With some 11 million people in the Sahel at risk of hunger, the United Nations today appealed on the international community to increase support for food and livestock production in this vast region of Africa.
"The recurrent food and nutrition crises in the Sahel in 2005, 2008 and 2012 have eroded the capacity of the poor to maintain or restore their livelihoods," said Lamourdia Thiombiano, the interim head of the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) Regional Office for Africa and the Subregional Office for West Africa.
"Instead of working their own fields, many poor farmers are forced to sell their labour and were unable to benefit from the good weather of 2012."
FAO is appealing for increased funding for aid to the most vulnerable farmers and herders in the Sahel. Despite a previous appeal for a total of $113.1 million to support almost 6 million vulnerable people this year, only $19.4 million has been received, about 17 per cent of the total.
"The needs of the Sahel region are enormous and a renewed commitment from the donor community is required to support agriculture and livestock production," said Mr. Thiombiano. "Investing in agriculture and strengthening the resilience of poor farmers helps to reduce hunger and poverty and to fend off future food crises in the region."
The western part of the Sahel region, which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and parts of Sudan, Cameroon and Nigeria, is facing a swathe of problems, which are not only political but also involve security, humanitarian resilience and human rights.
FAO said the situation is particularly worrying in northern Mali, northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, where prices for coarse grains such as sorghum, millet and maize continue to increase. The nutritional status of children under five is also of concern, with more than 1.4 million children are at risk of severe malnutrition in 2013.
The agency said the funding would be used to provide seeds, fertilizer and small agricultural tools to farmers for the next agricultural season, which runs from October to April. It would also help strengthen storage, processing and transportation of agricultural goods as well as for nutrition education.
Funding is also needed for livestock food supplements, animal health campaigns, and technical support to improve livestock management, the agency said.