FEWS Rwanda Food Security Update: Jan 2001

from US Agency for International Development
Published on 15 Feb 2001

The high food insecurity that has plagued parts of eastern and southern Rwanda since August 2000 eased further in January 2001. Although no free food was distributed during the month, the good beans harvest in December and January improved the supply of this important staple food to most rural families. The market price of beans decreased by 25 percent on average in January 2001, as compared with December 2000. However, rural households are currently over-consuming these protein-rich beans, and there is concern that their ample supply will quickly dwindle due to an inadequate supply of starchy food substitutes such as sweet potatoes, cassava and cooking bananas. By mid-March, the first significant harvest of sweet potatoes should start, which should help reduce the rate of bean consumption and extend supplies a little longer. By mid-July, the first significant harvests of cassava and banana are also expected, which should prolong the availability of stocks of the beans recently harvested. Moreover, the season B harvest will augment bean supplies somewhat.

According to the preliminary crop assessment report for season 2001 A (September 2000-January 2001) finalized on January 19, this season’s agricultural production was estimated at 800,000 MT of cereal equivalents, roughly the same as the corresponding season last year. According to this unofficial report, prepared by MINAGRI, FAO, PASAR, WFP, and FEWS NET, season 2001 A production compares favorably to season 2000 A on a geographical basis, with the exception of Kigali Rural Prefecture because of a dismal production in Bugesera Region. Here, cultivation fell dramatically due to a shortage of seeds at planting time (October 2000). The joint crop assessment team also reported that the chronic food deficit-zones of Butare and Gikongoro Prefectures in south and southeastern Rwanda will not be able to meet their calorie requirements, implying that a proportion of households are likely to be vulnerable to food insecurity.

With commercial imports estimated at 165,000 MT for the January-June 2001 period, the food-aid requirement is expected to be 36,000 MT cereal equivalent for the first semester of 2001, or about 6,000 MT per month. This estimate could prove high given the favorable rainfall in January, which occurred after the crop assessment was completed. This food aid requirement figure represents a 16 percent decrease from the estimates for first half of 2000 and a 16 percent increase over the estimates for the second half of 2000. However, the actual food aid provided during June-December 2000 was only 3,300 MT per month on average.

In some parts of Gashora and Kanzenze Communes in Bugesera Region, Kigali Rural Prefecture, food insecurity remains high. Following a rapid joint assessment made in these communes on January 19, it was recommended that about 11,500 households be assisted in February within the framework of Food Program (WFP) emergency operation (EMOP). Although the assessment team decided that another visit to the region should be made in March to reassess the food assistance requirements, it was already evident that a number of the 4,000 households living in a chronically rainfall-deficit area of central Bugesera would continue to require food assistance beyond July 2001. These households are still not planting this season because seeds are either unavailable or unaffordable following the previous near-depletion of their assets. In other areas, some sweet potato crops planted on hills should be ready for harvest in mid-March, which should improve food availability and access in the region. The assessment team discovered that food insecurity and the gradual depletion of productive assets in Kanzenze had been complicated in the last two months by a malaria outbreak. The WFP food pipeline continues to experience bottlenecks in the regular Protracted and Recovery Operation Program (PRRO), which obliged the agency to reduce food-for-work activities.

A contribution of US$1 million to EMOP 6318 was confirmed in January, raising the level of funding to this program to about 40 percent of the US$13 million sought to help the population affected by last year’s drought.

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