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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Africa: FAO Report (excerpts)

Africa: FAO Report (excerpts)
Date distributed (ymd): 990106
Document reposted by APIC

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Region: Continent-Wide
Issue Areas: +economy/development+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains excerpts from the December 1998 Africa Report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The full report is available on the FAO web site ( The report notes improvement in the food situation as compared to the previous year, but also highlights significant food crises in a number of countries due primarily to civil strife.

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FAO/GIEWS: Africa Report No.3,
December 1998

As 1998 draws to a close, sub-Saharan Africa's food supply situation and outlook are much better than at the same time last year, reflecting substantial increases in food production in several parts, particularly in western Africa where above average to record harvests are anticipated in several Sahelian countries, and in eastern Africa where the year's outturn is satisfactory in several countries. As a result, the sub-region's cereal import requirements are anticipated to be lower than last year. However, food supply difficulties persist in several countries, particularly in Somalia where a food crisis is developing following a succession of poor harvests. Food supply difficulties also persist in countries currently or previously affected by civil strife, including Guinea Bissau, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in western Africa, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Great Lakes region, and Angola in southern Africa.


A major food crisis is developing in Somalia, following five consecutive reduced harvests caused by weather adversities and prolonged civil strife. The 1997/98 secondary "Deyr" cereal crop was devastated by the worst floods in decades, while the main 1998 "Gu" season crop was sharply reduced by drought and pest infestations. Moreover, a one-year ban of livestock imports from Somalia by Saudi Arabia, a traditionally important market, has adversely affected incomes and food security of large numbers of pastoralists and other livestock producers.

Cereal prices are on the increase reflecting the short supplies while prices of livestock continue to fall. As a result of the economic and market disruption by the civil conflict, coupled with a succession of poor crops, traditional coping mechanisms in times of crisis are virtually exhausted. Malnutrition cases are reported to be high and increasing. Large scale population movements in search of food and work have started. ...


The severe famine situation in southern Sudan, which caused a large number of deaths in the Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, has eased in recent months with improved food aid distribution since August and the beginning of the new harvest.

A recent FAO Crop Assessment Mission to the 10 states of southern Sudan estimated the 1998 cereal harvest at 538 000 tonnes, substantially higher than the drought-reduced harvest of 1997, which particularly affected the traditional farming sector. The increase mainly reflects abundant rains from mid-July onwards throughout the season. However, the harvest is reduced for large numbers of households in areas where military activity during the growing season disrupted agricultural activities.

While this year's production could cover southern Sudan's food requirements, the breakdown of infrastructure and trade routes due to the prolonged civil strife and persistent insecurity will prevent surpluses in some states from reaching the five deficit states. Protracted food assistance will therefore be necessary for the farming population affected by a reduced harvest in 1998 and for large numbers of displaced people.


While food difficulties persist in parts, the overall food outlook in eastern Africa is more favourable than at the same time last year.

In Eritrea, the tight food supply situation resulting from two consecutive reduced cereal and pulse harvests has eased with the arrival of the new harvest. A very good 1998 crop output is anticipated, reflecting abundant and well distributed rains during the growing season. However, despite the overall improvement in the food supply position, food difficulties are being experienced by some 109 000 displaced people affected by the conflict with neighbouring Ethiopia. Food assistance is being provided to these affected people.

In Ethiopia, the 1998 main "Meher" cereal and pulse production is forecast to increase substantially over the 1997 reduced level. Abundant and well distributed rains, increased use of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, and a season relatively free of pests and diseases boosted yields this year. ...

As export possibilities to neighbouring countries are very limited due to good harvests and, in the case of Eritrea closed borders, the Mission strongly recommends that donors undertake local purchases as much as possible for their food aid programmes in order to support the market and minimize the adverse effects of low prices on next year's production.

However, despite the forecast favourable food position of the country, WFP are forecasting about 2 million people requiring food aid support in 1999. ...

In Kenya, the 1998 main ("long rains") season maize crop, being harvested in the important Rift Valley growing area, is anticipated to recover from the reduced level of last year. ...

In Sudan, (except for the south) a record 1998 main season cereal crop, mainly sorghum and millet, is in prospect. Abundant rains during the growing season generally boosted yields and adequate availability of agricultural inputs in the mechanized sector led to timely field operations. However, excessive rains in the central and northern parts resulted in floods, which caused population displacements, infrastructure damage and serious crop losses. Food and non-food assistance are being provided in the affected states.

In anticipation of the good harvest and reflecting large carry-over stocks, prices of sorghum have declined markedly since September to particularly low levels. ...

In Tanzania, food production in 1998 has been estimated to be one-third above the reduced level of 1997 and above average. An exportable surplus, mainly of rice, is available in marketing year 1998/99 (June/May). ...

In Uganda, the northern districts of Gulu and Kitgum continue to face food difficulties due to persistent insurgency which has displaced a large section of the local population. Although there has been some improvement in the security situation recently, food assistance continues to be provided to about 400 000 persons. Food aid is also being provided to some 126 000 people in the north-eastern areas affected by a succession of poor harvests. Elsewhere in the country, the food supply situation is satisfactory following the good 1998 first season harvest. Prices of maize and beans have declined in recent months.


In Rwanda, the overall food situation has improved following a good 1998 B season harvest. However, the persistent insecurity in the north-western prefectures continues to displace large and increasing numbers of the local population. The food and nutritional situation of these IDPs is reported to be precarious. Recent estimates indicate that 300 000 persons are displaced in Ruhengeri, 250 000 in Gisenyi and 100 000 in Gikongoro. Food aid provided by WFP in these areas has doubled in the past six months.

In Burundi, the food supply situation, affected by a succession of poor crops and the embargo imposed by neighbouring countries, has eased with improved food production in 1998 and a revival of economic activities. However, it remains tight for the people still living in displaced persons camps and for those affected by a deteriorating security situation, manifested in the recent killing of more than 100 people in a series of violent incidents.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, civil strife has been occurring since the beginning of August, particularly in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, but also extending to Orientale, Maniema and Shaba provinces. The A season has started in these areas but insecurity is disrupting farming activities. Severe shortages of food and medical supplies are reported. Cholera remains a major concern, especially in the Shabunda area, where the cholera mortality rate is reported by some NGOs to be quite high. Moreover, during the last B season, many farming households were unable to take full advantage of the favourable weather conditions largely due to a shortage of inputs. Large-scale population movements have been reported, both within DRC and to neighbouring countries. Goma is presently host to thousands of displaced persons, mainly from the Masisi and Walikale areas. Authorities in Goma have appealed for assistance for some 31 750 people, most of whom have lost their homes. In addition, there are over 11 000 Burundian refugees in South Kivu, mainly in the Uvira region, who are reported to be in poor health, with high malnutrition rates. The situation is particularly worrying in Kindu in Maniema Province, as all ground communication links have been cut.

The food supply situation is also deteriorating in Shaba Province, where flooding earlier this year destroyed up to 70 percent of the foodcrops. Basic foodstuffs are expensive and increasingly scarce in the local markets. In addition, displaced people from Kalemie, Nyunzu and Nyemba areas have taken refuge in Lubumbashi, the provincial capital. Between 20 000 and 40 000 displaced people are also reported around Kabalo, Nyunzu, Nyemba, Manono and Ankoro. In Orientale Province, tens of thousands of displaced and vulnerable people have moved to Kisangani, where basic consumer goods have become very scarce and costly, as the city's supply routes have been virtually cut off since mid-August.


Reflecting generally favourable growing conditions, a bumper crop is anticipated in the Sahel, with record harvests in the main producing countries of the region. Rains started generally on time, except in Senegal where they were late in the centre and north. Replantings were necessary only in localized areas as no prolonged dry spells were experienced, except in Cape Verde in October. Precipitation was widespread, regular and abundant during the entire months of August and September over most producing areas. Substantial flooding occurred in south-eastern Senegal, western, central and eastern Niger and southern Chad. The pest situation was mostly calm. The abundant rains also improved pasture conditions and replenished water reserves.

The 1998 aggregate cereal production in the nine CILSS countries has been estimated by joint FAO/CILSS Crop Assessment Missions in October/November at a record of 10.6 million tonnes, which is 31 percent higher than in 1997 and about 17 percent above the average of the last five years. Record crops are anticipated in Chad, Mali and Niger. Above-average output is anticipated in The Gambia, while output will be about average in Burkina Faso and Senegal, but below average in Cape Verde and Mauritania.

Cereal production in Guinea-Bissau is expected to be well below average due to civil strife which hampered agricultural activities. The conflict erupted at the start of the growing season, seriously disrupting land preparation, planting and the distribution of inputs to farmers. ...

In the coastal countries along the Gulf of Guinea, harvest prospects are generally favourable in Benin, Nigeria and Togo but less favourable in Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Liberia and Sierra Leone remain heavily dependent on international food assistance, despite some improvement in food production. In Liberia, despite improved security and favourable weather conditions, the 1998 cereal output is only expected to be close to last year's, mainly due to a severe seed shortage. Food supply in the urban markets is stable but prices remain very high. Sporadic fighting still occurs and water and electricity supplies are not yet restored in most parts of Monrovia. Food assistance is being provided almost throughout the entire country and an improvement in the nutritional status of the population is reported. The country will continue to rely on humanitarian assistance in 1999, partly because of the returning refugees from neighbouring countries.

In Sierra Leone, the food supply situation has improved in Freetown and in the centre of the country where relatively peaceful conditions now prevail. In other parts of the country, however, insecurity and fighting persist, causing population displacements and disrupting agricultural activities. Food prices remain very high despite the incoming harvest, although this is forecast at below last year's level following a reduction in planted area. As a result of many years of civil strife, the country will continue to rely heavily on humanitarian assistance in 1999. A UN Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal for humanitarian assistance is currently under preparation.


In southern Africa, the 1998/99 growing season has started under more favourable conditions than in 1997/98. Normal to above normal rains in September and October in cereal producing areas of several countries have provided adequate moisture for land preparation and early planting of the coarse grain crops to be harvested from April 1999. Despite a reduced 1998 aggregate cereal output, the sub-region's food supply situation remains generally stable. Large maize carryover stocks in South Africa provide an exportable surplus, while a number of countries face substantial cereal deficits that will have to be met by imports. They include Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia, where cereal production in 1997/98 declined significantly. The sub-region's 1998 wheat crop, now being harvested, is estimated to be below the 1997 level of 2.2 million tonnes and also below average. The fall is mainly due to a sharp decline in the area sown, particularly in South Africa, in response to low international and domestic wheat prices. ...



Against this background, the attention of the international community is drawn to the following areas requiring assistance.

  • First, Somalia needs urgent food assistance if a serious food crisis is to be averted.
  • Second, everything possible should be done to resolve the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to resume humanitarian assistance to the long-suffering population in the eastern part of the country.
  • Third, food assistance continues to be needed in several parts, including especially Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Burundi and southern Sudan.
  • Fourth, in those countries where substantial cereal surpluses at the national level are anticipated alongside localized food deficits, donors are urged to undertake local purchases to the extent possible for their food aid programmes within the countries and for triangular transactions.
  • Fifth, sustained donor assistance is needed for the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector in Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and other countries where prospects for lasting peace have become a reality following devastation caused by prolonged civil strife.

This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.

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