- The continuing rains in the eastern and central parts of Mauritania are producing hopes of ending a two-year food crisis in the impoverished country. The promising future yields however are already threatened by growing swarms of desert locusts.
According to the latest update from the World Food Programme (WFP), the Mauritanian food crisis is by no means over yet. In particular the population of the eastern part of the country is remaining helplessly victimised by the two years of drought that had devastated the rural economy of the region.
WFP reports that the UN agency is still distributing food aid to some 230,000 beneficiaries in Mauritania, corresponding to one tenth of the country's population.
On the other hand, finally the agency's Mauritania operation has been assured sufficient funding to feed the drought victims, after the food pipeline to the country had been interrupted at various occasions during the last two years due to lack of donor funds.
Meanwhile, the winter rains are keeping arriving the country during the last weeks, gradually changing the burnt lands into a fertile and green landscape. The rain quantities indicate the coming of extensive pastures and high crop yields in the coming months, further giving hope to a healing of the economic situation of Mauritania's rural population.
However, WFP is also repeating the warnings of the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) from last week. FAO had found that several swarms of desert locusts were developing in Mauritania that could threaten crops if not controlled.
- Experts are expressing concern that avian and insect infestations may significantly reduce crop yields if left unchecked, WFP reports from Mauritania. The agency also adds that Mauritania's rural population remained "highly vulnerable to food insecurity."
Even if the locust threat is checked and harvests turn good this year, Mauritania's rural population however will be far from escaping structural poverty. Agricultural production gradually has become more risky during the last decades in this country bordering the Sahara desert, and the latest crisis had been easy to predict.
The acreage fitting for agriculture and livestock holding in Mauritania is gradually shrinking due to desertification. More people thus have been forced to produce more food on less land with less water.
The current crisis started two years ago, when torrential rains wiped away much of the country's crop yields and pastures. These rains have been followed by two years of drought. Now, Mauritanians hope these two events will not be follow by a third one, a locust invasion.
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