Central African Republic in ‘urgent need’ of agricultural assistance, warns UN agency

Women process cassava for food preparation in Mbaiki, Central African Republic. $6.2 million is urgently needed to prevent further worsening of the food security situation. Photo: FAO/Riccardo Gangale

Women process cassava for food preparation in Mbaiki, Central African Republic. $6.2 million is urgently needed to prevent further worsening of the food security situation. Photo: FAO/Riccardo Gangale

CAR, 23 March 2015 – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched an urgent appeal to help provide farmers in the Central African Republic (CAR) with seeds and tools for the country’s upcoming planting season, warning that without additional assistance vulnerable populations risked a further deterioration of their livelihoods.

In a news release issued today, the UN agency reported that some 1.5 million people in CAR remain food insecure amid ongoing hostilities throughout the country and cautioned that the figure was likely to rise should immediate support not be provided.

“The smooth implementation of the agriculture campaign activities is key to contribute to the decrease of political tensions, of which the main cause is extreme poverty,” said FAO’s Representative in CAR, Jean-Alexandre Scaglia. “Agriculture remains the most important source of income for the majority of the population in the country.”

More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in CAR. According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought refuge across the borders.

In December, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous warned of a potentially explosive situation in CAR amid continuing violent clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.

Mr. Scaglia noted that ensuring planting during the upcoming season, along with longer-term resilience activities, provided an opportunity to contribute to the country’s peace efforts and “should not be missed.”

Currently, FAO has secured funding to assist 86,400 households but it is appealing for an additional $6.2 million to support a further 63,600 households for the upcoming main planting seasons starting in April.

As a result of the effort, each family will receive critical agricultural aid such as seeds and farming tools to cover food needs for up to five months, reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance and stabilize their incomes.

The alternative, the agency said, would be a worsening of the country’s “significant food shortages” and population movements increasing latent tensions.