Three years of conflict and ongoing displacements in the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to disrupt agriculture and severely constrain people’s access to food, as they struggle with the effects of multiple poor harvests, disrupted markets and soaring prices for many staple foods, two UN agencies have warned.
The country’s overall crop production in 2015 remained 54 percent below the pre-crisis average, despite a 10 percent increase from 2014 mostly due to a rise in cassava production, according to the latest Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
Cereal harvests continued to decline last year, with production 70 percent lower than the pre-crisis average. Overall crop production in 2015 amounted to 838,671 metric tons, around one million metric tons less than the average before the crisis.
“The latest numbers are cause for concern not only because people skip meals and cut portions, but also because they opt for less nutritious foods that provide far less of the proteins and vitamins they need,” said FAO Country Representative Jean-Alexandre Scaglia. “Some 75 percent of people in CAR depend on agriculture, and with the planting season starting in less than two months, boosting agriculture now is crucial to revitalizing the economy and to stability in the country,” he added.
“The situation is dire. Half of the population faces hunger,” said Bienvenu Djossa, WFP Country Director in CAR. “It is crucial that we continue helping the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive. WFP and FAO are also working together to provide seeds to plant and food to eat during the planting period. This is the time when people need the maximum help possible as it is also the lean season, when people struggle to have enough food to eat before the next harvest.”
Response to the crisis
FAO, WFP and their partners have been working together since the beginning of the unrest to mitigate its negative impacts on agricultural production and food security.
In 2015, FAO assisted some 170,900 households with seeds and tools, which have yielded about 40,000 metric tons of agricultural products and directly benefited about 854,500 people. This helped reduce families’ dependence on humanitarian assistance and stabilize their incomes. WFP supported the operation by providing food rations to more than 65,000 farming families to prevent them from using their remaining seeds for food rather than planting and thus protect their capacity to produce in future seasons.
In addition to its work with FAO, WFP provided food through various activities including school meals and emergency food assistance to some 900,000 people.
Other FAO interventions in 2015 included large-scale livestock vaccination campaigns and support to the government’s efforts to rebuild the country’s seed supply capacity.
The Government of the Central African Republic has begun a strategic effort to revive the agricultural sector and facilitate the reintegration of vulnerable people by helping youth and family farms improve their capacity to produce.