secondary season crop, which accounts for some 40 percent of the annual food supplies in the bi-modal rainfall areas of the northern coastal belt and north-east, is in prospect as a result of poor rains. Food shortages are anticipated in twenty-four districts. Preliminary estimates indicate that some 400 000 people will face severe food difficulties until the next harvest in May.


In the Horn of Africa, the aggregate 1996/97 cereal crop production is estimated at 19.7 million tons, 12 percent higher than in the previous year reflecting bumper crops in Ethiopia and Sudan, the largest producer countries of the sub-region. However, grain production declined in Eritrea and Kenya and remained well below average in Somalia. The sub-region�s overall gain in production masks the existence of a large food-deficit population due to localized poor harvests, structural inadequacies of resources to access food, displacements and civil strife in southern Sudan. It is estimated that around 7 million people will require food assistance during 1997.

In Ethiopia, despite an overall increase of 20 percent in the 1996 cereal and pulse production, some 1.9 million people will require food assistance during 1997. A number of regions and zones remain food-deficit, and for many people in those areas access to food remains problematic. In the chronically food insecure zones of Tigray, Wollo, Waghamra and North Omo, despite a substantial increase in food production this year, sizeable sections of the population are unable to produce enough food due to their poor resource base and the lack of other income earning opportunities. While most of the food aid needs for 1997 are basically related to poverty and structural food insecurity, localized weather adversities, including early cessation of rains, hailstorms and floods, have negatively affected production in some parts. Overall, however, a bumper cereal harvest has been gathered and donors are urged to support the purchases and movement of local surpluses to deficit areas.

In Sudan, the 1996/97 cereal production is estimated to be 50 percent higher than last year and a record, yielding an exportable surplus. However, cereal supplies will be inadequate in some parts. In several areas of Kordofan and Darfur states, poor and uneven rains during the season and grasshopper damage resulted in a reduced harvest of millet, the main crop in these areas. Although the output is higher than last year�s very poor production in these states, stocks are very low as this is the second consecutive year of a below normal crop. Farmers� income from cash crops and livestock may be insufficient to purchase enough grains. Severe food difficulties are anticipated for sections of the population in North and West Darfur, where more than half the area planted to millet was unproductive, but also in North Kordofan, north-west of West Kordofan, the north of South Darfur and in the Geneina province of West Darfur. Assistance is needed for people suffering severe food deficits, either through donor supported locally purchased grain or its transportation from the surplus to deficit areas. In addition, in the southern states affected by prolonged civil conflict, some 2.6 million war-affected people will require emergency food aid in 1997. The situation is particularly serious in Juba, Wau and Gogrial where insecurity has prevented adequate cereal cultivation and livestock rearing and the coping mechanisms of the population are very limited.

In Eritrea, the 1996 cereal and pulses harvest was reduced by dry weather in the middle of the season. Production was estimated to be lower than the poor level of last year and well below average. As large sections of the rural population do not have enough resources to cover their minimum subsistence needs and do not have access to labour markets they remain highly vulnerable to even small declines in production. Substantial food assistance will be required in 1997.

In Kenya, in most parts of North Eastern, Eastern and Coast provinces, serious food difficulties are anticipated in the first half of 1997 as a result of the failure of the 1996/97 "short rains" season. Pastures and rangeland conditions are also in poor condition and water scarcity has become a major problem for both livestock and humans. Significant losses of livestock have been reported. For these same areas, the failure of the 1996/97 short rains follows two consecutive reduced harvests, thus worsening an already tight food supply situation. The Government estimates that some two million people are currently affected by the drought and has appealed to the international community for emergency food assistance for this section of the population. Elsewhere in the country, the output 1996 main "long rains" season declined substantially from the previous year as a result of lower plantings and yields. Cereal import requirements in 1996/97 marketing year (October/September) have increased sharply. Furthermore, an outbreak of rinderpest (see Box on page 4) poses further threat to the country�s food security.

In Somalia, the 1996/97 secondary "Der" crop, accounting for some 25 percent of the annual cereal production, is provisionally estimated at 45 000 tons, 60 percent below the level of the previous year, as a result of insufficient rains. Food shortages are anticipated in several parts. The situation will be particularly difficult in Gedo, Lower Juba and Hiraam regions, where the main "Gu" crop was also poor. Donors are urged to make contingency plans for delivery of food assistance to the affected population.


In Liberia, despite the start of the peace process, occasional fighting still hampers agricultural activities, but the situation is expected to improve in 1997. The demobilization of fighters is underway and national elections are planned for May 1997. An FAO crop and food supply assessment mission which visited the country in November/December estimated the 1996 rice production at about 95 000 tons following improved security in the main rice growing areas and distribution of seeds and tools. This is considerably larger than the 1995 output but still at about 30 percent of the pre-civil strife level.

The food supply situation was very tight in 1996 and, although improving, will remain difficult in 1997. Food aid distribution is underway, notably in Tubmanburg, as the country is still relying mostly on food assistance to meet its needs. FAO estimates that, following the recent peace agreement and if the security situation improves, approximately 37 000 refugee households or some 30 percent of the refugee population could return in time for the 1997 main season. Taking into account an expected rise in population to 2 million people due to partial return of refugees remaining in the neighbouring countries, the 1997 cereal food aid requirement is estimated at 115 000 tons.

In Sierra Leone, food production is slowly recovering from the civil war which affected the country for the past 7 years but the country will still rely heavily on food aid in 1997. Following the signature of a peace agreement between the government and the rebels, internally displaced people are likely to return home. UNHCR is preparing the repatriation of about 250 000 refugees remaining in neighbouring Guinea and 120 000 remaining in Liberia.

In November/December 1996, a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission estimated 1996 paddy production at 391 000 tons, which is higher than the 1995 level but about 70 percent of pre-civil strife level. Production of root crops has also increased to an estimated 328 000 tons. The cereal import requirement for 1997 is estimated at 259 000 tons, of which 80 000 tons are expected to be in the form of food aid.


An epidemic of rinderpest, a highly infectious viral disease of livestock and wildlife, is currently sweeping across the Kenyan border into Tanzania, with potentially devastating consequences for the eastern and southern Africa sub-region. The epidemic, considered to be the worst in Africa for the last 15 years, comes at a time when several parts of eastern Africa are reeling under the effects of a serious drought with poor secondary season harvests and tightening food supplies. The combined threat of rinderpest and drought is thus a serious aggravation of the already precarious food security situation of the sub-region.

Rinderpest, the cause of the worst cattle plagues the world has known, has been moving from localised, endemic areas in north-eastern Kenya and Somalia across eastern and southern Kenya, as the drought in that area worsens. In times of drought pastoralists move their animals out of the traditional range in search of grazing and water. It is this movement that is bringing rinderpest into contact with completely susceptible populations of wildlife and unvaccinated livestock and will, unless checked, sweep through Tanzania and on into southern Africa.

On 23 October 1996 an outbreak of a disease with clinical signs of rinderpest was detected in the Nairobi National Park. This was later confirmed by laboratory tests in Kenya and at the FAO World Reference Laboratory, Pirbright, UK. On 27 November, 1996, the Kenya Government notified FAO of the new outbreak of rinderpest. During the same period, FAO was informed by the Ministry of Agriculture in Tanzania of the threat of rinderpest spreading from Kenya.

FAO through its Emergency Prevention System (EMPRES) for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases immediately collaborated with the Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the EC Delegation in Nairobi to convene an emergency meeting of senior veterinary and wildlife specialists from Kenya and Tanzania in order to assess the extent of the rinderpest epidemic and the risk of further spread. The results of subsequent local surveillance indicated that the disease was affecting both cattle and wildlife near the Nairobi National Park and that the risk of spread to Tanzania was real. The disease in cattle was relatively mild but in wildlife it was severe, killing eland and buffalo. Since then the disease has become widespread in southern Kenya and has extended into Tanzania. Furthermore, the surveillance teams in Kenya have detected the disease to be of increasing severity for cattle.

The results of surveillance by Kenyan and Tanzanian teams in collaboration with FAO/EMPRES and the OAU/IBAR indicate the following evolution of events. In 1994/95 Kenya experienced an outbreak of rinderpest which, apparently, affected only wildlife in the national parks of south-east Kenya with loss of about 50 percent of the buffalo and 80 percent of the kudu populations of West Tsavo. Trace-back surveys indicated that this epidemic was most probably caused by a strain of virus endemic for cattle in the north-east of Kenya and neighbouring areas of Somalia. Last October, the disease was diagnosed in eland, buffalo and cattle near Nairobi, in buffaloes and cattle in south-east Kajiado District in December 1996 and clinically in cattle in Northern Tanzania in mid-January 1997. Thus, rinderpest has now invaded Tanzania, a country previously free of this disease for 14 years.

FAO rinderpest specialists and their Kenyan and Tanzanian counterparts now believe that the present situation is much more alarming than any other rinderpest outbreak in Africa during the last 15 years. Substantial donor support is urgently needed for co-ordinated national and regional action to prevent a major livestock and wildlife catastrophe that could have serious consequences for food security in the eastern and southern Africa sub-region.


Average or above-average harvests were gathered in late 1996 in the main producing Sahelian countries. Despite dry periods in most countries in June or July, crop growing conditions were generally adequate in the second part of the rainy season (August-September) and pest attacks remained fairly limited. As a result, good harvests have been realized in the most producing countries of the Sahel. However, production remained below average in Cape Verde, Chad and Mauritania.

The 1996 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS member countries is estimated at 8.9 million tons, which is about 2 percent up on 1995 but 7 percent lower than the record output in 1994. Above average output has been registered in Niger and Senegal, close to the average in Burkina Faso, Mali and the Gambia while it is expected to be below average in Cape Verde, Chad and Guinea-Bissau. In Mauritania, an assessment mission in November revised downwards the earlier production estimates and indicated that a below average output was anticipated. Compared to 1995, output increased significantly in Burkina Faso and Niger but was almost unchanged in The Gambia, Mali and Senegal; it was lower in Chad, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania and substantially reduced in Cape Verde.

Following several years of relatively good harvests, the food supply situation is expected to remain mostly satisfactory in 1996/97. However, some regions in certain countries gathered poor harvests, in particular in northern Chad, in Mauritania and in some parts of Mali and Niger which are traditionally deficit areas. Cereal prices in these areas are high and increasing significantly. Sales at subsidized prices or food distributions will be necessary during the lean season. National early warning systems have already estimated the needs in Chad and Niger. In these two countries, the situation is exacerbated by the very low level of the national food security stock for which further donor support for its replenishment is required. In several countries and notably in Chad and Niger, donor assistance is required for the purchase and movement of cereals from surpluses areas or from neighbouring countries through triangular transactions to meet the food requirements of the food deficit regions.

Crop growing conditions for 1996 were favourable in most coastal countries. The aggregate cereal production in the nine coastal countries is provisionally estimated at about 27.3 million tons. Average to above-average harvests are anticipated in all the coastal countries, except in Liberia and Sierra-Leone. First estimates point to record cereal crops in Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. The forecast for Togo is close to the normal. In Liberia, the situation is still unstable and civil disturbances continue to disrupt agricultural production. As a result, a very poor harvest is again expected. In Sierra-Leone, cereal production is better than in 1995 following the start of the peace process and rehabilitation programmes, but it will still be insufficient to meet the country's needs.


Planting of the 1996/97 crops is complete in most countries of the sub-region. Widespread light to moderate rains received in November and December in most major growing areas improved the level of soil moisture, encouraged large plantings in several areas and ensured proper seed germination for early planted crops. Weather conditions have been generally favourable in Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The seasonal rainfall was below normal until late December in large parts of Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia where dry conditions prevailed in October. However, generally wet conditions in January have improved the situation in most areas, and waterlogging and leaching of soil nutrients are being experienced in parts of Zambia and Zimbabwe. In Angola, prospects for crops are good so far as the evolving peace process encourages increased plantings and provision of large amounts of seeds and farming implements. However red locusts pose a serious threat to crops. Red locust swarms originating from Mozambique have been reported in several other countries, including Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Control measures have been taken by governments in the sub-region but the summer crops remain at risk as the rains provide suitable conditions for extensive breeding. The situation will need to be monitored closely in the coming weeks.


Between October 1996 and early February 1997, GIEWS fielded a series of Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions to Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. In close collaboration with the parties concerned, the Missions made estimates of cereal and other food production and cereal import and food aid requirements for 1997.

Burundi: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (January/February) forecast 1997 first season total food production at some 1.2 million tons, 7 percent down on the same season in 1996 and 18 percent below the 1988-93 pre-crisis average.

Eritrea: An FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in November estimated total cereal production in 1996 at 132 000 tons, some 11 percent below the poor harvest of 1995 and 29 percent lower than the average for the preceding four years. Insufficient rains were the main cause of this poor performance. The Mission estimated an overall import requirement of 289 000 tons and recommended that 169 000 tons of this amount should be in the form of food aid.

Ethiopia: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in November estimated a bumper 1996/97 cereal and pulse production at some 12 million tons, representing a 20 percent increase over previous year�s production. However, the Mission also highlighted the existence of food-deficit communities throughout Ethiopia which is masked by the overall comfortable food situation. These communities consist of people who are either displaced or face structural inadequacies of resources, and thus lack access/entitlement to adequqte food supplies.

Kenya: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (October/November) estimated total cereal and pulse production for 1996/97 at 3.2 million tons comprising 2.5 million tons from the long-rains season and a forecast 0.7 million tons from the short-rains season. The Mission estimated an import requirement of 1.2 million tons for the 1996/97 marketing year. However, following the subsequent failure of the short rains, a food emergency has been declared in the worst affected areas of the country with an appeal to the international community for food assistance.

Liberia: An FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in November/December estimated paddy rice production in 1996 at 95 000 tons, roughly 30 percent of the pre-civil strife average level, while cassava production was estimated at 50 percent of the pre-civil strife level. With the expected return of refugees substantial food assistance will be needed and the Mission estimated a cereal food aid requirement for 1997 at 115 000 tons.

Rwanda: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in early December found that while overall food production had increased over the previous year, it still remained well below the pre-civil strife level. The recent influx of returning refugees from neighbouring countries was exerting heavy pressure on the still fragile food situation which had been further aggravated by a poor harvest in some prefectures affected by dry weather.

Sierra Leone: An FAO/WFP Mission (November/December) found that agricultural production had been seriously disrupted by the civil strife, with an estimated 180 000 farm families displaced. Food production had dropped drastically throughout the country during the last five years. The Mission estimated a cereal import requirement of 260 000 tons in 1997, of which at least 80 000 tons would need to come as food aid.

Sudan: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (November/December) estimated a good cereal harvest for the 1996/97 crop year, with total production at 5.33 million tons, representing a 50 percent increase over the previous year�s production. However, the Mission warned of a precarious food situation as likely to develop in the vulnerable areas of Durfur, Kordofan, Red Sea State and the south as a whole.


According to FAO�s latest estimates, a total of 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa hold combined exportable surpluses of about 4.4 million tons, mostly in coarse grains. While most of this will be exported through normal commercial channels, special donor assistance will also be required for a substantial amount. The aggregate needs of the deficit countries in the region are estimated at 2.3 million tons, which is significantly lower than the surpluses available in the region. As of late January 1997, donors have reported to the GIEWS plans for the disposal of 61 000 tons of the 1996/97 exportable surpluses through triangular transactions and swap arrangements. Donor support is also needed by 18 countries for the purchase and internal movement of local surpluses of about 350 000 tons to deficit areas. So far, donors have reported to the GIEWS plans for the purchase and internal distribution of around 106 000 tons. Thus, further donor assistance is required for a part of unutilized exportable surpluses totalling 3.4 million tons in 11 countries and for local purchases and internal distribution of about 250 000 tons in 18 countries.


The volume of cereal import requirement in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 1996/97 is expected to decline, reflecting generally good harvests in western Africa and parts of eastern Africa and favourable outlook in southern Africa. GIEWS estimates of 1996 production and 1996/97 import and food aid needs are summarized in Table 1. The total food aid requirements of these countries in 1996/97 are estimated at some 1.86 million tons, compared to last year�s receipts of 2.14 million tons. Cereal food aid pledges for 1996/97, including those carried over from 1995/96, amount to some 1.1 million tons of which only 385 000 have been received so far. Thus urgent additional pledges are needed to cover the outstanding needs of several countries


The situation in the Great Lakes region remains precarious, especially in eastern Zaire where there are serious food difficulties due to an escalation of hostilities. The intensified socio-political crisis and the regional economic embargo in Burundi have adversely affected food production and domestic food supplies. Emergency assistance continues to be required in many African countries affected by natural or man-made disasters. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to five areas requiring assistance.

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