- The agricultural year has so far shown favourable to Chad, a poor Sahelian country that currently houses more than 125,000 refugees from neighbouring Darfur (Sudan). Locust swarms have however been observed in the far north and could soon threaten crops all over Chad, observers fear.
According to the latest Chad report from the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), the largest threats to food security in Chad currently are the approaching locust swarms and the poor access to the many Darfuri refugees. Especially the locust threat was "worrying", FEWS says.
The 2004-05 agricultural year in Chad had "generally started well," although somewhat later than last year. As good rains are observed in most of the country, sowing is already done and green fields are observed. If weather conditions remain close to normal, another good harvest could be expected.
Nevertheless, there are worrying signs that the locust plague that has already hit Mauritania and Senegal may soon strike in Chad. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) this week warned that locust swarms soon could start moving eastwards from Mauritania.
According to the FAO warning, locust swarms in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger are already out of control. "Massive hatching has started in most of these countries and numerous hopper bands are forming," a recent FAO statement said.
- In the coming weeks, more swarms are likely to appear in West Africa, including Chad, and some may even reach western Sudan, according to FAO. The UN agency expects that locusts will find good breeding locations in Chad through the rest of August.
According to FEWS, locust swarms have already been observed in Chad's extreme north, at the border with Niger. Chadian authorities have already sent two emergency teams to supervise the agricultural situation at the borders with Niger, Libya and Sudan, FEWS reports.
The locust swarms in the extreme north are located in the Tibesti mountain massive, in the core of the Sahara desert. This area only holds a few oases and limited camel pastures. Locusts are however expected to move southwards as pastures and fields get greener in central and southern Chad.
Apart from the approaching locusts, food security in Chad is at risk due to the conflict in neighbouring Darfur. In eastern Chad, small-scale trade with western Sudan has always been an important extra revenue for farmers and herders. This trade is now mostly interrupted due to the conflict.
Further, eastern Chad hosts more than 125,000 Darfuri refugees. Most are in camps and receive international food aid, but many also live outside the camps or with Chadian host families and thus strain the already difficult food situation in the region. Local market prices for food items are increasing as more refugees arrive and access gets poor.
The market prices of cereals are thus reflecting the bottlenecks in the supply for the Darfuri refugees. In the Chadian capital N'djamena, where most of the international supplies arrive Chad, and in the southern town of Moundou, cereal prices in July this year are below prices at the same time last year and show no signs of increasing.
On markets of the eastern towns of Abéché and Sarh, located close to the Chadian region affected by the Darfuri refugee influx, the picture is however different. Here, cereal prices started to soar in June, with the onset of the rainy season, and are already significantly higher than at the same time last year, according to FEWS statistics.
The US agency is further warning about short supplies to the refugee camps. In the Bredjing camp, stores were close to empty and supplies were urgently needed. The situation was mainly explained by the almost inaccessible location of the Farchana and Bredjing camps now during the rainy season. The two camps are only supplied by large transport aircrafts.
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