FAO warns of potential food security crisis as security situation in the Central African Republic worsens

Rome, 31 December - Despite security challenges in half of the prefectures, farmers in the Central African Republic are counting on the next agricultural season to restore their food production capacity and reduce the risk of famine and malnutrition.

Since last year, farming families have had to flee violence, abandoning their fields along the main roads to replant crops deep in the bush. This disruption led them to produce much less than previous years, with a major impact on food reserves that are expected to last until only February instead of July.

FAO is already working to provide farmers with seeds and tools for the next campaign, however more funds are needed for the food security component of the 100-day response plan. Initial assessments conducted over the last week indicate a deteriorating situation in terms of low food stocks, widespread disruption to village food markets and a lack of purchasing power overall, among other issues.

"The combination of food shortages and poor sanitary conditions in the camps and deep in the bush, as well as extreme poverty, risk triggering serious malnutrition." said Alexis Bonte, acting FAO Representative in the Central African Republic, following a visit to Bossangoa on 29 December.

The success of the next planting season crucially hinges on the return of farming families to the fields. Families who are unable to plant in March will have to wait an entire year before they can hope to harvest again. Failure to help these families will have dramatic consequences on the food security for a quarter of the Central African population.

The low yield from the last harvest, coupled with a prevailing situation of chronic, country-wide malnutrition, is setting the stage for a full-scale food and nutrition security crisis should the next planting season fail, according to FAO.

FAO's response

In response to the crisis, FAO has taken immediate action and set up a multidisciplinary team in Bangui with support from its regional and subregional offices as well as its headquarters in Rome. Three sub-offices are also being opened in the towns of Bossangoa, Bouar and Bambari.

FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP) are working closely together as lead agencies of the local Food Security Cluster. A 100-day response plan will focus on boosting the humanitarian response to the most urgent needs. Within the plan, FAO has identified priority areas for agricultural assistance in terms of restoring production, strengthening community resilience and capacity building.

In particular, FAO will work for the immediate resumption of agricultural production (seed distribution, restoration of communal storage facilities and cash-for-work activities) and an increase in community resilience. FAO will work with groups of women farmers through investment in their joint social and economic activities, to provide enabling environments for inter-community peacebuilding and dialogue.

The food security cluster led by FAO and WFP is seeking $61 million to help 1.8 million people. FAO has so far mobilized a total of USD $4.3 million including contributions from Belgium, Sweden and the USA, as well as through its own emergency funding mechanisms.

A makeshift camp for internally displaced in Bangui. The success of the next planting season hinges on farming families returning to the fields, says FAO.