Farmers need urgent help to plant in the Central African Republic

Missing the March planting season will increase risk of a full-scale food and nutrition security crisis

12 February 2014, Rome – Farmers in the Central African Republic are in urgent need of seeds and essential tools for the March planting season if they are to help avert a full-scale food and nutrition crisis in the country, FAO said today.

Some 1.6 million people, or over a third of the population, already require life-saving food assistance in the conflict-stricken nation, where one in five people have fled their homes in fear of continuing violence.

“The civil conflict is putting millions at risk of a full-scale food and nutrition security crisis,” said Alexis Bonte, acting FAO Representative in the Central African Republic. “The situation is increasingly worrying in the capital city, Bangui, but even more acute in the rest of the country.

“The main staple crop planting season is on our doorstep and farmers urgently need to start clearing and preparing their land now to be able to plant in a few weeks.”

The success of the main planting season next month in the centre and the south, followed by the main planting season in May in the north, could be a critical turning point for food security in the country, where around 75 percent of the population rely on small-scale agriculture for their food and income, Bonte underlined.

However, about 95 percent of communities have reported that they do not have enough seeds for the next agricultural season.

“If we can make seeds and tools available, farmers displaced within a few kilometres of their villages will return to their fields in time to plant if the security situation permits, while others will plant around their camps,” Bonte said.

Food reserves in the Central African Republic are almost exhausted due to low crop production in 2013, which decreased sharply after civil conflict broke out in December 2012.

“The current crisis is further complicated by a situation of chronic countrywide malnutrition and extreme poverty,” Bonte said. “People who were eating two or three meals a day before the violence broke out are now down to one meal a day if they are lucky.”

$37 million needed

FAO has already mobilized funds to provide seeds and tools to 40 000 of 150 000 farming families targeted in the joint Revised Strategic Response Plan released by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations last month.

Contributions have so far come from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund,  Belgium, the Central Emergency Response Fund, Sweden and the United States of America as well as from FAO’s own funding mechanisms.

However, the Organization still needs $37 million to support the remaining 110 000 households and to help protect and rebuild the livelihoods of all targeted farming families throughout 2014.

FAO has also started to distribute seeds and tools to displaced people in camps on the outskirts of Bangui so that they can plant vegetables, which they will be able to harvest in six to eight weeks.

In addition, the Organization is working to restore storage facilities, promote cash-for-work activities and support vulnerable women’s groups, for example through microcredit. By buying seeds produced by these groups, FAO will enable them to reinvest income generated in their credit and savings funds.

In 2014 FAO plans to continue efforts to boost local seed production and ensure locally-produced seeds are available in markets, thereby helping to revive household and community economies.

In total, some 2.5 million people in the Central African Republic are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

Photo: ©FAO/J. Swolfs
FAO has been distributing seeds and tools to people living in camps so that they can grow vegetables.