FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Angola

Originally published


Mission Highlights
  • Continued strife since the resumption of warfare in 1998 has increased the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to nearly 2.6 million, 1.9 million of whom urgently need humanitarian assistance.
  • 1999/2000 cereal production is estimated at 504 000 tonnes, about 5 percent lower than last year, due mainly to unfavourable rainfall pattern and shortages of essential inputs.
  • Cereal import requirement for 2000/01 (April/March) is estimated at 753 000 tonnes, of which commercial imports are estimated at 420 000 tonnes.
  • International emergency food assistance amounting to 333 000 tonnes will be needed in the year 2000/01 (March/April).
  • Insecurity continues to hamper road transport to and within most of the country's provincial locations, making costly air transport the only alternative.

The consequences of the collapse of the peace agreement in 1998, notably renewed fighting, massive displacements of populations and insecurity, continue to cause serious concern despite efforts by the Government and its partners to redress the situation. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Angola, IDPs have now reached nearly 2.6 million, or 53 percent more than last year's stated figure. This increase is due both to improved Government access to more areas and to the continuing strife. At present, WFP estimates that about 1.9 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

In an effort to provide the Government and the international community with a basis for their strategies in assisting the war-affected populations, an FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission was fielded to Angola from 16 April to 3 May 2000. Its purpose was to evaluate the 1999/2000 food crop production and estimate cereal import requirements for 2000/2001 (April/March), including food aid needs. The Mission was accompanied by staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), observers from the European Union (EU), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Detailed planning of the Mission, preparatory documents and other background information were provided by the FAO-supported Food Security Unit in MINADER, the Vulnerability Assessment and Mapping (VAM) Unit of the WFP Office in Angola, and WFP sub-offices in the provinces. The information provided on farming populations and areas planted, as well as briefs on the humanitarian situation in the provinces, were especially useful for the Mission.

Before proceeding to the field, the Mission met in Luanda with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Minister of Social Assistance and Reintegration (MINARS), UN Agencies, and donor and NGO representations to highlight issues deserving particular attention, including the geographical areas to be covered. The mapping of agro-ecological zones of Angola by the Food Security Unit greatly facilitated crop assessment. To ensure adequate coverage of key areas within the time allocated, the Mission split into three groups: Group I visited the provinces of Huambo, Bie, Malanje and Uige; Group II Benguela, Cuando Cubango, Moxico and Huila; Group III Cuanza Sul, Bengo, Luanda, Lunda Sul and Cuanza Norte. Owing to security problems, the groups travelled mostly by air between provincial capitals. Road transport for field inspections was generally limited to the vicinity of the provincial capitals and other cities visited. In the provinces, the Mission teams held discussions with Governors, local staff of MINADER, MINARS and NGOs, as well as with farmers, traders and IDPs to cross-check and supplement pre-Mission information. Yield measurements were undertaken during field inspections, and supply and prices of major food commodities were checked in the local markets. Reports from MINADER and WFP sub-offices provided information on areas and provinces not visited. For estimates of rainfall amounts and distribution, satellite imagery was supplemented by data and information provided by MINADER, NGOs, and farmers.

The Mission forecasts the 1999/2000 cereal production at 504 000 tonnes, which is about 5.5 percent lower than last year. The shortfall is essentially due to lower maize production which decreased by 8 percent, from 428 000 tonnes to 394 000 tonnes. By contrast, other crops with lower water requirements experienced production increases. Thus sorghum/millet production edged up 3 percent to 105 000 tonnes; bean and groundnut production rose by 11 and 13 percent respectively, while that of cassava and Irish potatoes was estimated to be substantially higher than was forecast last year.

The reduction in maize production is attributed to two major factors, namely unfavourable rainfall pattern and shortage of essential inputs. Although cumulative rainfall for most of the country was above average for the whole season, from September 1999 to April 2000, rains started late, particularly in the southern and central areas. In the latter, good rains arrived only in November. Excessive rains in many areas towards the end of December were then followed by an abnormally long dry spell in late January and February. Secondly, there was a general scarcity of essential inputs, coupled with late distribution and frequently poor quality of seeds. In addition, the displaced farm families had access to very limited amounts of land, if any, in their new locations and in many cases the land is of poor quality.

For the 2000/2001 marketing year (April/March), domestic cereal supply, estimated at 504 000 tonnes, falls far short of national consumption requirements. With a mid-marketing year population estimate of 13 675 000, cereal import requirements for the 2000/2001 are estimated at 753 000 tonnes. Of these, the Mission estimates that 420 000 tonnes will be imported commercially, leaving 333 000 tonnes to be covered by food aid.

There is urgent need to allocate fertile land in adequate amounts to IDPs, and to ensure timely delivery of the requisite inputs to the farming population for the 2000/2001 cropping year.


With its vast oil and mineral reserves, notably diamonds, abundant arable land and water resources, Angola has the potential to become one of Africa's strongest economies. But since the struggle for liberation in the early 1960s, and particularly with the outbreak of the civil war following independence in 1975, Angolans have only known suffering, pervasive insecurity, declining socio-economic conditions and acute deprivation. UNDP reports indicate that in 1999, 60 percent of the population lived below the poverty line while the country ranked 160 in the Human Development Index compared to 155 the previous year, suggesting a worsening in living standards.

Angola's GDP increased by an average of 4.5 percent between 1994 and 1999 according to IMF estimates. But over-dependence on the oil sector (which accounted for 90 percent of export revenues and 44 percent of GDP in 1998), the volatility of oil prices and the resumption of warfare have made growth erratic. Thus the high growth rates of over 11 percent in 1995 and 1996 contrast sharply with the negative rates of -3.8 and -0.2 in 1998 and 1999 respectively. This is mirrored by trends in the growth rate of per capita GDP which has plummeted from highs of over 8 percent in 1995 and 1996 to -6.5 in 1998 and -3.5 in 1999.

In addition, income distribution has been worsening. According to UNDP, between 1995 and 1999, the incomes of the richest 10 percent of families increased by 43 percent compared to a reduction of 59 percent of the incomes of the poorer families. This is reflected in the continued deterioration in production and living conditions in the rural sector, coupled with massive population displacements. A United Nations Report "Rapid Assessment of Critical Needs of the War-affected Populations" published in April 2000 describes their situation as alarming and on the brink of reaching the point of crisis. During its field visits, the Mission noted the general consensus that the resident farming population around towns and cities (i.e. that not displaced by the war) was not markedly better off than the displaced. They, too, lack basic agricultural inputs and, because of insecurity, often have to use impoverished soils in the immediate surroundings of provincial capitals and other cities under Government control.

The ratio of Government expenditures to GDP was 62 percent in 1994 and 43 percent in 1999, which is considered high by low- and middle-income country standards. The budget deficit as a proportion of GDP has ranged from 17.6 percent in 1995 to 7.3 percent in 1999, suggesting that Government's efforts to control expenditures are producing the intended effects. However, annualised inflation was about 330 percent in December 1999 compared with 135 percent in December 1998. In order to contain inflation, new monetary and exchange rate measures were introduced in May 1999. They included liberalisation of interest rates, floating of the national currency, establishment of an inter-bank foreign-exchange market, elimination of import licences, and freedom to use company foreign-exchange earnings to import goods.

Agriculture has been the sector most ravaged by the conflict. Except in the coastal area where irrigation is practised by commercial farmers, and to some extent the tuber-producing Northern provinces, Angolan agriculture has fallen to a subsistence level, with little or no marketable surplus. Once self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, the country has for the past several years relied on imports, particularly food aid, to meet domestic requirements. Plantations of coffee, sisal, cotton and sugar cane have reverted to bush, while production of bananas, palm oil and tobacco has withered during 25 years of warfare. The acute deprivation of the farming community and the lack of credit facilities from financial institutions makes the use of purchased inputs and mechanisation possible only on a few commercial farms. So far, some NGOs have, within their humanitarian assistance, supplied seeds and simple tools to a limited number of IDPs. In its present emergency relief programme, the Government is also planning to provide seeds to small farmers in all the provinces. This, however, will still fall short of the much-needed rural development programmes in secure areas that would in time contribute to sustainable livelihoods for the farming communities.


3.1 Security and agricultural production

Despite the fact that security has improved slightly this year compared to 1998/99, the continuing conflict still has a very significant negative effect on agricultural production. Since most provincial roads remain closed and travel on the few that are open is dangerous, the movement of goods (both inputs and produce) and people is severely limited. Conflict and the risk of landmines place considerable restrictions on the use of agricultural land. In many areas, there are still cases of large numbers of farmers leaving land that they have planted because it is unsafe to tend or harvest their crop. Where farmers traditionally practise an extensive fallow-rotation system, this has often become impossible because of the limited availability of secure land. The influx of IDPs to municipal centres around the country puts further pressure on limited land resources. Theft of crops in the field, especially maize, is common in many areas, prompting farmers to harvest their crops prematurely. Theft and the fear of theft have seriously depleted livestock numbers over most of the country.


Annual rainfall in Angola increases from south to north. The mean on the coastal strip varies from less than 100mm in parts of Namibe province to more than 800mm in the coastal parts of Zaire and Cabinda provinces. Further inland the variation is from about 600mm in the south to more than 1600mm in parts of Uige and Lunda Norte provinces.

Satellite imagery indicates that the cumulative rainfall over most of the country was above average for the period September 1999-April 2000. However, the images mask the unfavourable distribution in important agricultural areas as reported by farmers and recorded by MINADER and others. The start of the season was slow with below-average figures for the month of September and, in Central Region, the season was delayed till the beginning of November. Satellite imagery indicates small to large reductions in vegetation compared with the previous year for the month of November over much of the country, especially the centre and the north-east. Rainfall was then excessive during December and early January in much of Northern and Central Regions. Some areas, especially in Central Region, then experienced below-average rains in late January and the month of February.

This distribution resulted in extensive but localized reductions in yields of beans and groundnuts due to waterlogging, and reductions in maize yields due both to waterlogging and to relative drought coinciding with flowering which had been delayed because of late planting. On the other hand, cassava has benefited from the overall high rainfall this year and has been able to accommodate those periods when rainfall was below average.

In terms of pasture, the satellite imagery reveals that, by the beginning of April 2000, the major part of the national area was covered by "good" to "very good" vegetation.

Supply of agricultural inputs

Seeds - mostly of maize, beans, groundnuts and various vegetables - were distributed for the 1999/2000 cropping season in several provinces by Government, international organizations and NGOs, but due to logistical difficulties delivery was frequently delayed, and in some cases (e.g. groundnuts) the quality of delivered seed was reported to be poor. Planned Government allocations included 1 580 tonnes of maize seed, 1 106 tonnes of bean seed and 265 tonnes of groundnut seed. The biggest intended recipient was Huambo, which was due to receive 900 tonnes of maize seed and 480 tonnes of bean seed. Lack of road access meant that some arrived late but most did not arrive at all. At the other end of the scale, some communities were encountered where enough seed had been provided by NGOs. Vegetable seed, presumably diverted from donations, is on sale in several markets but there are few buyers. The availability of cassava planting material was greatly improved this year with multiplication being carried out by both MINADER and NGOs.

Agricultural hand tools were also distributed to IDPs by Government and NGOs. Many communities complained that the number of tools provided was insufficient for the potential numbers of users within a family. However, it is hard to reconcile this complaint with the fact that hoes and machetes were on sale in several markets for as little as 1.5 and 3 Kz respectively (less than US50c). Virtually no fertilizer is used, although some NGOs have distributed very small amounts to a few communities. Some bags of fertilizer are commonly seen in markets but daily sales amount to only a few kg. Veterinary inputs are in short supply throughout the country, including areas where livestock populations are still significant.

Area planted

With the slightly improved security situation during 1999/2000, there has been a marginal increase in the total area under each of the main crops. Out of approximately 1.73 million hectares under the main crops (including rice), maize accounts for 40 percent, millet/sorghum 11 percent, rice <1 percent, beans 11 percent, groundnuts 2 percent, cassava 31 percent, Irish potatoes <1 percent, and sweet potatoes 4 percent.

Both Huambo and Moxico have shown significant increases in cultivated areas this year (by about 34 000 hectares and 12 500 hectares respectively) whereas there has been a reduction in Malanje and Cunene (by about 8 000 hectares and 1 700 hectares respectively). Most other provinces have shown slight increases following improvements in security.

Maize accounts for some 78 percent of the land under coarse grains. Despite a countrywide increase, maize areas have shown a slight contraction in some provinces, notably Malanje (reduced by over 1 500 hectares), Kwanza Sul (almost 3 000 hectares), Bie (over 1 300 hectares), Namibe (over 1 100 hectares), and Cuando Cubango (4 500 hectares). Huambo has registered a significant increase of more than 16 000 hectares in its area under maize, due to improved security, though unfortunately, on account of the irregular rains, this has not been reflected in increased production.

Perhaps unavoidably, much of the land allocated by the Government to the IDPs is of very poor quality. Use of such land reduces overall average yields and is discouraging for those who cultivate it.


This year's expected national average maize yield at 575 kg/hectare is below that of each of the previous four years. Provinces in the Southern Region are all expected to give yields that are equal to, or higher than, last year's yields, and in the Northern Region some provinces are expected to show an increase while others are expected to show a reduction. In the Central Region, however, which is the main maize-producing area of the country, all provinces except Benguela are forecast to have lower yields than last year. The situation is also exacerbated by the fact that in areas where production setbacks have occurred, theft of the crop from the field is common, encouraging growers to harvest what little there is of their crop prematurely. While 1999/2000 cannot be considered a particularly bad year for maize, it can be seen as one that suggests that, under the prevailing circumstances, greater consideration should be given to sorghum, especially in Central Region. Average maize yields in Benguela have been significantly boosted by the high yields achieved under irrigation in about 10 000 hectares of the province, which masks the extremely poor yields in the remaining 100 000-odd hectares.

Sorghum yields (national average 0.53 tonnes/hectare) are expected to be similar to those of last year, with only slight increases in some provinces.