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Improved harvest forecast for Sahel region

For immediate release:

Reaction to announcement of improved harvest forecast for Sahel region:
Good news but governments and UN should not take the foot off the gas

International aid agency Oxfam and leading West African farmers network ROPPA today welcomed an initial forecast of an improved harvest in the Sahel region, but warned governments and the UN that the food crisis is far from over. The organisations said an increase in aid is still needed to help farmers and herders overcome the triple challenges of recurrent droughts, persistent poverty and political instability. The forecast was made today by a group of West African regional bodies monitoring food security, and UN agencies including the World Food Programme.

“This initial forecast of a better harvest is welcome news but governments, the UN and aid agencies should not see this as an excuse to take the foot off the accelerator. The food crisis for millions of people is far from over. Food prices remain sky high, incomes have been exhausted and millions will continue to require support to help them recover,” said Al Hassan, Food Security Policy Coordinator for Oxfam in West Africa.

Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Barry Coates said: “It would be madness to walk away at the first sign of improvement. We would lose the hard fought gains made by support provided so far, and undermine the ability of people to get back on their feet and build a future.

“Even with improved harvest projections, farmers and their families won’t see the benefits for several months while crops grow. People still need to survive the short term and the next few months will be crucial. Our work in the Sahel region remains vital in ensuring families survive this immediate crisis but also build resilience to future droughts.”

While initial estimates for the coming harvest appear to be above average and if realised would allow an improvement for many people across the region, not all areas are faring well. In Mali, the government estimates production this year could be reduced by 20 to 30 per cent. Oxfam said that even in a good year 20 per cent of the population go hungry and 230,000 children die from hunger-related causes.

“Many farmers are thankful for better times ahead, but many others were unable to plant successfully or have seen their crops been hit by flooding. To exit this food crisis, farmers will need seeds, tools and fertiliser to help them grow crops this coming winter, and support to increase our yields for years to come. Then we have to stop this crisis happening again. The needless loss of life and suffering should spur governments to start proactively addressing the root causes of these problems”, said Djibo Bagna from ROPPA.

Although rainfall has been good in most areas, it has been poor in pockets of Niger, Chad and Senegal. While in other zones, serious flooding has destroyed thousands of hectares of land in Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal. There remains poor pasture for livestock in parts of the north of Senegal, in the south-east of Mauritania, in the east of Burkina Faso, the north-east of Nigeria, the region of Mopti in Mali and the regions of Tillabery and Tahoua in Niger.

Many farmers have not been able to take advantage of the rainfall due to the current food crisis. Emergency aid to agriculture was funded to just 24 per cent of what was required, and aid agencies have been only able to provide enough seeds, tools and fertilisers to less than half of the 9.9 million people targeted.

Food prices also remain extremely high across the region. In August, the price of millet was 62 per cent higher than the last five year average in Niamey, Niger and 73 per cent higher in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In Bamako, Mali it was 96 per cent higher than the last four year average.

There is also the threat of a locust invasion in parts of the region, especially in Mali where control efforts are made more difficult by security concerns. The risk will be especially higher from mid-September to October, when swarms could form, migrate and threaten the crops.

Continued instability in Mali and increased stress on displaced people and host communities inevitably provide additional challenges and needs. Rice production in northern Mali could be at just 30 per cent of a normal year and in some areas half of all livestock could be lost in due to insecurity preventing migration, a lack of animal feed and veterinary services.

Oxfam and ROPPA said this is the third large scale food crisis to hit the region in less than a decade. To prevent the next drought from becoming a humanitarian emergency, donors need to support investment in the productive capacities of small scale producers, social benefit schemes and food reserves that would enable rapid responses to future crises and help communities manage volatile food prices.

Oxfam New Zealand is currently appealing for funds from the New Zealand public to support its work in the Sahel region with vital aid such as food, cash, water, livestock support, sanitation and hygiene training. Donations from the public up to a total of $97,000 will be matched by the New Zealand Government. To donate, please visit oxfam.org.nz or call 0800 400 666.

• $22 can help reach out with emergency food relief
• $36 can help construct new water wells and service existing ones so people have access to clean, safe water now and in the future
• $50 can help deliver agricultural and animal health support to farmers, equipping them with the tools they need to survive this crisis
• $107 can provide five families with hygiene kits, helping to protect them from disease


ENDS

Photo links
http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.au/?c=11718&k=2c998f8752
http://www.flickr.com/photos/16885132@N04/sets/72157631435021260/


Notes
• Le Réseau des organisations paysannes et des producteurs agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA) represents national peasant and producers’ associations from 13 West African countries.
• The projections were made during a meeting of PREGEC in Dakar, involving CILSS, l’UEMOA, FAO, WFP, FEWSNET, Oxfam, APESS, ECHO, USAID and national governments. The conclusions can be found at https://www.cilss.bf/IMG/pdf/avis_pregec_dakar_sept2012.pdf (french).


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