The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called for critical investments in agriculture and climate change relief to address the crisis in Africa’s strife-torn Lake Chad Basin, where hunger, poverty and a lack of rural development prevail.
The Director-General of FAO, José da Silva, stated this in Rome following his visit to some of the worst affected areas in Chad and northeastern Nigeria from April 5 to April 7.
Da Silva said the crisis was both humanitarian and ecological adding agriculture cannot be an “afterthought”.
The FAO Director-General regretted that hunger, poverty and a lack of rural development prevailed in the crisis-hit region.
“This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but it is also an ecological one.
“This conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty in the rural areas of the Lake Chad Basin.
“Peace is a prerequisite to resolving the crisis in the region, but this is not enough.
“Agriculture, including livestock and fisheries, can no longer be an afterthought.
“It is what produces food and what sustains the livelihoods of about 90 percent of the region’s population,” the Director-General said.
He underscored that the crisis was rooted in decades of neglect, lack of rural development and the impact of climate change, and the only way to ensure a lasting solution is to address these including through investments in sustainable agriculture.
“Some seven million people risk suffering from severe hunger in the Lake Chad Basin, which incorporates parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and north-eastern Nigeria.
“In the latter, some 50,000 people are facing famine.
“While fighting and violence have caused much of the suffering, the impact of environmental degradation and climate change, including repeated droughts, is exacerbating the situation,” he said.
He noted that since 1963, Lake Chad had lost some 90 percent of its water mass with devastating consequences on food security and
the livelihoods of people depending on fishing and irrigation-based agricultural activities.
“Furthermore, while Lake Chad has been shrinking, the population has been growing, including millions displaced from conflict areas.”
The Director-General called for food assistance and long-term investment production in the region.
“FAO and its partners, including other UN agencies, are calling on the international community for urgent support, a combination of immediate food assistance and food production support.
“This is to assuage hunger in the region,” the FAO chief said.
Da Silva reiterated that should farmers miss the coming May to June planting season, no substantial harvests would be seen until 2018, leading to more widespread, severe hunger and prolonged dependency on external assistance.
He recalled FAO’s Response Strategy (2017 to 2019) for the crisis.
The strategy included distributing cereal seeds and animal feed and providing cash transfers and veterinary care to enable displaced farmers and voluntary returnees to get a substantial harvest.
Moreso, the strategy was to replenish their food stocks and prevent animal losses among vulnerable herders.
He said the situation reflected the threats facing other African countries where a combination of ethnic or religious tensions fuelled by rural poverty and unemployment could escalate to full-scale crises.
“In the Lake Chad Basin region, FAO is working with farmers and displaced people to assist with producing food and selling surplus in the markets.
“This includes distributing cash vouchers that help stimulate markets for agricultural products.
“Additionally, the agency, together with its partners, is exploring the possibility of introducing irrigation techniques to save water, and then helping to train farmers in using them.”