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

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid