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Food supply situation and crop prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa No. 2 Aug 1999

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HIGHLIGHTS
The food supply situation has deteriorated in several parts of eastern Africa. In Somalia the food outlook for 1999 and beyond is extremely grim, due to the cumulative effects of adverse weather, the long-running civil war and uncontrolled crop pests and diseases. The current main season cereal crop has largely failed (the seventh consecutive poor harvest since 1996) due to erratic and insufficient rainfall, armyworm outbreaks and unusually high temperatures. Economic and commercial activities have been severely curtailed by renewed factional fighting, particularly in the south, and traditional coping mechanisms have been virtually exhausted, forcing large numbers of people to move in search of food and safety. It is estimated that over one million people face serious food shortages, with over 400 000 at risk of starvation. In Ethiopia, the magnitude of food shortages has increased due to the failure of the 1999 "Belg" crop caused by inadequate rainfall. More than 5 million people are officially estimated to be in need of emergency food assistance including some 2 million affected by the "Belg" failure in the north-western Amhara Region, and 385 000 displaced by the ongoing war with Eritrea. In Eritrea, despite a good harvest in 1998, the food situation of families displaced by the war and those deported from Ethiopia is very tight.

In southern Sudan, despite favourable growing conditions, the food situation continues to be difficult due to persistent civil conflict.

Elsewhere in eastern Africa, a prolonged drought has affected crop production and livestock in the western part of Uganda. Large numbers of farmers, particularly cattle producers, are reported to be in need of urgent assistance. Thousands are reported to have moved to northern Tanzania in search of water and pasture. In Kenya, erratic and below-average rainfall during the current "long rains" season has adversely affected crop and livestock production, particularly in the pastoral areas of the north and north-east.

In Tanzania, serious localised crop failures are reported in several regions, indicating a significant increase in import requirement not initially foreseen.

In southern Africa, the food outlook is very bleak in Angola, reflecting the escalation of the civil war since December last year. Large-scale population displacement in rural areas is reported, with farm families abandoning their farms and homes to take refuge in government-held towns and cities or in neighbouring countries. Although average to above average rainfall was received in the country and overall planting reductions were not too high, significantly reduced yields are estimated in many areas due to abandonment of fields. Emergency food assistance is urgently required for about 1 million newly displaced people, most of whom are in provincial capitals and towns cut off from the rest of the country by road closures due to insecurity and land mines.

Distribution of relief assistance is, therefore, problematic and has to be mainly by costly air transport. Elsewhere in southern Africa, a tightening of the food supply situation is anticipated in countries where a reduced 1999 cereal crop was harvested. In South Africa, estimated cereal production is below last year's below-average crop. As a result, the country's exportable surplus has been substantially reduced. In Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe, cereal output is below average for the second consecutive year.

In the Great Lakes region, recovery in food production continues to be hampered by persistent insecurity and sporadic violence. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the food supply situation remains precarious due to persistent insecurity and population displacement. However, there are hopes of improvement following the cease-fire agreement signed on 10 July in Lusaka, Zambia. The number of internally displaced people in DRC is estimated at 660 000, mainly in Kivu and Katanga provinces. In the Republic of Congo, renewed fighting between Government forces and Ninja militia has displaced a large number of people and disrupted economic activities, seriously affecting the food supply situation. In Burundi and Rwanda, inadequate rainfall and armyworm infestation in some areas affected the recently harvested 1999 B season crops, while insecurity in parts continues to disrupt food production activities.

In western Africa, crop prospects are generally favourable so far, notably in the Sahel, and the food
supply situation is expected to remain satisfactory until the next harvest, except in Sierra Leone where food supply difficulties persist. Implementation of the peace accord signed recently should improve the situation.

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