Adverse weather, persistent civil strife and insecurity have undermined food production in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In the Horn of Africa, the spectre of another drought is haunting several countries. In Sudan, severe food shortages due to drought have been aggravated by the recent flare-up in the long-running civil conflict that has displaced a large number of people. In Somalia, serious food shortages are anticipated due to poor rains in the current "gu" season, particularly in rainfed areas of Gedo, Hiran, Bay and Bakool. In southern Africa, several countries have experienced sharp falls in cereal production as a result of floods and prolonged dry conditions during the growing season. Elsewhere, despite favourable weather conditions for food production, civil conflicts continue to disrupt agricultural production in Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Poor rains and escalation of long-running conflicts in parts of eastern Africa have dimmed earlier optimism of a strong recovery from the impact of the recent severe drought in the sub-region.
In Sudan, food supply prospects are unfavourable due to inadequate rains and population displacements following a recent upsurge in the long-running civil conflict. The food situation is particularly grave in Bahr-El-Ghazal where escalation of the civil conflict was most pronounced. Elsewhere, poor harvests for two consecutive years and consequent depletion of stocks have led to a sharp increase in cereal prices, reducing access to food for large segments of the population. Purchasing power, particularly for pastoralists, has been seriously eroded. With coping mechanisms stretched to the limit, many farmers and other vulnerable groups have migrated in search of work and food. The situation is likely to worsen in the coming months with the lean season just starting and only a fraction of the appeal for international food assistance pledged so far. The population most affected by last year's drought is mainly located in Darfur and Kordofan, Bahr el Ghazal, Bahr el Jebel, East Equatoria, Jonglei, Red Sea and Butana province in Gezira State. Latest estimates put the number of people in urgent need of food assistance in Sudan at some 2.97 million affected by drought and/or civil war. There is an urgent need for more food aid pledges and support for logistics if starvation is to be avoided.
In Somalia, prospects for the 2001 main "gu" cereal crops are poor due to insufficient rains. Most affected regions include rainfed areas of Gedo, Hiran, Bay and Bakool. Despite the good harvests in the last two cropping seasons, severe food difficulties may emerge reflecting slow recovery from a succession of droughts in recent years and long-term effects of years of insecurity. Moreover, further injections of new currency into the market with the attendant depreciation of the Somali Shilling have caused sharp increases in prices of food items, eroding the purchasing power of large sections of the population. The ban of livestock imports from eastern Africa by countries along the Arabian Peninsula due to a Rift Valley fever has also caused substantial losses of income and affected the livelihoods of a large number of pastoral households. In response to anticipated poor harvests, dwindling stocks and inadequate relief food in the pipeline, WFP and other humanitarian agencies have appealed to the international community for additional food assistance. Earlier in the year a UN inter-agency appeal was launched for US $130 million, to support livelihoods and assist the country's recovery.
In Eritrea, the food outlook remains bleak with a large number of the displaced farmers unable to return to their farms and large tracts of land still inaccessible due to landmines. The spring (short) rains from March to May, which are beneficial for early land preparation and regeneration of pastures, have also failed in many areas. Prices of cereals have increased significantly in recent months, reflecting short supplies. The slow response to humanitarian appeals is a major concern with only a small fraction of the Government's appeal met so far. Overall, more than one million people are estimated to have been displaced by the war with Ethiopia. By early June only 35 000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had been resettled.
In Kenya, the overall food supply situation has improved considerably following favourable short rains harvests and improved pasture in several central and western pastoral districts. However, most pastoral districts in the east and north have yet to recover with only scanty rainfall received so far. The severe drought in 1999/2000 seriously undermined the food security of 4.4 million people, particularly in pastoral areas, and resulted in a massive relief operation.
In Ethiopia, favourable current "belg" rains and last year's bumper "meher" cereal and pulse crop, have improved the overall food supply situation in the country. However, the sharp decline in grain prices in main producing areas has reduced household incomes and may negatively impact on farmers' production decisions in the main season, which has just started. The Government and donors have made some efforts to support local markets through purchases of grain, but with limited funding available the efforts have not been successful in raising cereal prices.
In the pastoral areas, the current main season rainfall was late by about a month and ended early. Poor rains in parts of Gode, Liban, Werder and Afder Zones, the worst affected areas by last year's severe drought, are particularly worrying. Recent nutritional surveys have shown high levels of global acute malnutrition, indicating continuing food shortages. In the country as a whole, some 6.5 million people, affected by drought and the war with neighbouring Eritrea, depend on food assistance.
In Tanzania and Uganda, the overall food supply situation has improved following recent good harvests and improved pastures. However, food difficulties remain in parts of Uganda, mainly due to insecurity.
A combination of prolonged dry spells, severe floods and disruption of farming activities in parts has resulted in significant production shortfalls in southern Africa.
In Zimbabwe, the food supply situation in marketing year 2001/02 (April/March) gives serious cause for concern due to sharply reduced cereal harvest and the country's current economic difficulties. A recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission estimated this year's main maize crop at some 1.5 million tonnes, 28 percent lower than last year and one-quarter below the average of the past five years. The recently sown 2001 wheat crop is also forecast at the same reduced level of 2000. Cereal production has been affected by a sharp decline in the area planted on the large scale commercial farms due to disruption by land acquisition activities, and in the communal farm sector by payment delays by the Grain Marketing Board. A severe mid-season dry spell and heavy rains that resulted in localized floods also reduced yields in several areas, particularly in the south.
The food supply situation is tight for large sections of the population. In rural areas, the most affected are farmers who harvested a poor crop due to the dry spell in January and excessive rain in February-March, as well as those who have not yet recovered from the impact of cyclone Eline last year, mainly in the southern parts. Farm workers who lost their jobs as a result of farm invasions or land acquisitions, and vulnerable populations in the chronically food insecure areas of the east and the south of the country also face a difficult food situation. In urban areas, declining real incomes due to high inflation, rising cost of food and non-food items and acute shortages of fuel due to scarcity of foreign exchange, are seriously affecting low-income households. Business closures are swelling unemployment, further eroding the purchasing power and access to food for large sections of the population.
In South Africa, latest estimates put the 2001 maize harvest at 7.2 million tonnes, which is one-third below the bumper level of last year and well below the average of the last five years. Production was adversely affected by a reduction in the planted area in response to low domestic prices, coupled with a prolonged dry spell in January and first half of February in the main growing areas that sharply reduced yields. At this forecast production level and taking into account carryover stocks, maize supplies in marketing year 2001/02 are sufficient to cover domestic requirements, leaving an exportable surplus of around 500 000 tonnes. This is substantially lower than in 2000/01 and is insufficient to cover the sub-region's increased maize import needs. Part of the sub-region's import requirement will, therefore, have to come from overseas.
In Lesotho, the 2001 cereal production was sharply reduced by adverse weather. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in May estimated this year's cereal harvest at 80 000 tonnes, some 55 percent lower than in 2000 and 60 percent below the average of the last five years. Crops were severely damaged by frost in early January, which was followed by erratic rains, a heat wave and a hailstorm in parts. As a result of the reduced harvest, cereal imports in marketing year 2001/02 (May/April) are estimated to increase significantly to 332 000 tonnes. While most of this requirement is forecast to be covered by commercial imports, food difficulties are anticipated at household level. In particular, the food situation is expected to be tight in the mountain districts where frost damage was most severe and many households suffered crop failure. While a large proportion of the rural families have adequate coping means to get them through to the next harvest, about 10 to 15 percent of poor households in the most affected districts of Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tsek, Mohale's Hoek and Quthing were estimated as extremely vulnerable and in need of food and seed assistance in 2001/02. The Mission recommended that a rapid survey be undertaken in these areas to identify, quantify and precisely target the at-risk households for assistance.
In Swaziland, a sharply reduced cereal harvest for the second consecutive year has resulted in further deterioration of the food supply situation in the country. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in May estimated the 2001 maize output at 73 000 tonnes, close to the poor level of 2000 and one-third below the average of the last five years. Minor foodcrops like sorghum, sweet potato, beans and cowpeas were also lower than average. The decline in this year's food production mainly reflects a mid-season dry spell and a heat wave that severely affected crop yields.
Cereal import requirement in marketing year 2001/02 is estimated at 123 000 tonnes, well above the previous year's level. While most of these requirements are likely to be covered on commercial basis, food difficulties are anticipated at household level, particularly in the Middle and Lowerveld provinces, the most affected by the adverse weather. A food needs assessment is being conducted by the Government and NGOs in drought affected areas. Government and external assistance targeted to the most vulnerable population groups should prevent acute food shortages over the coming months.
In Malawi, widespread excessive rains during the season, which resulted in severe floods in parts, significantly reduced yields of the main food crop, maize. In southern and central parts, the crop was also affected by dry weather in January. Latest official estimates indicate a maize output close to 1.9 million tonnes, one-quarter lower than the bumper harvest of last year and below average. At the estimated level, production is still sufficient to meet domestic requirements in 2001/02 (May/April) but an exportable surplus will not be available this year. By contrast, production of non-cereal crops, mainly roots and tubers, is estimated to be satisfactory. The overall food supply situation is anticipated to remain satisfactory.
At the household level, however, severe flooding during the cropping season affected 561 205 persons and resulted in serious damage to crops. As a result, emergency food assistance is being provided by WFP to 208 500 most affected people. Seeds and other farm inputs for planting next season are also being distributed by the Government with the assistance of FAO and humanitarian agencies, particularly in the worst affected districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje. FAO is also providing vaccination/treatment to animals to combat diseases.
In Angola, an improved 2001 cereal crop has been harvested, mainly due to an increase in the area planted. This reflects somewhat better security situation at planting time and progress in allocating land to IDPs for cultivation within secure areas. Increased seed and tools distributions and generally favourable weather conditions also benefited crop production. An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission in May 2001 estimated the cereal harvest at 577 000 tonnes, an increase of 15 percent over last year.
Although the increased foodcrop production will lead to a better overall food supply, the situation will remain difficult for increasing numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), currently estimated at 2.7 million. Despite the increased crop cultivation by IDPs, very few have been able to return to their homes and movement of people within the country continues to be seriously restricted. Insecurity and poor road conditions continue to hamper humanitarian assistance.
Elsewhere in southern Africa, the prolonged mid-season dry spell followed by excessive rains also adversely affected crops in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, where cereal outputs are estimated to have been significantly reduced. In Zambia, maize output is estimated to have declined by 30 percent from last year. The Government has launched an appeal for food assistance for 2 million people facing serious food shortages. Cereal import requirements are forecast to rise sharply from the 2000 levels. By contrast, in Mozambique despite localized flooding and dry weather in southern parts, good rains in the main growing areas resulted in an increase in this year's food production.
In Burundi, a UN mission to the country last June estimated that over half a million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting in the country and are in urgent need of increased humanitarian assistance. Thus, despite an improved second season crop due to generally favourable weather, as well as a satisfactory first season harvest early in the year with cereal and pulse production up by 15 and 10 percent respectively on last year, food security remains precarious for large sections of the population, particularly the internally displaced. The nutritional and health situation of this group gives cause for major concern. Despite the seriousness of the situation, pledges for humanitarian emergency assistance stood, by June 2001, at only 15 percent of the estimated requirements for the year. Additional contributions from the international community are urgently needed to alleviate human suffering.
In Rwanda, the food security situation is expected to improved further, reflecting a satisfactory harvest of the 2001 B season crops. The first season was also favourable. As a result of increased food supplies, prices of basic staples have declined markedly in the past month in most of the areas affected by dry weather last year. However, plantings were reduced due to shortages of seeds following a succession of poor harvests.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite generally favourable rains during the 2001 B season, food production is anticipated to fall in several areas, reflecting insecurity, seed shortages and the extensive damage to cassava, a major staple, by the mosaic virus.
Overall, the food supply situation remains extremely precarious for large sections of the population affected by the persistent civil war. It is estimated that at least 2 million people are internally displaced by the conflict, particularly in eastern areas where violence has escalated in Butembo, Beni, Bunia and Kasindi in recent weeks. While the nutritional and health conditions of the IDPs are extremely dire, distributions of emergency humanitarian assistance remains constrained by insecurity.
However, a degree of improvement in the security situation has allowed the resumption of commercial traffic between Kinshasa and Kisangani via River Congo. After three years of closure, the first boat arrived in Kinshasa in June escorted by UN peace-keeping troops. The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) has also launched a US$1 million initiative to implement small projects in the area of basic needs, including agricultural rehabilitation, as part of the peace process.
In the Sahelian countries, the food supply situation is tight in several locations in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger following poor harvests. In Burkina Faso and Niger, substantial government and donor interventions (sales at subsidised prices or limited free distributions) have improved food supplies. Cereal prices, which had increased significantly in early 2001, stabilized (or even decreased slightly in northern Burkina Faso) in May/June, at a time when they usually increase. In Chad, by contrast, food assistance remains well below requirements and the food supply situation is deteriorating. Food needs assessment missions in the affected areas organised by CILSS with the participation of FEWS-NET, USAID-OFDA, WFP and FAO, are planned for late July in Chad and Mauritania and in August for Burkina Faso and Niger. In the other countries of the Sahel, markets are generally well supplied.
The 2001 rainy season is now well established, except in Chad. Rains started on time, with the onset even somewhat earlier than usual Niger. Plantings are in progress and in some areas of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal crops are generally emerging satisfactorily. Erratic rains in Chad are likely to cause moisture stress for recently planted coarse grains or necessitate re-plantings. Pastures are starting to regenerate and the pest situation is mostly calm.
In Liberia, food supply difficulties persist as domestic production has not fully recovered from several years of civil war. Transport infrastructure is very poor and this hampers marketing of food and other local products. Post-harvest losses are reported to be high. Rebel activity resumed recently in Lofa county, one of Liberia's main rice producing areas. Farming activities were disrupted during the planting period and thousands of people have been displaced. An official ban on travel which had for more than a month prevented relief agencies from helping IDPs in Bellefanai and Gbalatuah, areas close to the border with Lofa county, has been lifted, enabling WFP to distribute food to some 6 000 IDPs in the two locations in late June. Bi-monthly food assistance is also provided to all registered IDPs in Bong and Grand Cape Mount Counties, in collaboration with the National Red Cross Society and ACF.
Precipitation has generally been widespread and abundant since mid-April and the rice crop is developing satisfactorily. Input distribution was undertaken by several NGOs in various areas. With the exception of Lofa County, relative peace in most areas has exerted a positive influence on farming activities. Cultivated area and rice production should increase if weather conditions remain favourable.
In Sierra Leone, as a result of low food production in 2000 and transport problems, the food supply situation remains tight in 2001. WFP plans to distribute more than 50 000 tonnes of food to an estimated 544 000 people during 2001, including IDPs, recent returnees and 200 000 beneficiaries of special programmes for vulnerable groups such as schooling and malnourished children. NGOs also plan to distribute around 37 000 tonnes during 2001. The Government has launched a resettlement programme in Freetown, Port Loko, Kenema and Pejehun districts. A Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme also started in May for ex-combatants who surrender their arms. About 60 000 Sierra Leonean refugees have recently returned from Guinea, forced by an outbreak of fighting in that country.
Planting of the rice crop started in mid-April with the onset of rains, and growing conditions are favourable so far. Rice production should increase this year, reflecting increased planted area by returning farmers and improved conditions for distribution of inputs. However, the country remains heavily dependent on food aid.
In Guinea, the overall food supply situation is satisfactory and markets are generally well supplied following a good harvest in 1999 and a record crop in 2000, except in the south-east where rebel incursions from Sierra Leone have severely affected agriculture and marketing activities. There are more than 400 000 refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone and about 150 000 IDPs in the country. Voluntary repatriation of those who wish to return to Sierra Leone is facilitated and a transit camp has been established in Conakry to handle repatriation. Since September 2000, more than 55 000 Sierra Leoneans have returned from Guinea.
Cereal import requirements in sub-Saharan Africa in 2001 are set to remain high, reflecting mainly continued drought conditions in parts of eastern Africa, displacement due to escalation of conflicts and effects of adverse weather in southern Africa. GIEWS latest estimates of 2000 production and 2000/01 import and food aid requirements are summarized in Table 2. The total food aid requirement is estimated at 2.7 million tonnes, almost the same as actual imports in 1999/2000. Total food aid pledges for 2000/01, including those carried over from 1999/2000, amount to 1.5 million tonnes of which 0.95 million tonnes have been delivered so far.
There are clear indications of a deterioration in the food supply situation in Sudan and Somalia, while food supply difficulties persist in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, the food outlook is unfavourable, particularly in Zimbabwe. Recent escalations of conflicts in Angola, Burundi, Liberia and Sudan have displaced large numbers of rural people, while insecurity continues to hamper food production in DRC, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The attention of the international community is drawn to the following priority areas requiring action:
First, all possible efforts should be made to arrest the deteriorating food situation in Sudan and Somalia.
Second, Zimbabwe's food outlook to the next harvest is bleak and calls for contingency plans for food assistance in the coming months.
Third, food assistance is still needed in several countries of sub-Saharan Africa affected by civil strife or adverse weather, including Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Fourth, increased and sustained assistance is needed for countries where security conditions have improved following devastating conflicts, including Liberia, Rwanda, Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.