The populations, mainly those living in rural areas are prevented from accessing their livelihood. Traditional business people, NGOs and transport systems supplying those remote areas are in some cases no more working. In many areas, many people are forced to flee from their villages, thus increasing the number of displaced persons in the Sahel. Predictions for 2020 are very pessimistic, the situation may go worse in the Liptako-Gourma region. The region shared by the three sahelian countries, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. And if actions are not taken to minimise the insecurity threat by June 2020, 14 million people will be in a situation of immediate food assistance. That is why experts of the RPCA are trying to blow the alarm whistle to get the world’s concern on the danger pointing ahead. Let’s look at some of the figures gathered by the organization to understand the seriousness of the food crisis in the Sahelian region. When considering the outcomes of the general assessment by the RPCA’s annual meeting on the temporary results of the 2019-2020 agricultural yield, we can say that expected cereal production in the sahelian region is estimated at 75.1 million tons. This prediction is 1.7% higher than the production of last year and 14% above the average production of the past five years. Some countries however record a lower production compared to the previous year’s results. These are for instance Cabo Verde (-11%), The Gambia (-13%), Niger (-7%), Senegal (-4%) and Sierra Leone (-10%). In addition to that, root tubers production is estimated at 191 million tons, this is also 17.1% higher than the past five-year average. Concerning the livestock, the situation is marked by a deficit in some Sahelian countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad. Mauritania and Senegal being the most affected. The deficit is due to the security crisis that seriously affects the animals rearing activities in this part of the world. The direct consequence is a concentration of cattle in some farming and protected areas which may trigger new farmer-breeder conflicts. In view of all these problems important questions deserve to be analysed as fast as possible. In this present case, the real problem (in some zones) is not the unavailability of food but the breakdown of the traditional food distribution system because of terrorism. One more temporal disturbance contributing to the food crisis in the Sahel is the closure of borders between Nigeria and Benin and Nigeria and Niger. How are countries organizing themselves to minimize the outbreak of a food crisis? Though the first solution is essentially military, something has to be put in place by the various states in the region to face the feeding, the accommodation and the health care of the increasing number of displaced people.
Despite the numerous efforts made by countries and their partners, the members of the RPCA have noticed that the implementation of food crisis response plans suffer from a cruel lack of funding. Barely 50% of their needs are covered and this is partly due to a problem of relevance of the response plans. The region needs well-structured resilience programs to tackle chronic food insecurity more effectively.
The following are some recommendations from the RPCA on the issue.
-All stakeholders are encourage: to accelerate the implementation of the 2nd external evaluation of the PREGEC Charter, particularly the development of a harmonized methodology for targeting populations in acute and chronic food insecurity, as well as the establishment of mechanisms for evaluating the impacts of responses.
-States are to gradually reorient their investment strategies of responses for tackling the root causes of food and nutrition crises.
-With regard to worrying food and nutritional perspectives coming in this mid-2020, RPCA members recommend to ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS to quickly organize high-level consultations in order to agree on political and technical actions to deal with the problem. Furthermore, they recommend to the States concerned - with the support of their intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and their partners - to conduct in-depth general assessment of the impacts of the security crisis on the production of food crops and livestock. Such works should help in defining and implementing integrated plans built around the triple nexus which is (humanitarian, peace and development).
In Burkina Faso, the frequent terrorist attacks are destroying the livelihood of the populations, especially in the provinces of the Bam, the Sanmantenga and the Soum in the northern part of the country. Another consequence of the degradation of the situation are the closing of many health centers and schools. Up to November 2019, the number of displaced people were estimated at 490,000 people and 48% of whom are children, 36% women and 16% male.
As we pen down this paper 1.2 million people in the country need immediate food assistance, (phases 3-5). That represents the 5.9% of the total population. These populations are concentrated in the regions of the Central-North (35%), the Sahel region (19%) and the East Region (12%). The insecurity is still forcing people to abandon their farms and their cattle, thus weakening their capacity to be food self-sufficient. Some areas are partially accessible only under high security dispositions which makes it very difficult for a proper humanitarian action in the region. The situation is likely to deteriorate seriously if security is not put under control by (June-August 2020. The immediate drawbacks will surely be the shortage of food stocks, the rising of prices of food commodities, the decrease of the population icomes and the increase of extreme vulnerability.
By Balele Eric Bamouni
This article is based on the French version of the November 2019 report by the Reseau de Prevention des Crises Alimentaires: RPCA, The (Food Crisis Prevention Network) based in Paris . The report was sent to me by Julia Wanjiru