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(Originally posted to Ethioforum)

The outlook for food supplies has deteriorated in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Severe food shortages are emerging in Sierra Leone, where agricultural production and food distribution activities have been seriously disrupted by intensified civil strife and deaths from starvation are already being reported from southern areas. In Liberia, despite the ongoing peace process, a large number of displaced persons, particularly in the south-west, remain virtually inaccessible and at risk. Food security in Rwanda and Burundi remains precarious; mass repatriation and resettlement of Rwandan refugees from Zaire in the coming months will pose an immense challenge to the international community. Cereal output in Somalia is anticipated to be sharply reduced from last year's, whilst localized crop failures in southern Sudan could exacerbate the already severe food supply situation in the affected areas. Large scale emergency food distributions will be needed throughout the Horn of Africa for the rest of 1995 and well into 1996 despite better production prospects. In southern Africa, an estimated 10 million people are in need of emergency food assistance following a drought-reduced harvest. Cereal stocks in the sub-region are running perilously low, sharply reducing the margin of safety against a crop failure in 1996. Although growing conditions are generally favourable in the Sahelian countries in western Africa, Desert Locusts pose a potential threat in some parts.

It is already clear that sub-Saharan Africa will remain reliant on substantial food aid in 1996. However, global food aid availabilities in 1995/96 are projected to be the lowest since the mid-1970s due to tight world cereal supplies and the serious budgetary constraints for some food aid donors. High international prices of cereals this year and limited availability of foreign exchange will severely constrain the capacity of many African countries to import cereals commercially to meet food shortages. In the short-term, the solution lies in a) mobilizing adequate financial assistance to the low-income food- deficit countries (LIFDCs) in the region to alleviate balance-of- payments problems and b) providing exceptional food aid to countries affected by food emergencies. Without these measures, the minimum food needs of the region in 1995/96 will remain unmet, leading to further human suffering and loss of life in the months ahead. In the medium to long-term, national food security in the LIFDCs in the region would be best safeguarded through sustainable increases in food production and productivity, and a significant reduction in yield variation.


Critical food shortages are emerging in Sierra Leone as a result of intensified fighting. The food supply situation is particularly tight in the Bo and Kenema regions in the south, where famine conditions are developing and hundreds of hunger-related deaths have already been reported. Repeated ambushes on roads and the indiscriminate killing of travelling civilians are impeding normal trade activities and the distribution of relief assistance. The area planted to all crops this year is below average, notably in southern and eastern provinces due to civil strife. Problems of seed availability, insecurity and subsequent population displacement have severely disrupted planting. Rice and cassava fields have been destroyed in many areas and cereal production in 1995 is anticipated to be well below last year's outturn, despite favourable weather conditions. The estimate of displaced people in the country varies from 730 000 to over a million people. Significant food aid will be required in the year ahead, due to large scale population displacement, reduced production of food and cash crops, the lack of foreign exchange and the limited capacity of the Government to import food commercially.

In June, a Mission fielded by FAO's Office of Special Relief Operations (OSRO) made an assessment of the agricultural sector, especially the impact of civil strife on food production. The Mission estimated that approximately 2 million people have been directly affected by the civil strife, of which approximately 1.4 million are farmers. The Mission recommended support to a strategy of diversification for the second 1995 season starting in September. This will enable destitute farmers to plant vegetables, roots and tubers, as well as limited quantities of groundnuts and maize. FAO is coordinating emergency assistance for the supply of essential agricultural inputs to conflict-affected farmers.

In Liberia, cereal production has been decimated by the collapse of the infrastructure and marketing systems. The prolonged civil strife has disrupted virtually all economic activity and caused massive population displacement. The current food shortage is critical and can be expected to continue unless adequate food assistance is pledged, coupled with special measures to expedite delivery and internal distribution. The number of refugees in neighbouring countries is presently estimated at 725 000: Guinea (397 000), C$BEU(Be d'Ivoire (305 000), Ghana (16 000), Nigeria (4 000) and Sierra Leone (3 000). In addition, up to 1 million people are internally displaced.

Following the peace agreement in August 1995 and inauguration of the transitional government, activity is slowly returning to normal and there are indications that people are returning home in small numbers. As of early September, some 12 000 refugees had already returned from neighbouring countries. However, with job opportunities scarce, particularly in urban areas, emergency assistance will continue to be required throughout 1996.

Humanitarian organizations have started to distribute food to some 330 000 affected people in the centre of the country. Nevertheless, in the south-west, about 230 000 displaced persons still remain inaccessible and suffer from food shortages. ECOMOG has recently started the disarmament of soldiers. A developmental programme is also underway for income generation to support efforts in the country to recover from the present conflict.


Crop prospects are generally favourable in most parts of the Horn of Africa. However, output is unlikely to be sufficient to cover requirements in most countries. Current indications are that continued emergency food assistance will be required well into 1996 for large number of people in areas which have suffered crop failures.

In Somalia, recent inter-clan fighting again threatens to disrupt national food supplies, raising concern for food security. The recently harvested 1995 cereal crop is estimated to be substantially smaller than last year's below-normal crop. Relief operations are also being seriously impeded.

Cereal production in the 1995 main "Gu" season was adversely affected by a sharp reduction in the area planted of sorghum, due to low market prices, dry spells earlier and flood damage in the Juba and Shabelle valleys. Other constraints to production included pest infestations, particularly quelea birds and army worm in the sorghum growing Bay region, lack of agricultural inputs and shortage of labour. Total cereal production in the main Gu season, is provisionally estimated to be about 20 percent less than last year.

Whilst widespread food shortage has so far been prevented by high levels of carryover stock, the food situation remains extremely difficult for large numbers of people without adequate resources. Serious security incidents since the second half of September have hampered the distribution of relief assistance. Frequent closures of Mogadishu port have further impeded trade operations and economic activity and have resulted in hoarding of foodstuffs by merchants. Malnutrition and starvation continue to be reported from several areas including the southern port of Kismayo, the capital Mogadishu, where nutritional surveys have revealed 25 percent malnutrition among children under five years of age, and from camps in the Lower Juba. The political situation remains very tense and the food emergency could deepen further with an escalation of hostilities.

In Ethiopia, abundant rains in July and August resulted in localized floods though generally benefited the 1995 main season cereal and pulse crops, particularly in some eastern parts which were previously affected by dry spells. Distribution of fertilizers is reported to have been adequate and timely. Crops are in good condition and the early outlook for the 1995 main season cereal and pulse crops, to be harvested from late October, is generally favourable. However, dry spells in May and early June in belg areas, where the belg rains allow planting of long-cycle maize and sorghum crop, are likely to have a negative effect on the yields of maize, which is less resistant than sorghum to dry weather. Moreover, in southern and eastern zones (East Shoa, North Omo, East Hararge and West Hararge) the onset of meher rains was about two weeks late, delaying planting of the "teff" crop, rendering it more susceptible to early withdrawal of rains.

Output of the recently harvested belg crops is estimated at 395 000 tons, more than last year though still below normal. In some highland areas of North Wollo, South Wollo, North Shoa and North Omo zones, where the Belg crop is an important component of annual food supply, output was reduced due either to late, excessive, or below-average rains.

Despite satisfactory crop prospects, substantial emergency food assistance will be needed for the rest of 1995 and possibly well into 1996. Currently, over 4 million people are in need of food assistance until the next harvest.

In Eritrea, normal to above-normal rains during August in most growing areas of the country favoured cereal crops. Cumulative precipitation since the beginning of the season has generally been similar to or greater than last year, except in pocket areas in the southern highlands. However, Desert Locusts pose a serious threat to crops and international assistance is urgently required to avoid further damage.

Following a good cereal harvest last year, food aid is only being distributed to vulnerable sections of the population. The food aid requirement until the end of 1995 is fully covered by current stocks. However, some 900 000 vulnerable people continue to rely on food aid for subsistence.

In Sudan, generally normal rains during August benefited cereal crops, to be harvested from November. However, in some areas of Gedaref, Sennar, Kosti, North Darfur and Renk, precipitation since the beginning of the season has been insufficient and planting was delayed. In south-eastern parts, rainfall since mid-July provided relief to crops previously affected by dry spells, but came too late to avoid crop losses in localized areas of Eastern Equatoria. An FAO Crop Assessment Mission is currently making an evaluation of the situation. Despite a bumper 1995 cereal harvest, emergency relief assistance is required for about 1.2 million people affected by the civil war, particularly in the south.

A series of FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions and GIEWS staff visits are planned to the Horn of Africa later in the year to review the outcome of the 1995 harvest and estimate cereal import and food aid requirements for 1996. (See box on page 5)


The food supply outlook for substantial numbers of internally displaced people, refugees and other vulnerable groups remains unfavourable in countries of the Great Lakes region. At the same time, large-scale repatriation and resettlement of refugees, particularly to Rwanda, scheduled in the next few months, will pose a serious challenge to the international community.

In Rwanda, outlook for the 1996 first season foodcrops, now being planted, is poor. Massive displacements of population, shortages of labour and assets and increasing numbers of farm households headed by women as a consequence of the 1994 civil war will continue to restrict plantings and husbandry of the 1996 first season crops. Despite partial recovery in food production in the last crop season, the food supply situation remains extremely tight for about 800 000 vulnerable people. This includes an increasing number of households headed by women, returnees with no land, refugees and internally displaced persons who came back late for the planting season and families with limited resources. Emergency food assistance continues to be necessary for this section of the population. The return of refugees to the country in past months has been limited, though large scale repatriation from Zaire is expected in the next few months.

In Burundi, 1995 food production remained below normal for the third consecutive year and prospects for food supplies in 1996 continue to be jeopardized by ethnic tensions. The political situation is volatile and security remains extremely precarious. Renewed fighting in several areas of the country in past weeks, mainly in Cibitoke, Bubanza and Muyinga provinces, have resulted in fresh waves of refugees and internally displaced people further disrupting agricultural activities and hampering relief operations. Whilst overall food production increased last season, continuous emergency food aid is required for large numbers of internally displaced and dispersed persons and returnees. International support for agricultural rehabilitation and reconstruction is also needed.

In Tanzania, despite a satisfactory 1995 main season harvest, the food situation remains tight for some 307 000 people in 13 regions affected by drought and pests. Crops this year were also affected by floods. The Government has launched a programme to distribute food using carryover stocks of food aid. The country still hosts some 693 000 refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. The slow pace of repatriation and the volatile political situation in the sub-region, means that continued food assistance will be needed by refugees well into 1996.

In Zaire, the food supply situation remains tight, particularly in urban areas. High inflation, unemployment and economic difficulties are severely affecting poorer segments of the population. Food distribution is continuing in the Rwandan refugee camps in the north- east. The repatriation of Rwandan refugees near Goma, started by the Government of Zaire in August, was stopped after negotiation with the UN. However, tensions between local inhabitants and refugees are reportedly rising. Following an agreement between the Government of Zaire and UNHCR, all Rwandan refugees (numbering over 1 million) are to be repatriated by 31 December 1995.


Due to drought earlier in the year, which reduced production, the food supply situation in most parts of southern Africa is becoming tighter. Large cereal stocks held at the beginning of the marketing year, particularly in South Africa and Zimbabwe, are being rapidly depleted. A significant increase in the price of foodstuffs has already been reported from several countries, gradually eroding the purchasing power of a wide section of the population. Unless adequate supplies are ensured through imports, prices will rise sharply in the lean period, starting early 1996, with serious implications for the poorer segments of the population.

The economic benefits expected as a result of improved security conditions in the sub-region have been seriously compromised by recurrent droughts in recent years. As a result, most countries are facing economic difficulties and will need donor assistance to meet part of their cereal shortfall. The sub-region's 1995/96 cereal import requirement is estimated at 5 million tons, including 1 million tons of food aid. Deliveries of food, however, appear to be slow in many countries and further pledges of food aid are needed, coupled with measures to expedite delivery and internal distribution.

Given a precarious food supply situation, the outcome of the 1996 harvest will be crucial for food security in the sub-region. Poor 1996 harvests could result in an unprecedented emergency in the sub-region, leading to a substantial increase in the number of people dependent on emergency assistance, presently numbering 10 million. The situation calls for close monitoring of the 1995/96 cropping season.

Donor response to the recent UN-organized round-table conference on the reconstruction of Angola's war-ravaged economy has been encouraging. The international community has pledged a total of U.S.$ 993 million to help the implementation of the reconstruction plan. This includes U.S.$ 207 million in humanitarian assistance for mine-clearing, food aid and essential health care and U.S.$ 786 million for rehabilitation and development in 1996/97, particularly reintegration of refugees, demobilization and reintegration of soldiers and creation of employment generating activities. Proposed projects include community-level productive activities in agriculture, forestry and small scale industries, as well as rehabilitation of roads, bridges, water and sanitation systems.


Harvest prospects are generally favourable in the Sahelian countries. No problems of seed availability were encountered, following aboveaverage /record crops in 1994. Although the rainy season arrived late in some areas, notably Burkina Faso, overall precipitation so far has been regular and well distributed. Rainfall was abundant in late August and early September, causing flooding in some areas of Chad. Following dry conditions in September, rainfall distribution in Senegal, southern Mauritania, western Mali, central Niger and in Chad, improved significantly in early Ocrober, providing increased soil moisture reserves for late planted or long cycle crops. Although dry spells occurred in Burkina Faso and northern Senegal, soil moisture reserves were generally adequate.

Crop conditions are mostly satisfactory. Millet and sorghum are nearing maturity and harvesting is about to begin in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad. Abundant rainfall in late August and September in Guinea-Bissau and southern Senegal assisted the desalination of swamps and transplanting of rice. Harvest prospects are generally favourable and average to above-average crops are anticipated in most countries. Pastures have developed well in the agropastoralist zones but are now drying, which might lead to a concentration of isolated Desert Locusts and formation of small groups. Small swarms have been reported in August and September in Mauritania and northern Senegal. Exceptionally heavy and widespread rainfall in western and northern Mauritania during the second half of September also favoured infestation. In northern Senegal, small swarms will move southwards. Isolated adults are also present in parts of Mali, Niger and Chad. (See box on page 9)

A series of joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions will be fielded in mid-October to all CILSS member countries to forecast 1995 production. The findings of these missions will be presented at the Network for Prevention of Food Crises in the Club du Sahel (OECD) meeting in Niamey in late November.


Eastern Africa: A series of FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions are planned to the Horn of Africa later in the year to review the outcome of the 1995 cereal harvest and estimate cereal import and food aid requirements for 1996. On-the-spot appraisals will be carried out in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan in November-December. Following reports of crop losses, a GIEWS Crop Assessment Mission is already making an evaluation in southern Sudan. The Missions will examine available information on cropped area, expected yield, total crop production and state of cereal crops at harvest in main growing areas. Supply/demand analyses for staple foods will be prepared including an assessment of consumption, import and structural and emergency food aid requirements for the year ahead. The Missions will also review port handling capacities and other logistic aspects including road, rail and river transport sectors as applicable and needs for airlifting operations. A GIEWS staff visit is currently being undertaken to Kenya to review the outcome of the long rains crops and assess the food supply outlook for the country. The security situation in Somalia presently precludes an assessment of cereal output and import requirements. However, should conditions improve in the near future, a review of the food situation will be considered.

GIEWS Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions will be fielded to Rwanda and Burundi in late December 1995/early January 1996 to assess the outcome of the 1996 first season foodcrops and estimate cereal and pulse import requirements for 1996.

Western Africa: In drought-prone Sahelian countries of West Africa, overall harvest prospects are generally favourable so far. However, in some parts, the late start of the rains or below-normal precipitation are likely to have an adverse impact on production. Infestation by Desert Locusts may also threaten crops in some areas, notably Mauritania and northern Senegal. As part of its regular monitoring programme, GIEWS plans to send a series of Crop Assessment Missions to the sub-region in October. The Mission will work in close collaboration with the DIAPER (Diagnostic Permanent) programme, the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) and national governments. The missions will visit Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Their results will be presented to a meeting of the Network for Prevention of Food Crises of the Club du Sahel (OECD) in Niamey on 23 and 24 November 1995.

Following the peace agreement signed in August 1995 and subsequent improvement of the security situation, a GIEWS Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission is tentatively planned in October/November to Liberia to assess 1995 foodcrop production and estimate cereal import and food aid needs of the country for 1996.


A smaller cereal harvest in 1995, particularly in southern Africa, will reduce the level of exportable surplus in 1995/96, to meet the import deficit of neighbouring countries. As a result, a substantial portion of the import requirement of coarse grains will have to be met from outside the region. Nevertheless, donor assistance is still needed with the disposal of an estimated 48 000 tons of surplus held by South Africa, Mozambique and Botswana. Such assistance will encourage production at both the national and regional level.

As a result of above-average production last year, a substantial coarse grains surplus is available in western Africa. As countries in the region are now entering the harvest period, the remaining surplus will be carried forward to the new marketing year. The exact volume of 1995/96 surplus will only be known on completion of the FAO/CILSS Missions in November 1995. Nevertheless, due to generally favourable conditions, an average to above-average harvest is expected. A substantial surplus, therefore, is likely to be available in several countries in the months ahead.

In eastern Africa, following a good 1994 crop, Sudan has some 150 000 tons of surplus sorghum still available for export. Elsewhere in the sub-region, there is a surplus of maize available in southern parts of Uganda.

In southern Africa, following poor 1995 production, little exportable surplus will be available in Zimbabwe and South Africa for the remainder of the season. This has serious repercussions for a number of countries in the sub-region facing food deficit, which have traditionally depended on South Africa and Zimbabwe to meet their import needs. Donor assistance for local purchases will need to be continued in 1995 in the northern provinces of Mozambique, where at least 25 000 tons of surplus maize are available.


Although the level of cereal import requirement in the region in 1995/96 will depend on the outcome of the main 1995 crop, in countries of east and west Africa, it is already clear that aggregate cereal import requirement will remain high in the new marketing year. Due to the higher cost of imports and shortage of foreign exchange in most of the main cereal deficit countries, a considerable share of food imports will have to be met by food aid. FAO, however, forecasts that global availability of cereal food aid in 1995/96 will be 7.6 million tons, which is 1 million tons less than last year, down for the third consecutive year and the smallest since the mid-1970s.

The cereal import requirement of 19 countries which have already entered the 1995/96 marketing year is estimated at 8.7 million tons, some 26 percent more than last year. The cereal food aid need of these countries is estimated at 1.4 million tons. The bulk of food aid is required in Angola, Mozambique, Malawi and Somalia. Cereal food aid pledges to these 19 countries, including those carried over from 1994/95, amount to some 890 000 tons of which only 320 000 tons have been delivered so far.

The aggregate cereal import requirement of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1994/95 is estimated at 12 million tons, comprising 8.3 million tons of commercial imports and 3.7 million tons of food aid. While undelivered food aid pledges carried forward from the previous year and new allocations reported to GIEWS as of early October fully cover these requirements, only 2.7 million tons have been received so far.


Human suffering continues in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Serious food shortages are emerging in Sierra Leone, whilst a large number of displaced persons remains inaccessible in Liberia. Large numbers of refugees in the Great Lakes region face uncertain food supply prospects. Additional pledges are required for millions of drought-affected people in southern Africa, while continued emergency assistance will be needed in the Horn of Africa well into 1996. Against this background, attention of the international community is drawn to the following:

First, there is an urgent need for additional food aid pledges and assistance with the distribution of relief, particularly to the large number of inaccessible people in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Second, the mass repatriation and resettlement of Rwandan refugees in the coming months, requires the international community to develop well-coordinated contingency plans.

Third, an additional allocation of food aid is needed for droughtaffected countries in southern Africa.

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