As 2000 draws to a close, serious food supply difficulties persist in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa mainly due to prolonged drought, coupled with civil strife in parts. The number of people facing severe food shortages in the sub-region has increased from 19 million in 1999 to some 28 million in 2000. The situation is most critical in eastern Africa, where 20 million people are currently affected by serious food shortages requiring continued food assistance well into 2001. In southern Africa, the already precarious food situation in Angola could deteriorate further due to growing insecurity at the critical planting period. In the Great Lakes region, a grim humanitarian situation prevails in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is currently estimated at 2 million. Most of these displaced people are inaccessible to humanitarian agencies due to fighting and general insecurity throughout the country. Elsewhere in the continent, civil strife continues to disrupt food production in Burundi, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
The food situation in eastern Africa remains precarious due to the lingering effects of drought and/or civil strife. Currently some 20 million people need emergency food assistance, and the food shortages are expected to persist well into 2001. The food situation is particularly serious in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, where large cereal imports, mostly as food aid, are needed to stave off starvation. Timely and generous donor response has averted massive starvation so far, but the food crisis in the sub-region is far from over. Moreover, the recent ban on imports of livestock from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula due to Rift Valley fever will lower export earnings thus further constraining their already low commercial import capacity.
For the current secondary cropping season, rainfall has been reported in most of the drought affected areas in Ethiopia and Somalia and, to a lesser extent, in the worst affected areas in Kenya. Current forecasts indicate further improvement in rainfall in Ethiopia and Somalia for the period October-December 2000. However, significant parts of Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania and Djibouti are forecast to receive lower than average rainfall until year-end.
In Eritrea, the food situation for about 1.5 million people displaced by war and nearly 340 000 people affected by drought gives cause for serious concern. Despite favourable rains in September and October in some regions of the country, mainly in Debub and Gash Barka, harvest prospects for 2000 main season cereal and pulse crops are bleak, mainly due to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers by the war with neighbouring Ethiopia. Gash Barka and Debub administrative zones (Zobas), which are the country's main grain producing areas, normally supplying more than 75 percent of Eritrea's cereal production, have been at the centre of the recent clashes and may have little or no harvest in 2000.
In addition, there was a decrease in the spatial distribution of the rainfall throughout the country during the main season, which was exacerbated by unseasonable rainfall in early November, with a probable negative effect on the harvest. As the next harvest is only expected in November/December 2001, these regions together with other parts will depend on emergency relief food for the whole of next year.
In Ethiopia, good rains in September and October in several parts of the country have helped maturing crops in important cereal producing areas of central, northern and western parts of the country. However, cereal production in eastern and southern parts has been affected by continued drought conditions. The 2000 secondary "Belg" crop, harvested in June, had also failed due to drought.
The overall food supply situation remains highly precarious with an estimated 10.2 million people depending on food assistance. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country from 12 November to 13 December is currently finalizing its assessment of the main "Meher" season production and the food assistance requirements for 2001.
In Kenya, prospects for the 2000/01 "short rains" cereal crops in the bi-modal areas of the Western, Central and Eastern provinces, for harvest in February/March, are uncertain despite some recent good rains. Harvesting of the 2000 main "long rains" cereal crops is complete in the main growing areas of the Rift Valley. The main season harvest, which normally accounts for 80 percent of total annual food production, have largely failed due to a severe drought. As a result, the country will need to import an estimated 1.4 million tonnes of cereals in 2000/01 marketing year (October-September) to maintain normal consumption requirements.
The severe scarcity of water and pasture has resulted in the loss of large numbers of livestock, mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Nearly 3.3 million people, mostly pastoralists, need emergency food assistance. With limited foreign exchange resources, the country needs substantial international assistance to cope with the emergency.
In Somalia, harvest of the main season ("Gu") crops, recently completed, is satisfactory. The season's cereal production, estimated at 212 000 tonnes, is about 22 percent above the post-war (1993-1999) average. Widespread rains in April/May and good "Hagay" rains at the beginning of July helped developing crops. Improved security conditions have also encouraged some households to return to their farms and facilitated farming activities. However, poor harvests are anticipated in some pockets of Gedo, Lower Juba and Middle Juba Regions due to erratic and insufficient rains.
Despite some improvement in the overall food supply situation in parts of southern Somalia, serious malnutrition rates are increasingly reported, reflecting diminished livelihoods due to a succession of droughts and longer-term effects of years of insecurity and lack of investment in the economy. Elsewhere, in north-western Somalia (Somaliland) the food situation is precarious in some agro-pastoral areas in Togdheer, Awdal and Sanag where successive below-normal rains have severely affected crop and livestock production. With traditional coping mechanisms virtually exhausted, migration of people and livestock to Ethiopia and other regions is reported.
In Sudan, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, which has just completed its field work, found that late and erratic rains have severely affected the 2000 crop production. Despite the anticipated good harvest in the irrigated sector, mainly due to an extensive rehabilitation, the rainfed sector, which accounts for the bulk of cereal production, has been seriously affected. Serious food shortages have already emerged in a number of districts, with food prices more than double the average prices for the time of the year. An earlier FAO/WFP Mission to southern Sudan estimated a deficit in cereal production, particularly in North Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei and Juba. However, some surplus production was noted in West Equatoria, Lakes and West Bahr el Ghazal.
In Tanzania, the 2000 cereal crop, mainly maize, is estimated at about 3.5 million tonnes, nearly 20 percent below the previous five years average. The decline is attributed to drought conditions in several parts of the country. As a result, the cereal import requirement is currently forecast at 690 000 tonnes. However, the overall food supply situation has improved due to large maize imports which have led to marked declines in food prices. Despite reduced pasture, livestock conditions are reported to be satisfactory. Planting of the 2001 main season cereal crops in the unimodal central and southern areas, as well as that of 2000/01 short season ("Vuli" ) crops in bi-modal northern areas, is underway. Generally below-normal rains in October have caused moisture stress, particularly for earlier planted crops. Food assistance is required for about 800 000 people identified as food insecure, mainly in the regions of Dodoma, Mara, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Tanga and southern Mwanza, all of which have now suffered their third consecutive poor harvest.
In Uganda, prospects for the 2000 second season food crops, to be harvested from next January, have improved with recent good rains. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory. However, the situation remains precarious in the north-east, mainly due to last season's poor harvest and loss of cattle due to raids. Overall, food assistance is required for an estimated 1.2 million people affected by adverse weather and civil unrest.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo the on-going conflict continues to disrupt all economic and agricultural activities. The food situation is extremely tight, particularly in eastern parts worst affected by persistent fighting and insecurity. The numbers of internally displaced and refugees to neighbouring countries are rapidly increasing. Only in the second half of November, 10 000 refugees are reported to have crossed into northern Luapula province of neighbouring Zambia. Many more refugees into Zambia are expected in the next weeks from the southeastern Shaba province, where military actions between Government and rebels forces have intensified.
An FAO mission recently visited the provinces of Kinshasa, Bandundu and Bas-Congo, under Government control. The Mission found that the food and nutritional situation in Kinshasa is extremely serious. The food aid currently being provided targets only the most vulnerable groups while the hungry poor must fend for themselves. Coping mechanisms such as eating less food, having fewer meals and growing vegetables in household compounds have been stretched to the limit. Some 70 percent of the population, currently estimated at between 6-7 million, lives below the poverty line. Chronic malnutrition affects 18 percent of children in the inner city and over 30 percent in the outskirts where war-displaced people have been settling.
While the food production in rural areas surrounding Kinshasa is adequate and considerable stocks of cassava, maize and palm oil are reported to be available in other provinces, several other factors constrain food supply to Kinshasa. These include the extreme state of disrepair of the road infrastructure; police/military harassment of shippers, traders and farmers; the cut-off of food supply from Equateur and Eastern Provinces due to the ongoing war; the scarcity of fuel due to a shortage of foreign exchange; and the overvalued official exchange rate which is pushing business transactions to the parallel market.
As major steps towards restoring the normal flow of foodstuffs to the capital, the Mission recommended that the Government enforces its directives against police/military harassment and illegal levies at road check points, ports and market places. It also recommended that donors should assist the Government to urgently repair critical sections of main roads leading to Kinshasa. The Mission finally recommended that the international community should urge the Government and rebel groups to establish humanitarian corridors, which would allow a resumption of food and other trade between Kinshasa and the eastern and northern provinces.
In Rwanda, exceptional dry weather from mid-May to mid-October, particularly in southern and eastern parts, has resulted in severe yield reductions of main staples bananas and cassava, as well as other cash crops. Worst affected are districts of Butare, Gitarama, Kaibungo and Umutara prefectures, as well as the Bugesera region of Kigali Rurale prefecture. Livestock losses due to poor conditions of pastures and scarcity water sources have also been reported, mainly in the Umutura Prefecture, where losses of bovines are estimated at one-quarter of the total population.
Severe food difficulties are being experienced in these areas. Prices of basic food have increased sharply from September, while those of livestock have declined substantially reflecting distress selling. In the Umutara Prefecture large movements of population to neighbouring Tanzania or other prefectures have been registered. A recent local mission of the Government and international agencies, estimated that 267 000 people, or 22 percent of the population in the affected areas, are in need of food aid until end-January 2001. There is also need of support for agricultural rehabilitation to allow the affected population to restore their production capacity. The assistance should focus on the distribution of beans seeds and cassava cuttings, restocking of animals and distribution of veterinary drugs. The Government has appealed for international assistance for food aid and agricultural rehabilitation assistance.
In Burundi, the food supply is very tight following a succession of reduced harvests. The situation has been aggravated by over five months without precipitation, from late April to mid-October. Abundant rains in October provided relief to the drought situation but were late to avoid yield reductions of perennial crops and declines in the area planted to the 2001 first cereal and pulses season, to be harvested from January. Serious seed shortages will also negatively affect plantings.
The food situation is critical in the worst affected northern provinces of Kirundo, Ngozi and Myinga. School attendance is reported to have declined significantly due to food shortages. International food assistance targets a population of 700 000, including those affected by a poor harvest, the displaced persons and the most vulnerable population. However, insecurity continues to hamper distribution.
In Angola, continued fighting between Government and rebel forces in October and November, particularly in northern parts of the country, has resulted in fresh waves of internally displaced people and refugees to neighbouring countries. The number of internally displaced, already estimated at 2.5 million by the end of June, is on the increase with the growing insecurity in Kwanza Norte, Moxico, Bie and Malange provinces.
The movement of population has coincided with the planting of the 2000/01 cereal crops. Despite generally adequate rains since the beginning of the season in October, large numbers of farmers have abandoned their farms in search of safe-havens. As a result, the area planted and production of foodcrops are likely to be reduced for the third consecutive year, aggravating the precarious food supply situation. The country will, therefore, continue to rely heavily on food assistance to meet its food needs.
Difficulties in distributing relief assistance due to insecurity incidents and the shortfall of food aid pledges in relation to requirements have exacerbated the food difficulties of the large displaced population. Malnutrition is reported among IDPs, particularly in the town of Kuito which has received 8 740 IDPs only in the month of October. More food aid pledges are urgently needed to avoid further reductions in the beneficiary population. Seeds and agricultural inputs are being distributed by the international community to IDPs who have access to land for planting of the 2001 crop season.
Elsewhere in southern Africa, in Zimbabwe, following a good 2000 maize harvest, the overall food supply position is expected to remain satisfactory. However, continuous devaluation of the national currency, fuel and power shortages, high inflation and increasing unemployment are undermining access to food of large numbers of urban population. Sharp increases have taken place in the prices of basic food in the past month, including bread, maize meal, sugar and oil particularly in Harare and other cities.
Despite good rains in most growing areas, plantings of the 2001 maize crop, to be harvested from next May, are anticipated to decline substantially. This reflects a huge increase in the price of agricultural inputs, difficulties in obtaining credit by commercial farms designated for resettlement, as well as lack of inputs and technical services in the newly resettled farms. Consequently, the crop is expected to be reduced. The recently harvested 2000 wheat crop, entirely produced by the commercial sector, was estimated about one-quarter below last year's level. Despite large carry-over stocks, wheat shortages could occur later in the year as a result of the serious foreign exchange shortages. A reduced maize production in 2001 could exacerbate the situation.
Besides increasing numbers of urban poor, there is concern for the food situation of farmers who gathered a reduced harvest, including some 220 000 people affected by cyclone Elyne, and for about 205 000 agricultural workers families who will lose their wages with the resettlement programme.
In Mozambique heavy rains and strong winds in the third dekade of November resulted in floods, mainly in southern provinces, causing human loss and isolating thousands of people in areas around the districts of Xai-Xai and Chibuto. These districts were among the worst affected by the devastating floods earlier in the year. Although the floods are localized, there is concern for the 2000/01 crop prospects in the southern provinces; soils in several areas are saturated and would not bear additional heavy rains. The situation needs to be monitored closely.
Despite the severe floods in southern and central areas, a good 2000 cereal crop, mainly maize, was obtained. As a result, the food supply situation remains satisfactory Prices remain stable and are below their level of a year earlier. In provinces affected by the floods, the food supply situation improved with a good harvest of the secondary crop season, the rehabilitation of roads, and food aid distributions. However, an estimated 172 000 food insecure people, including those most affected by the flood damage, would require food aid until the next harvest.
In South Africa, heavy rains in late November in the eastern KwaZulu-Natal province, badly affected by severe floods early in the year, resulted in floods and the displacement of thousands of people. The flooding disrupted agricultural activities. The overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting the 2000 bumper maize crop. Although early prospects for the 2001 maize are poor due to anticipated reduced plantings, large carryover stocks should guarantee adequate supplies in marketing year 2000/01 (May/April).
In Swaziland, the food supply situation is tight following a sharply reduced cereal crop as a result of unfavourable weather conditions. Maize production declined by over a third from the level of last year and import requirements have increased substantially. Despite the country's commercial import capacity, imports in marketing year 2000/01 (May/April) have kept a slow pace so far. In addition, some 14 000 people have been identified as in need of emergency food assistance until next harvest, following crop failure.
Elsewhere in southern Africa, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory reflecting this year's bumper cereal harvest, in spite of severe floods in parts. Outputs increased substantially in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana, while in Malawi remained at the same record level of last year.
Despite generally favourable growing conditions during the first part of the rainy season, later as a result of reduced rains or long dry spells from mid-August in several countries, the Sahel will gather a significantly lower harvest this year compared to the 1999 record level. Rains started generally on time and remained widespread and adequate in June and July. Only limited replantings were necessary in localized areas as no prolonged dry spells were experienced. However, in August, precipitation decreased significantly in Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad and remained limited in September. The pest situation was mostly calm. The rains permitted satisfactory regeneration of pastures and replenishment of water reserves but pastures started to dry earlier following reduced rains in September/October, except in the west.
The 2000 aggregate cereal production of the nine CILSS member countries has been estimated with national statistical services by a series of FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions at 9.5 million tonnes, which is 16 percent lower than in 1999 and 2 percent below the average of the last five years. Below average outputs are anticipated in Burkina Faso and Chad. Near average production is expected in Mali, Mauritania and Niger, and above average outputs are foreseen in Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia (where it is a record) and Senegal. Output has significantly increased compared to 1999 in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. Output is significantly lower compared to the 1999 records in Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Mali, Niger and Chad, and to a lesser extent in Mauritania.
Following generally good 1998 and 1999 harvests, farm and national security stocks have been reconstituted in most countries. Therefore, deficits following poor harvests this year can be partly covered by stocks or transfers from surplus to deficit areas. However, the food supply situation is likely to be tight in several areas and notably in the Sahelian zone of Chad where cereal prices increased significantly. External assistance is required to provide food to the vulnerable populations and to reconstitute the national security stock which was already at a critical low level before this year's harvest.
In Liberia, current prospects point to a slight increase in production following slow agriculture sector recovery after several years of civil war. With the exception of Lofa County, relative peace in most areas has facilitated farming. The rice crop, the main staple, has been generally developing satisfactorily and cultivated areas are anticipated to have increased. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited the country in late November/early December to estimate 2000 crop production and assess the current food supply situation. The mission report will be issued in late December.
Fighting in northern Lofa County intensified in October and displaced thousands of people, notably in the towns of Gorlu, Ganglota and Selayae, many of whom need humanitarian assistance. Security remains precarious. It is estimated that about three quarters of Internally Displaced Persons have returned home while the remaining quarter settled where they were. WFP is distributing food aid to Liberian returnees. UNHCR is also assisting Sierra Leonean refugees in camps in Grand Cape Mount County.
In Sierra Leone, a reduced harvest is anticipated as planted areas are likely to be significantly below last year's level due to a resurgence of civil strife in early May, during the critical planting period. Due to insecurity, input distribution and relief operations were suspended or seriously disrupted, notably in the north. The security situation improved from June/July but remained tense and fighting along the border with Guinea and Liberia recently intensified, resulting in new waves of population displacement. Attacks were reported in Batkanu, North East of Port Loko, and in villages North East of Yele. Villages along the border and refugee camps in Guinea remained inaccessible to humanitarian agencies due to insecurity. A new ceasefire, starting on 10 November, has recently been agreed by Government and Revolutionary United Front and should allow the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone to deploy freely countrywide and the disarmament process, launched by the Lome agreement in July 1999 but halted by fighting in May 2000, to resume.
With the rainy season, the food supply situation deteriorated as many areas were inaccessible due to transport problems. In addition to the Internally Displaced Persons already registered, new IDPs have been registered in the south and the west following the upsurge of fighting in May and more recently in October. About half a million persons had been displaced and are being hosted by local communities in government controlled areas, while it is estimated that 1 million persons have been affected by the war in rebel controlled areas. More than 400 000 Sierra Leonean refugees remain in neighbouring West African countries, mostly in Guinea and Liberia. Despite the hostilities, WFP and NGOs continue food distributions. The country will continue to be dependent on food aid in 2001.
Cereal import requirements in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in 2000/01 are expected to increase mainly as a result of reduced harvests in some countries and increased food aid needs in eastern Africa. GIEWS' preliminary estimates of 2000 production and 2000/01 import and food aid requirements for the 24 countries which have already entered the 2000/01 marketing year are summarised in Table 1. The food aid requirements of these countries in 2000/01 are estimated at 1.86 million tonnes, some 0.92 million tonnes higher than previous year. Cereal food aid pledges to these 24 countries for 2000/01, including those carried over from 1999/00, total 0.5 million tonnes, of which 0.2 million tonnes have already been delivered. More accurate indications of the increase in import and food aid requirements for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa will depend on the outcome of the current season in the other 24 countries.
GIEWS' latest estimate of 1999 production and 1999/2000 import and food aid requirements are summarised in Table 2.
The food situation in eastern Africa remains precarious and needs continued assistance to avert further hardship and loss of life. Persistent civil war and insecurity in parts of the Great Lakes region continue to cause massive displacement of population, while widespread insecurity in Angola would further aggravate the already precarious food situation in the country. Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following priority areas requiring action:
First, continued and adequate food assistance is needed throughout 2001 for the affected populations in eastern Africa, particularly in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Second, the millions of internally displaced persons in countries affected by past or ongoing civil wars would require food assistance until their return and reintegration into their communities.
Third, with current indications pointing to the emergence of food shortages in many parts of Sudan, contingency planning for timely food assistance to affected populations will be necessary.
Fourth, further support for the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector will be needed in countries ravaged by adverse weather and/or civil strife.