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Reference Date: 26-January-2015
FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT
2014 crop production exhibits some recovery compared to 2013 but still at well below-average levels
Harvesting of the 2014 main cereal crops was completed in November. In some areas of the south, harvesting of the secondary season crops is about to conclude.
According to the findings of a joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), which visited the country in August, the 2014 aggregate production of food crops increased by 11 percent from the sharply reduced 2013 output, but still remains 58 percent below the pre-crisis five-year average (2008-2012). The 2014 aggregate outcome is mainly driven by a significant increase in cassava production (+45 percent), while cereal output declined by about 54 percent from 2013. The ongoing socio-political crisis and widespread insecurity severely disrupted agricultural and marketing activities and caused the depletion of already inadequate household productive assets. This, coupled with erratic rainfall in western parts of the country and some pest attacks, led to a 23 percent reduction in the planted area.
The livestock and fishing sectors were also severely affected by the crisis. The decline in livestock numbers from 2013 due to theft, looting and mass slaughter of animals is estimated at 67 percent for cattle and 77 percent for small livestock and poultry, a daunting task for the future recovery of the overall agricultural sector. Fish supplies declined by about 40 percent from pre-crisis levels due to insecurity in fishing areas and loss of fishing equipment.
High food prices constraining food access and dietary diversity
Prices of agricultural commodities remained at comparatively low levels in the capital, Bangui, throughout most of the crisis period, due to a sharp decrease in production coupled with a serious decline in demand, as households, whose purchasing power was constrained due to destroyed livelihoods, reduced employment opportunities and availability of cash, partially shifted from market purchases to own stocks and production (mainly cassava) and gathering; food aid distributions (mainly maize and palm oil) exerted additional downward pressure on prices. Subsequently, prices sharply increased from early 2014, and in August 2014 prices of maize, millet and groundnuts were 30-70 percent higher than in March-April 2014. The sharp rise was mainly due to an increase in demand, as payments to civil servants resumed in March 2014, injecting more cash in the economy while large numbers of IDPs also returned to their homes. By contrast, prices of locally-produced cassava declined by 13 percent between February and August due to the combined effect of increased production and limited marketing and movement of goods which retained ample supplies around the surplus producing zone of the capital, Bangui.
Prices of bovine meat are on the increase since mid-2013, due to the sharp declines of livestock numbers, and in August 2014 in Bangui they were more than double than 12 months earlier. Chicken meat price increases were comparatively less sharp, but prices in August 2014 were still 28 percent higher than in August 2013. Prices of fish and milk, other important sources of animal proteins, increased as well, mainly as a result of trade disruptions. In August 2014, prices of milk were 29 percent higher than 12 months earlier and 63 percent higher than in December 2012, immediately before the onset of the crisis. Prices of fish, which show a marked volatility since early 2013, in August 2014 were at the same levels than in August 2013, but 43 percent higher than in December 2012.
The population of the Central African Republic (CAR) is facing serious and constantly deteriorating food access constraints, due to destroyed livelihoods, reduced own production, sharply curtailed market activity, availabilities and access, and high food prices. In addition, not only the quantity of food intake is reduced, but the dietary diversity is also drastically diminished, with the substitution of more nutritious cereal and vegetable staples with more cassava and the sharp reduction of animal proteins intake. This widespread dietary deterioration raises serious concerns, having a dire effect in terms of nutrition and health.
Grave food security situation persist
The acute and complex emergency affecting CAR has resulted in widespread disruption in agricultural and marketing activities and caused massive displacement (in early November 2014, the IDP caseload was estimated at 410 000, about half the number at the peak of the crisis in early 2014, but still representing 9 percent of the total population), thus having a severe negative impact on both food availability and access.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) in October 2014, about 1.5 million people (out of a total population of 4.6 million), are in need of urgent assistance (IPC Phase 3 “Crisis” and IPC Phase 4 “Emergency) with 1.3 million of them located in rural areas and 200 000 in Bangui. The number of people in need of urgent assistance represents 32 percent and 25 percent, respectively, of the population in rural areas and in Bangui. The regions most affected by food insecurity (Phase 4 “Emergency”), are Ouham province and most of Nana Grebizi and Kemo prefectures in the northwest, Ngaoundaye, Bocaranga and Berberati sub prefectures in the in west, Boda and Bimbo (located at the outskirts of Bangui) sub prefectures in the south, Obo sub prefecture in the east.
Additional food security indicators show a deterioration of the situation compared to a year earlier. For instance, the Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA), conducted by WFP in October 2014, indicates that the percentage of households with inadequate food consumption stood at 26 percent, compared to 15 percent in 2013. In addition, the number of households forced to recur to negative coping strategies increased over the past year: the percentage of households who had to sell domestic and productive assets increased from 27 percent to 30 percent and from 20 percent to 22 percent, respectively, while school dropout and illegal activities more than doubled, increasing from 5 percent to 11 percent and from 4 percent to 10 percent, respectively.
In response, the international community launched in December 2013 a Strategic Response Plan, which was revised and scaled up in January 2014 following the aggravation of the situation. It plans to assist 1.9 million beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 565 million. The food security cluster plans to assist 1 250 000 beneficiaries for a total cost of USD 180 million providing food assistance to severely food insecure populations and supporting the agricultural sector by improving access to essential agricultural inputs, including seeds and tools, through the rehabilitation of infrastructure and equipment for production such as drying areas and warehouses, and support to animal and crop disease control. As of early November 2014, only 61 percent (about USD 336 million) of funding has been received.
Increased and strong livelihood support required
FAO, WFP and NGO partners provided crop production support to a total of 111 750 vulnerable families across the country. For the main planting season, each of the 83 950 families was assisted with 25 kg of crop seeds (groundnut, maize and rice) and two hoes, as well as by WFP’s provision of seed protection rations. In addition, FAO assisted 27 800 families with seeds (beans, maize, millet, niébé, sesame and sorghum), and tools as part of the short-cycle (secondary) season support.
In addition to emergency relief operations, FAO is engaged in resilience support operations and some 24 300 households would be assisted, with received funds so far, through resilience activities (caisses de resilience) that will help households to accumulate, diversify and protect assets by building their capacities in terms of agriculture techniques, financial abilities and governance structures at community level. Participating families will be engaged in contractual production of quality seeds and food, support to school gardening and feeding, nutrition surveillance and cash transfer initiatives to boost their community. These activities will be completed with the distribution of small processing machines and the constitution of food and seed reserves.