The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) is calling for additional funds to head-off an imminent food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel region of West Africa.
The FAO made the call yesterday March 9, 2012 in press release copied to ghanabusinessnews.com.
The organisation says several countries in the Sahel region of western Africa need urgent support to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition security crisis and to protect and restore livelihoods of communities dependent on livestock and crops.
It says $69.8 million in additional funding to provide assistance to 790 000 vulnerable farming and herding households, who have been caught in a cycle of recurring food crises is needed.
The FAO estimates that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, “in part due to localized, but significant, declines in agropastoral production. This includes 5.4 million people in the Niger (35 percent of the population), three million in Mali (20 percent), around 1.7 million in Burkina Faso (10 percent), around 3.6 million in Chad (28 percent), 850,000 in Senegal (6 percent), 713,500 in the Gambia (37 percent) and 700,000 in Mauritania (22 percent),” it says.
The looming crisis it says, is due to a combination of factors, including drought; sharp declines in cereal production and high grain prices; a shortage of fodder for livestock; a reduction in remittances from migrant workers in several countries; environmental degradation; displacement; and chronic poverty deepened by chronic crisis.
According to the FAO, in 201, total cereal production in the Sahel was on average 25 percent lower than in 2010, but as much as 50 percent lower in Chad and Mauritania.
“There were also localized, huge food production deficits in other countries (up to 80 percent), according to the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA), a forum which includes governments, donors and others involved in food security issues in West Africa,” it adds.
There were also reported increases in the number of displaced persons in the region, the FAO noted, indicating that this includes a total of 63,000 internally displaced persons in Mali who have fled conflict in the northern section of that country, and more than 60,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries.
“We need to act to prevent further deterioration of the food security situation and to avoid a full-scale food and nutrition crisis,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva was quoted as saying in the release.
“Part of the solution is to improve the access of farmers and herders to local markets, encourage the use of local products, and apply risk-reduction good practices to reinforce their resilience”, he added.
To address the issue immediately, the FAO proposes among other interventions the following support it intends to offer:
· helping farmers with the delivery of food crops and vegetable seeds in time for the main planting season, which begins in May
· increases in off-season irrigated crop production
· drought-related assistance to herders, including the distribution of animal feed, use of cash vouchers to rehabilitate natural pastures and water points
· production of animal fodder; livestock destocking, and veterinary inputs
· provision of integrated nutrition practices through agriculture, livestock rearing, school gardens, and nutrition education for women with children
· support for reinforcement of food security-information, early-warning systems and coordination.