FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report, August 1997

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Despite the bleak food outlook in Sierra Leone, persisting food supply difficulties in the Great Lakes region and the generally tight food supply position in eastern Africa, the overall food situation in sub-Saharan Africa is satisfactory, reflecting the generally adequate harvests in many parts in 1996 and a normal outturn in southern Africa in 1997. As a result, aggregate cereal import requirements, including food aid, are projected to decline in 1997. However, food aid needs remain high, currently estimated at 2 million tons.


Following the political upheaval which erupted in May, the food supply situation in Sierra Leone has deteriorated, and famine conditions could soon develop if the present insecurity persists. Most international aid workers have been evacuated and rehabilitation projects have been put on hold. Repatriation of Sierra Leonean refugees from neighbouring countries, numbering over 318 000, has been suspended. The food supply situation has tightened in the main towns, with the price of rice tripling in Freetown. Humanitarian agencies have started limited food distributions to vulnerable people in Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni, while cross-border operations from Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea allow limited provision of food to affected persons in rural areas.

Insecurity has severely hampered agricultural activities, especially the planting of the main crops which normally takes place from April to June, and will adversely affect 1997 food production. Contrary to previous expectations following the return of peace, planted areas are likely to be sharply reduced as farmers abandon their farms while others are discouraged from cultivating larger areas. For rice, which is the main cereal crop, seedbeds had already been planted before the upheaval but transplanting still generally needed to be done. For millet and sorghum, land preparation was underway and sowing was about to start. As regards cassava, the impact could be less as this crop can remain stored in the ground. For all planted crops, the reduction of activity in the fields, coupled with the limited distribution of inputs due to insecurity, will severely reduce yields.

Thus, the prospects for 1997 food production have deteriorated and the country will continue to rely heavily on food aid to meet its consumption needs. Before the upheaval, the cereal import requirement for 1997 had been estimated at 260 000 tons and the food aid requirement at 80 000 tons. Cereal food aid requirements to support resettlement/rehabilitation activities implemented by WFP and CRS had been estimated at 60 500 tons. The situation is being closely monitored.

In neighbouring Liberia, the food situation is improving and food production in 1997 is expected to increase somewhat. Relative peace and stability have prevailed throughout the country, exerting a positive influence on farming activities. Rainfall as of the end of June was normal, and the planting period for upland (rainfed) rice has just ended. The farming population has been very busy with land preparation and planting, particularly in Lofa, Bong and Nimba counties, considered to be the grain basket of country. Thus, the cultivated area this year should be substantially higher than in the previous year. Although a shortage of hand tools and rice seed has been a major problem, it has been partially alleviated by a massive seed and tools distribution programme, and preliminary reports indicate that 118 000 vulnerable families or some 55 percent of the total have benefited from it so far.

Following significant recovery of trade and commercial activities, the food supply situation is improving. The displaced population is spontaneously returning to areas of origin. Data collected by various organizations show that at least 50 000 Liberian refugees have resettled in Lofa, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties during the first five months of the year. At the same time the number of Internally Displaced Persons in Monrovia and Buchanan has sharply declined, with people moving mainly to Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Bomi and Cape Mount counties. Food supply in urban markets is stable and food prices have generally gone down since the beginning of the year. However, the food supply situation in rural areas will continue to be tight, particularly during the lean season of August-September. Overall, Liberia will continue to be dependent on food aid for the immediate future, especially the counties with a high number of returnees.


Despite a marked improvement in the security situation in the Great Lakes region, serious food supply difficulties persist, largely due to massive population movements in the recent past and continuing displacements.

In Rwanda, 1.6 million more people will need to be fed in the second half of 1997 than during the same period a year ago - an increase of 25 percent. Yet, overall food production in 1997 is estimated at 18 percent below the 1990 level. Access to food has become exceedingly difficult for those relying on market purchases as prices have soared. Thus, substantial food assistance continues to be required. However, this assistance will need to be carefully targeted to avoid an oversupply which could discourage food production later.

In Burundi, aggregate food production in 1997 is estimated to be 4 percent lower than the pre-crisis average, despite an improved input supply situation and somewhat better security recently. A significant proportion of the population in the conflict areas have not been able to cultivate their land in past seasons and are therefore highly food insecure, with high rates of severe malnutrition reported among them. Substantial emergency food assistance therefore continues to be needed.

The food situation remains critical in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Severe malnutrition is reported among the remaining Rwandan refugees and the security situation is still tense. Humanitarian sources estimate the number of remaining refugees whose location is known at around 24 000, in addition to about 190 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs). As of late July, about 42 000 Rwandan refugees had been repatriated by air from the eastern city of Kisangani to Rwanda. In addition, about 5 000 people have been repatriated from Amisi, Kindu, Punia and Tingi-Tingi. Some 50 000 more Rwandan refugees have been reported around Mbandaka, near the border with Congo Brazzaville, while smaller numbers of IDPs are reported to be in Walikale, Kirotshe, Rutshuru and parts of South Kivu and Shaba provinces.


The impact of the drought that affected most of eastern Africa during the last (short rains) season is still being felt in all the affected countries.

In Kenya, the overall food supply situation remains tight with sharply increased food prices. Food aid distribution continues in pastoral and agriculturally marginal areas which were the most affected by the drought. However, prospects for the 1997 main "long rains" cereal crop, to be harvested from October in the main growing areas, are favourable due to generally adequate rainfall, despite the late start of the season and dry weather in May. In the pastoral areas of the Eastern and North-Eastern Provinces, the rains have resulted in a recovery of pastures and replenishment of water supplies, gradually improving the food situation. But, in spite of the prevailing high prices of maize, preliminary estimates indicate that the area planted has fallen short of the target. Late but heavy rains in late March/early April resulted in delayed planting as well as in reductions in the area planted to maize, particularly in the highly mechanized areas of the Rift Valley Province where shortages of machinery were experienced. The delay in planting also left crops more vulnerable to an early cessation of the rainy season. Overall, early indications point to a maize output above last year's below-normal crop, but lower than the bumper crop of 1994.

In Uganda, following the below-average 1997 first season harvests in several areas of the country, the food supply situation has tightened. Prices of beans and maize have more than doubled their level of a year ago. The situation is particularly difficult in the eastern and north-eastern districts, which were affected by drought and floods and in the northern districts where insecurity is hampering food production as well as food aid distribution. The latest assessment estimates the number of persons affected by drought/floods in need of food assistance at 612 000. In addition, food aid is needed for about 150 000 internally displaced persons in the north and 268 945 refugees.

Prospects for the 1997 second season food crops are generally favourable following good rains in April and May. However in eastern and southern parts, where planting was delayed by one month due to the late start of the rains, and where precipitation was below average in May, significant yield reductions are anticipated. In the northern districts affected by continuous civil strife, production is anticipated to be reduced for the second consecutive season, reflecting reductions in the area planted due to population movements.

In Ethiopia, the food situation has been generally satisfactory in most areas, mainly due to the record main harvest at the end of last year. However, there are several areas, particularly in the pastoral south and south-east, where the food supply situation became critical, following the drought-reduced short season crops and deterioration of pasture and livestock conditions. In some of these areas, crops from the short rains season account for a high proportion of household annual food production. The deterioration of the food supply situation has been particularly serious in several areas of the Somali Region and the southern part of Oromia Region bordering Somalia and Kenya.

In Eritrea, where the 1996 cereal harvest was poor, the food supply situation remains fragile, although food prices are stable reflecting the inflow of supplies across the border from Ethiopia. Food aid continues to be needed, however, and the requirement for the current marketing year is estimated at 289 000 tons.

In Somalia, the food situation has deteriorated rapidly following the drought, coupled with the continuing civil strife. The main "Gu" crop harvested last September was also poor, and thus the aggregate 1996/97 cereal production is estimated at about one-half of the pre-civil crisis level. The difficult food supply situation is reflected in very high grain prices and increased selling of livestock. However, prospects for the 1997 Gu crop are favourable, reflecting good rains since late March, although plantings and crop yields were constrained by seed shortages, high input prices and continuing civil strife.

In Sudan, the overall food supply situation is generally satisfactory, reflecting the good cereal harvest last December, and the above-average wheat crop harvested recently. However, localized food shortages are being experienced in many areas, notably in Darfur and Kordofan, the Red Sea State and the south, with an aggregate food deficit estimated at around 600 000 tons. Although some of the deficit is expected to be met through normal internal trade, a large number of people will be unable to acquire adequate supplies to meet their consumption needs because of limited purchasing power. Emergency food assistance to cover the needs of vulnerable groups in 1997 is estimated at 74 000 tons of cereals, including 39 000 tons for an estimated 2.6 million displaced and war-affected people under Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).

In Tanzania, the food supply situation is still tight in the drought-affected bimodal rainfall areas of the north and north-east and the coast. These same areas appear to be headed for yet another poor harvest during the current season due to erratic rainfall. Harvesting of the main season crop in the unimodal rainfall areas in the centre and south is in progress, but production is forecast to be below normal due to irregular rains in parts. Overall, the 1996/97 cereal production is forecast to decline by some 18 percent over past year. At this forecast level, a deficit of some 1 million tons is anticipated during the 1997/98 marketing year.


The rainy season is now well established in western Africa. So far, rains have been generally regular and widespread over most producing areas of the Sahel, except in the west. They started in late March/early April in Burkina Faso, becoming abundant and widespread in late May and early June. In Chad, Mali and Niger, the rainy season started in April in the southern parts, progressing northwards into the sahelian zone in May and June. The first significant rains reached the eastern part of Guinea-Bissau and south-eastern Senegal in early May and eastern Gambia in late May, becoming widespread thereafter, and reaching southern Mauritania in early June. In early July, widespread rains have been received in the main producing areas of Mali and Niger, although they were less than in late June. Also, rainfall in early July was quite abundant over Chad and south-western Mali, but much less in central and northern Senegal and northern Burkina Faso. In mid-July, precipitation was abundant over Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad, but decreased significantly in the western part of the Sahel, notably in Senegal and the Gambia.

Crops are generally emerging satisfactorily except in some areas of the sahelian zone of Chad and central Senegal where replanting may be necessary. In Senegal, the recent dry spell is likely to severely affect crops if rains do not resume.

In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, the growing season is well underway. In the north, sowing of millet and sorghum is drawing to an end in most countries, while in the south and centre, maize and rice crops planted in April/May are growing satisfactorily. Rains were abundant in May and decreased in June but remained widespread. Cumulative rainfall as of the end of June was generally normal to above normal. The first planted maize crop is now being harvested in the southern regions.



Between February and June 1997, GIEWS fielded a series of Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions to Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In close collaboration with the parties concerned, the Missions made estimates of cereal and other food production and cereal import requirements for 1997 or 1997/98. In a few cases, the objective was to update the estimates made in late 1996. 

Angola: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (April/May) forecast the 1996/97 cereal production at 431 000 tons, some 14 percent lower than last year, due to below normal rainfall. However, production of other food crops, particularly roots and tubers, was estimated to be normal. Matching the estimated food production against requirement, the Mission found that there will be an import requirement of some 531 000 tons. 

Burundi: An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission fielded in June forecast aggregate food production in 1997 at less than 1 percent higher than 1996 and 4 percent lower than the 1988-93 average. Import requirements for cereals, pulses, roots/tubers, and banana/plantain were estimated at the equivalent (in cereal terms) of 128 000 tons. Malnutrition among the internally displaced persons (IDPs) was found to be on the increase. 

Kenya: An FAO/GIEWS Mission visited Kenya in April with the main objective of updating the estimates of foodcrop production and import requirement made in December 1996, in view of the drought-reduced 1997 first season harvest. The Mission found that domestic availability of maize, the country's main staple, falls short of requirement in 1997 by 721 000 tons. Most of this deficit is expected to be covered by commercial imports, leaving an estimated food aid requirement of 218 000 tons. 

Madagascar: An FAO/WFP Mission visited Madagascar in March to assess the damage and loss caused to food production and agricultural infrastructure by Cyclone "Gretelle" which struck the country in January. The Mission estimated total crop loss at 7 000 tons of rice, 123 500 tons of cassava and 8 000 tons of cash crops (mainly coffee). However, as production prospects in the areas of the country not affected by the cyclone were favourable, the Mission concluded that the bulk of the shortfall could be covered locally. 

Mozambique: The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission which visited the country in April estimated the 1996/97 cereal production at 1.47 million tons against 1.33 million tons last year, an increase of 11 percent. Production of cassava had also increased. The Mission concluded that the country will have some cereal surplus, forecast at 63 000 tons, during the 1997/98 marketing year. 

Rwanda: A joint FAO/WFP Mission (10-21 June) reported that as a result of the massive return of refugees, the country will have to feed 1.6 million more people in the second half of 1997 compared to the same period a year ago - an increase of 25 percent. In the face of this, total food production in 1997 was estimated to be significantly below pre-crisis (1994) levels, leading to a heavy strain on available supplies and soaring prices. Bean production was sharply reduced for the second consecutive season. Import requirements (in cereal equivalent) for the second half of 1997 were estimated at 208 000 tons. 

Sudan: An FAO/GIEWS Mission in April estimated the wheat crop at a bumper 650 000 tons, second only to the record crop of 1991/92. The Mission also revised earlier FAO/WFP estimates for sorghum upwards by 2 percent and for millet downwards by 10 percent. The Mission reported that although the overall food outlook was favourable, certain provinces and states mainly in the west and south faced a precarious food security situation. 

Uganda: The first-ever FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Uganda (February), fielded in response to crop production difficulties in the eastern and northern districts due to a combination of drought, floods and civil strife, forecast for 1997 reduced production of all crops except roots and tubers. But even for the root crops, prospects were bleak because of severe infestation of Cassava Mosaic Virus in many areas. Matching production against requirements, the Mission concluded that the country will barely meet its food needs in 1997, with small surpluses in a few crops. 



The plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in sub-Saharan Africa is a cause for serious concern. Current estimates show that there are about 13 million refugees world wide of which sub-Saharan Africa hosts about 4 million, one-third of the world's total. To highlight and to focus world attention on the extent of the problem, Africa Refugee Day was celebrated on 20 June 1997 with a series of events and seminars with the theme of "Together in the Search for Solutions". It is hoped that 1997 would turn into a year of repatriation in peace and dignity in as many parts of Africa as possible. 

Available figures indicate that, from 1980 to 1992, the number of refugees increased globally, after which there has been a small but steady decline. At its peak, in 1992, the total number of refugees in the world reached 19 million, but by the end of 1995 the number had dropped to 13.2 million. Regional comparisons reveal that the global decline in the number of refugees since 1993 is due to the decline in Asia (repatriations to Afghanistan) and Europe (repatriations to Bosnia-Herzegovina), while that of sub-Saharan Africa was not only increasing but also overtook Asia in hosting the largest number of refugees (see figure). With new conflicts and civil strife in the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic, further increases are expected. 

Undisplayed Graphic 

At the start of the 1990s, the end of the cold war led to some optimism of a reduction in the number of refugees around the globe, and especially in Africa where proxy wars had been the norm of the 70s and 80s. Several long-standing armed conflicts in several parts of Africa had declined in intensity, apparently opening the way for the repatriation of millions of displaced people. But as the decade draws on, new and persisting forms of instability, the rapid escalation of internal conflicts due to limited and inequitable distribution of resources, civil wars and ethnic strife are forcing millions to flee from persecution, war or massive human rights abuse in their home country. 

Large scale migration to neighbouring countries or regions has immense implications for the food security of both the migrants and the inhabitants of the areas hosting them. It interferes with production activities and disrupts food markets - often leading to rapid increases in commodity prices. The pressure on local supplies and services as well as the perceived preferential treatment of the refugees provokes tensions between the migrant and the host communities. The arrival of a huge influx of refugees and/or internally displaced people inevitably places greater pressure on the environment of the host country or village. Local deforestation, soil erosion, water contamination and depletion are all accelerated. 

Massive migration also causes reduction in production of the country of origin when the displacement of the population leads to land being left uncultivated crops being untended or unharvested. The adverse impact of population displacement on food production was clearly seen in Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia where most fields were abandoned, leading to food production well below their average level. Among the people hit hardest by the violence and uncertainty of displacement are single mothers, elderly widows and young girls. In many cases, more than 75 percent of these destitute displaced people are women and their dependent children. That proportion may rise to 90 percent in some refugee populations, when husbands or fathers die, are taken prisoner or drafted as combatants. Most take refuge in remote, poorly developed areas and face huge problems of security. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo, called Zaire until 20 May 1997, has been the scene of one of the largest and the most dramatic refugee movements in Africa's history. In late 1996 and early 1997, well over 800,000 Rwandan refugees who had sought refuge in that country in the summer of 1994, returned to Rwanda. This brings the total of Rwandans that have returned home from Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo to more than 1.3 million. There have been other mass repatriations elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. About 40 000 Malian refugees have returned home to Mali from Mauritania and 300 000 Togolese refugees returned home from Benin and Ghana. Similar repatriations, though on a lesser scale, were those of Somali refugees in Ethiopia and Ethiopian refugees in Sudan carried out recently. Returnees pose severe problems of reintegration into their economies. They need substantial assistance for an extended period of time before they can resume normal farming activities. 

Furthermore, there is a category of people who are in refugee-like situation, although they have not crossed an international border. These are known as internally displaced people (IDPs). There are an estimated 30 million internally displaced people worldwide of whom Africa has more than 9.2 million. Overwhelmingly, the internally displaced live under adverse conditions in a hostile domestic environment, where their access to protection and assistance is constrained. Sovereign states are often unwilling to allow the international community to intervene in problems affecting their own citizens within their national boundaries. 

Over the last ten years, emergency operations in sub-Saharan Africa have been mainly in response to civil strife. With the increase in complex emergencies in the 1990's, both material and human costs have soared. For instance, under the joint FAO/WFP approval procedure, emergency operations with a total value of U.S.$ 1 235 million were approved for sub-Saharan Africa between 1994 and May 1997. About 80 percent of these operations involve refugees and displaced persons who are victims of civil strife. 


Harvesting of the 1997 coarse grain crop is almost complete in most areas of southern Africa. Aggregate output is about average, estimated at 17 million tons, but 12 percent below last year's bumper crop. Rainfall in 1997 has been irregular, adversely affecting yields. Moreover, unusually cold weather in June delayed harvesting in some areas.

Cereal production in Angola is estimated to be 14 percent lower than in 1996, due to below normal rainfall. In contrast, harvest is expected to be above average in Mozambique and Namibia, due to favourable weather, increased plantings and higher yields. In Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, output is anticipated to be lower than last yearís bumper harvest as irregular rainfall reduced yields. The maize crop in South Africa is expected to be about 8.5 million tons, well below the 10 million tons in 1996. In Madagascar, the 1997 paddy crop is forecast to be slightly above last year's level, but an outbreaks of locusts in southern parts may adversely affect output in those areas. Prospects for the sub-regionís 1997 wheat crop are favourable, as abundant water is available in dams following a good rainy season.

Reflecting the 1997 average harvest, the sub-regionís overall food supply situation during the 1997/98 marketing year is expected to be generally stable but much less favourable than in the previous year. However, the availability of large opening stocks in several countries will reduce the need for large imports of cereals. Commercial imports are expected to meet a large part of the food needs but in several countries, particularly Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar and Mozambique, food assistance, including emergency food aid, will be required for vulnerable people.


Cereal import requirements in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 1996/97 are expected to decline, reflecting generally good harvests in western Africa and parts of the Horn in 1996, and the satisfactory harvests nearing completion in southern Africa. Estimates of 1996 production and 1996/97 import and food aid needs are summarized in Table 2. Import requirements are projected to decline by some 21 percent for the sub-region as a whole, while declines of 10 percent and 47 percent are forecast for western Africa and southern Africa respectively. In eastern Africa, a small increase of 1 percent is forecast, due mainly to the recent drought. Correspondingly, food aid requirements of the sub-region in 1996/97 are estimated to decline by some 15 percent from last year, although they remain high at 2 million tons. Food aid pledges for 1996/97 fully match the requirements, but speedier deliveries are needed in some cases.


The food situation in Sierra Leone is deteriorating rapidly and could develop into famine if the current widespread insecurity persists. In the Great Lakes region, despite the easing of the refugee crisis, serious food supply difficulties continue in Burundi, Rwanda and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The attention of the international community is drawn to the following two areas requiring assistance:

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