News / Africa

Bringing Seeds of Life to CAR

Men take cover in a toilet as heavy gunfire erupts in the Miskin district of Bangui, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 3, 2014. In what a French soldier on the scene described as the heaviest exchange of fire he'd seen since early December 2013, Musli
Men take cover in a toilet as heavy gunfire erupts in the Miskin district of Bangui, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 3, 2014. In what a French soldier on the scene described as the heaviest exchange of fire he'd seen since early December 2013, Musli


Joe DeCapua
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says the ongoing fighting and violence in Central African Republic are pushing the country toward a full-scale food crisis. Despite the insecurity, the FAO says it wants to ensure that crops are planted before the rainy season arrives. 

The FAO says conflict is putting much of the country’s population at risk of not getting enough to eat.

Dominique Burgeon, director of the agency’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, said, “We are extremely concerned with the overall humanitarian situation in CAR and especially the food security sector where up to 1.6-million people are currently food insecure out of a total population of 4.6-million, which is a huge share of the population that is food insecure.”

The FAO describes the situation in the capital Bangui as “increasingly worrying,” but says it is “even more acute” elsewhere in the country.

The problem began early last year as mostly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize. Communal violence erupted in December after Seleka leader Michel Djotodia became interim president and rebels began attacking civilians. Djotodia was pressured to step down, but the violence has continued under the new interim leader Catherine Samba-Panza.

Now, however, militias, known as anti-balaka, have waged a campaign of revenge attacks. Human rights groups say the militias – who appear to be a mix of Christians and animists – are trying to drive all Muslims out of the country.

Burgeon said that the violence has disrupted agriculture for about a year.

“For the all of last year people were constantly displaced within the country – couldn’t crop their land. When they could cultivate their land it was sometimes looted, burned -- and they also lost all their agricultural assets and tools, the seeds. So this has meant that they had very little harvest last year.”

There’s concern that the “hunger gap” in CAR will come early this year. It’s a time when food stocks are low prior to the next harvest.

“In [a] normal year the hunger gap would start in July and last until September / October. This year the hunger gap is expected to start as early as February, early March, leaving them in a very difficult food security situation until the next harvest,” he said.

The FAO’s initial plan is to support the country’s staple crops.

Burgeon said, “One of the main crops for them is maize. So what we are currently trying to do is to support the next planting season for maize. And that is due to start in the south of the country in early March. And we believe this is absolutely critical to support the children. And then to go on a bit later on and support sorghum planting season. But it is super important that we support this planting season with the seeds, but also with the tools, in time for the farmers to prepare their land.”
Burgeon added that if the FAO and its local partners fail to support CAR farmers now, the population will need “protracted food assistance.” That, he said, would be a “terrible situation.”

An FAO assessment in December found that 78-percent of CAR farmers planned to either grow crops on their land or on land near the make-shift camps where they’ve sought shelter.  But that depends on their having seeds and tools.

“For the people agriculture is the only option. Therefore, they plan to crop their land and that’s why we want to assist them as much as we can -- of course, not exposing them to undue risk. But it’s clear that when they want to do it – if they have the opportunity to do it – we want to be there,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization is in the process of rebuilding CAR’s seed stocks. It’s collecting seeds from neighboring countries, as well as Nigeria.

All this, of course, carries a price tag. Burgeon said the overall cost will be $39-million, $10-million of which is needed now.

“If we wait for too long, the rainy season will start. Transport will be extremely difficult and therefore it will complicate our operation. Therefore, while we are going for road transportation now, we may have to use air assets in the coming weeks.”

The FAO estimates 75-percent of the population relies on small-scale agriculture for food and income.

Another U.N. agency – the World Food Program – has begun airlifting emergency supplies into Central African Republic. The first flight carried nearly 2,000 metric tons of food – enough for 150,000 people for one month. In all, the WFP plans 25 flights over the next four weeks.

The WFP resorted to airlifts because insecurity along the road from Cameroon to Bangui made truck drivers hesitant to make the trip to Bangui. The few trucks that have arrived in recent weeks had an armed escort.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs