Lack of preparedness led to Sahel food crisis – UN Rapporteur

The UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, on Thursday criticised the slow response to warning signs that led to the food crisis in the Sahel region of West-Central Africa.

“Droughts and other factors that lead to food shortage may be natural, but it is the duty of governments to prepare for them and protect their populations from their dire effects.”

At a press briefing in Accra on the food security situation in West Africa, Mr, De Schutter said what countries in the region had to do, was to come up with agricultural systems and practices that were resilient to the conditions that were responsible for drought and other hardships.

He said it would be helpful for countries with national food reserves to be of assistance to the afflicted during food crisis, adding that in a given time.

Mr. De Schutter mentioned four proposals as key measures that could help mitigate the situation.

“Each country should have a drought policy to take care of drought situations. If we put in place measures that do not depend on climate change such as water harvesting, we would be more resilient against natural conditions that disrupt agricultural systems,” he said.

Mr. De Schutter asked governments to work on building more food reserves to help them mitigate the effects of harsh climate conditions.

According to him, one of the major factors that contributed to inadequate food provision in West Africa was that many countries in the region depended “heavily” on food imports and that these imports accounted for “as much as 25 per cent of their food needs.”

He said the situation was due to the fact that apart from demographic factors, little importance had been attached to agricultural development in these countries.

The UN Special Rapporteur said the countries needed to rebuild their agricultural systems which “they have destroyed over the past 30 years”.

He said:  “Incomes of farmers should be raised. We must re-invest in agriculture, protect farmers from external competition and equip them with useful information and knowledge.”

Mr. De Schutter asked governments in the Region to invest heavily in their farmers and agriculture, adding, this was very crucial to bringing an end to the problem of hunger in the region.

During his visit to Accra, Mr. De Schutter would co-chair the high level policy dialogue between the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa, and Farmers from West Africa Citizens’ Jury on Agricultural Research, convened by the International Institute for Environment and Development.

He would also address the founding meeting of the West African Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition.

Drought, poor harvests and rising food prices, have left the Sahel region of West-Central Africa on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

Six million people in Niger, 2.9 million in Mali and 700,000 in Mauritania live are in dire need of food.

Source: GNA

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