WHD 2013

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Renewed support needed for agricultural support in the Sahel 

By Jose Luis Fernandez,

Coordinator, FAO’s Regional Resilience, Emergency and Rehabilitation Office for West Africa/Sahel (REOWA)

On 3 February 2014, humanitarian partners launched the 2014-2016 Strategic Response Plan for the Sahel in FAO premises in Rome. The launch of the Plan was the culmination of a regional process in which hundreds of partners delivering humanitarian aid in the Sahel countries have come together to assess needs and formulate concerted plans and a unified funding request to UN Member States and donor organizations.
For 2014, the Plan includes response strategies to cover the most humanitarian needs of millions of people still affected by food insecurity and malnutrition in the region, including agricultural response. On 2 May 2014, only 13 percent of the required funds for the agricultural component of this appeal were received.

What are the immediate consequences of this lack of funds?

The lacks of adequate funding for emergency agricultural and livelihood support in the Sahel is preventing vulnerable communities who rely on small-scale agriculture to produce their own food. Millions of men and women farmers have to face the next main agricultural campaign (May-October 2014) with depleted or low stocks of food crop seeds, and will therefore cultivate reduced areas of land, or will not even be able to plant at all. Herds are extremely weakened by the lack of adequate food due to deficits in previous months fodder productions. As a consequence they are very vulnerable to diseases and to death.
Vulnerable families will rely entirely on markets in the coming months as the lean season, also known as the ‘hunger season’, has already begun. In absence of assistance, the most vulnerable households are forced to reduce quantity and quality of daily meals, reduce their investment in quality inputs, sell their productive assets and become indebted. These negative coping mechanisms threaten their ability to respond to shocks in the short, medium and long term. In particular vulnerable households will be confronted to possible droughts, floods or insecurity in the months to come with low level of adaptative capacities.

We can make a difference

In the past years, millions of vulnerable households have not benefited from adequate support. It is refraining communities from becoming resilient and protecting their livelihoods. Without a renewed commitment of donors and partners to support food production and protect livelihoods, a further deterioration of food security and nutrition can be expected throughout 2014, requiring long-lasting and costly food assistance. In the coming months, other opportunities shall be seized to support food production and protect livelihoods in the region with support to livestock, flood plain recession and off-season agriculture.
The food security challenge in the Sahel shall not be forgotten. The remaining needs of the region are enormous and donors and partners still have the opportunity in the coming months to support households affected by food insecurity with support to livestock, flood plain recession and off-season agriculture. Increasing support to the agricultural sector could help vulnerable households break the cycle of poverty and hunger, instead of keeping them dependent on food assistance.

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