- Mauritania once again is the country most noting the damages of natural hazards in the Sahel. While good rains produced high yields this season, the desert locust plague experienced all over the Sahel and North Africa has hit crops in Mauritania particulary hard. A "severe crop damage" is already registered, and the damage "could get worse."
These are the conclusions made in a study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS). The agencies made assessments of food security and the impact of the desert locusts in the five most affected countries of the Sahel.
- Regional cereal production in the Sahel will not be affected in a major way this year, despite large-scale desert locust infestations, but a combination of drought and locusts have caused severe localised damage to crops, pasture and legumes in many rural communities, FAO said in a statement today. However, the situation was "particularly critical in Mauritania, where locusts continue to destroy crops and where the damage could get worse," the UN agency added.
Although many locust swarms are still present in Mauritania and Niger, pressure from the pests was gradually easing in Mali and Senegal. The locusts are currently moving towards north-western Mauritania and Western Sahara, and an increasing number of swarms have reached Morocco and Algeria where intense ground and aerial control operations are under way, FAO said.
Following several days of strong south-westerly winds, some swarms have by now even reached the Mediterranean coast either side of the border between Libya and Egypt, while others have reached Crete, Cyprus and Lebanon.
Cereal production in the Sahel - mainly millet, sorghum, rice and maize - was not expected to reach the level of last year's record harvest of around 14 million tonnes, but is estimated to remain within the five-year average of around 11.6 million tonnes, the food agency said. The World Food Programme (WFP) also participated in the assessment.
The drop in production, with most harvests to be completed by the end of November, is mainly caused by insufficient and irregular rains and by desert locusts. However, the intensive desert locust control campaign coordinated by FAO had by now "definitely contributed to limiting the impact of locusts on crop production," according to the UN agency.
The main cereal producing areas in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal, the so-called breadbaskets, had registered favourable rains this year and were not overly affected by desert locusts, according to the assessment. The drop in cereal production occurred mainly in the northern, Sahelian zones of these countries, due to the combined effects of drought and locusts.
The country mostly affected by adverse growing conditions, including desert locusts, is Mauritania, where up to 50 percent of cereal production may be lost, FAO said. Mauritania has already faced several years of drought and poor harvests. The ability of the Mauritanians to cope with this situation thus has been exhausted. Households largely dependent on their own crop production and livestock herds for family food needs are especially at risk.
- Food assistance and the delivery of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fodder, will be needed to improve the food security situation of affected communities and allow farmers to plant their fields and feed their animals, FAO warned, referring to Mauritania. Farmers severely hit by poor rains and Desert Locust infestations in other countries - Niger, Mali, Senegal, Chad and Burkina Faso - would also be needing assistance to resume agricultural production, the agency said.
The situation of pastoral groups in the region needs to be closely monitored, the FAO statement added. There were already strong indications that herders are moving earlier than usual with their animals in search of food and fodder from affected areas to zones offering better vegetation, but already overgrazed. De-stocking had also taken place on a large scale in many areas.
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