Central African Republic in grip of food crisis

Wednesday 02 March 2016

Cereal production and livestock reaing have been affected to a great extent

Violence and conflict have severely disrupted the Central African Republic’s (CAR) food security scenario. According to two United Nations agencies, people are battling low agricultural productivity, declining food availability and access and disruption in transportation of commodities.

Instability, along with frequent episodes of violence, has resulted in the loss of human lives and damage to property in this centrally-located landlocked country, a report says. The number of internally-displaced people rose by 21 per cent between June and October 2015 to touch 450,000.

Speaking about the CAR situation, Alessandro Constantino, country monitor in Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) trade and markets division, said, “Agriculture in the country has been seriously affected by the crisis…crop production is 54 per cent below the pre-crisis average, livestock has been decimated…cash crops have been negatively impacted by the crisis...the situation is still very, very serious.”

Cereal production in CAR declined for the third consecutive year in 2015 and was 70 per cent lower than the pre-crisis average. Livestock reaing has also been greatly hit. Killings and looting brought the number of cattle down to almost half compared to pre-crisis levels, and the number of goats and sheep shrank by as much as 57 per cent.

The production of major cash crops—coffee and cotton—has been affected as fields have been abandoned and infrastructure destroyed. According to the report, in 2015-16 cotton and coffee outputs are estimated at 10,500 and 8,507 tonnes, respectively 42 and 28 per cent below their pre-crisis levels.

In capital Bangui, prices of several commodities increased in October due to trade disruption following the inter-communal violence in September 2015. Prices of groundnuts, wheat flour, beef meat and fish were between 22 and 87 per cent higher than their pre-crisis levels.

Grim situation

According to the FAO, 2.3 million people (nearly half the population) are in dire need of assistance. The agriculture sector is the backbone of the country’s economy as 75 per cent of the population relies on agricultural activities as their main source of food and income.

Adding to the woes, a quarter of CAR’s population remains displaced, thus adding on to the pressure on host communities and limited resources.

“The latest numbers are cause for concern not only because people skip meals and cut portions, but also because they opt for less nutritious foods that provide far less of the proteins and vitamins they need,” said FAO Country Representative Jean-Alexandre Scaglia.

The CAR government has started an effort to revive the agricultural sector by helping youth and family farms improve their capacity to produce.

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