The report Crop Prospects and Food Situation which was released yesterday mentioned that while the outlook for global cereal supplies is improving due to generally favourable growing conditions for crops, the legacy of recent droughts persists, as do the negative effects of a spate of conflicts.
Agricultural forecasts suggest robust grain harvests are on the horizon, but hunger will likely intensify in some regions during the lean seasons before the new crops have matured, it stated.
In Southern Africa, where El Niño effects sharply curtailed food production in 2016, the number of people requiring outside assistance from January through March 2017 is expected to significantly increase compared to the same period a year ago. Child stunting rates are “significantly high” in the most troubled areas, notably Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique, the report notes.
The report further explains that inadequate stocks of cereal and legume seeds due to two consecutive poor harvests may limit plantings in some regions. FAO and governments are implementing agricultural support programmes to improve access to key farming inputs.
The report also observed that the primary cause of local food crisis ranges from exceptional shortfall in food production and widespread lack of access – due to low incomes, high prices or disrupted distribution networks – to the impact of conflicts on local food security conditions.
Civil conflicts and their consequences, including refugee movements that are burdening host countries such as Cameroon and Chad, are cited in 21 of the 39 countries. Widespread conflict can lead to the loss and depletion of households’ productive assets, as in Central African Republic, and to security concerns that hinder farming activities, as in South Sudan.
In parts of South Sudan, improved harvests are likely to have only a short-lived effect as ongoing conflict has reduced the ability to engage in agriculture, posing extra risks for the most vulnerable communities.
Continuing civil conflict in Syria has led to 9.4 million people requiring food assistance.
This year’s wheat production is estimated to be around 55 percent below its pre-crisis level. The ongoing conflict in Yemen has likely increased the number of food-insecure people from the 14.2 million people assessed in June, the report said. The recent escalation of conflict in Iraq is triggering a widespread internal displacement. Acute food insecurity affects more than 8 million people in Afghanistan and their numbers are likely to increase with the return of around 600,000 refugees from Pakistan before the end of 2016, according to the report.
The number of food insecure people in Nigeria is above 8 million and is projected to increase to 11 million by August 2017. The ongoing conflict in northern states curtailed plantings, while the sharp depreciation of the Naira currency has raised domestic food prices and affected regional trade as more Nigerian cereals are exported while fewer livestock are imported.
The 39 countries currently in need of external food assistance are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng