FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO warns of famine in West Africa and Sahel

In West Africa and Sahel, there is unanimous agreement on the increase in the severity and amplitude of food and nutrition crises, particularly in Sahel and Lake Chad regions (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Nigeria), according to participants at the latest meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network, held from 6 to 8 April 2022 in Paris. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of people in need of nutritional assistance and emergency food security in ECOWAS, UEMOA, CILSS and Cameroon increased from about 11 to nearly 41 million.

The risk of famine in West Africa and Sahel is real

The main factor determining this worrying food and nutrition insecurity is the exacerbation of security tension in the Lake Chad basin, in northern Mali, in the Liptako Gourma region and in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, which has caused, among other things, massive population displacements, the destabilization of markets and cross-border transhumance flow, and the dysfunctioning of social infrastructures. Also, the intensification of attacks by armed groups in north-central and north-western Nigeria, where the phenomenon of kidnapping has created a climate of terror and fear in the affected states, has a negative impact on the food and nutritional security of the population.

This is compounded by the decline in production in the region and the residual effects of COVID's management measures, which contribute to the deterioration of the economic conditions of the population.

In addition, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is severely disrupting global trade in food, fertilizers and petroleum products, causing further increases in food prices and disruptions in the supply of agricultural commodities (including fertilizers), resulting in the highest price increases for agricultural commodities since 2011.

FAO's response to the situation

Dr Gouantoueu Robert Guéi, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for West Africa, recently interviewed by the press, shared FAO's responses: "This is an unprecedented food crisis that we are going through, but it should serve as a wake-up call for African states. It offers us the opportunity to address the root causes of food insecurity in the sub-region. It is an opportunity to develop food and agricultural systems that are less dependent on external shocks by strengthening local agriculture to be more productive.  He also gave concrete examples of the support that FAO intends to deploy: "By supporting peaceful pastoralism in the Sahel region, by fighting against pests that are a challenge to food security and by developing local fertilizer production units. And promote the consumption of local agricultural products in order to be less dependent on imports.

The States of the region will not be able to cope with this possible crisis alone

The Sahelian states face many challenges. Their partners such as FAO, WFP and many others are willing to strengthen the work. That is why a high-level event was held in Brussels on the margins of the RPCA meeting, organized by the Global Food Crisis Network, the EU, FAO, WFP and many technical and financial partners. The meeting was chaired by President Bazoum of Niger and resulted in nearly 2.5 billion euros in contributions that will need to be used rationally in Sahelian countries to address crises including the impact of the war in Ukraine.

The FAO has set up a whole system of emergency response and resilience, including at the sub-regional level.  The Subregional Office for West Africa, particularly the Resilience, Emergencies and Rehabilitation (REOWA) team, is ready to provide States with the technical support needed to implement their response plans through enhanced support to agricultural production in all crisis situations, animal vaccination, restoration of degraded land, integrated natural resource management, Cash+, among others. The lean season is near and we must act quickly and in a coordinated manner.