Despite security challenges in half of the prefectures, farmers in the Central African Republic are counting on the next agriculture season to restore their food production capacity to avoid risks of famine and malnutrition. Since last year when they had to flee the violence, farming communities had to abandon their fields along the main roads to replant deep in the bush. This disruption lead them to produce much less than previous years with a major impact on their food reserves that will last till February instead of July.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is already working to provide farmers with seeds and tools for the next campaign however more funds are needed for the food security component of the 100-day response plan. Initial assessments conducted over the last week indicate a deteriorating situation in terms of low food stocks, widespread disruption to village food markets and a lack of purchasing power overall among other issues, announced FAO.
"The combination of food shortages and poor sanitary conditions in the camps and deep in the bush, as well as extreme poverty, risk triggering serious malnutrition." said Alexis Bonte, acting FAO Representative in the Central African Republic following a visit to Bossangoa on Sunday 29 December.
The success of the next planting season crucially hinges on the return of farming families to the fields. Families who are unable to plant in March will have to wait one whole year before they can hope to harvest again. Failure to help these families will have dramatic consequences on the food security for a quarter of the Central African population. The low production perceived from the last harvest coupled with a prevailing situation of chronic country-wide malnutrition is setting the stage for a full scale food and nutrition security crisis should the next planting season fail, reports the Organization today.
In response to the crisis, FAO has taken immediate action and set up a multidisciplinary team in Bangui with the support from its regional and subregional offices as well as headquarters. In the next few days, three sub-offices will be opened in the towns of Bossangoa, Bouar and Bambari.
FAO and WFP are working closely together as leads of the Food Security Cluster. A 100-day response plan has been developed to boost the humanitarian response to the most urgent needs. Within the 100 day response plan FAO has identified priority areas for agriculture assistance in terms of restoring production, strengthening community resilience and capacity building. In particular, FAO will work for the immediate resumption of agricultural production (seed distributions, restoration of communal storage facilities and cash-for-work activities) and to increase community resilience, in particular, FAO will work with groups of women farmers through investment in their joint social and economic activities, to provide enabling environments for inter-community peacebuilding dialogue.
The food security cluster led by FAO and WFP is seeking USD 61 million to help 1.8 million people. FAO has so far mobilized a total of USD 4. 3 million including contributions from Belgium, Sweden and the USA, as well as through its own emergency funding mechanisms.