See also:
» 07.02.2008 - WA signals food insecurity
» 28.03.2006 - Children at risk once again in hungry Sahel, says UN
» 20.06.2005 - Food crisis looming in Mali, Mauritania, Niger
» 01.10.2004 - Stronger efforts to fight West Africa's locusts
» 17.09.2004 - "Locust crisis in Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Niger deteriorates"
» 26.08.2004 - More funds to fight locusts in West Africa
» 24.08.2004 - West African locust crisis "worse than 1987-89"
» 06.07.2004 - Locust swarms invade Mauritania, Senegal, Mali

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Agriculture - Nutrition

Food crisis in Western Mali

afrol News, 19 June - "Adverse socio-economic and climatic conditions" in the Mali's narrow border area with Mauritania, popularly known as the Western Sahel, have hurt the progress of the 2002/03 growing season, creating a grain deficit and shortages of pasture and watering points for the local animal population.

The combined effects of negative climatic factors have aggravated this year's grain deficit in Mali's Western Sahel, with harvests expected to cover local household food needs for somewhere between 3 and 5 months, creating household food insecurity problems, according to a report by the US agency Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), released today.

Mali's Western Sahel region is a narrow semi-arid area bordered by Mauritania in the north and by Senegal in the west, encompassing Nara district in the Koulikoro region and Kayes, Diéma, Nioro and Yélimané districts in the Kayes region.

The main activities engaged in by residents of this area are crop farming and livestock raising. Despite the importance of agriculture, in general, the Western Sahel however has a structural crop production deficit, according to FEWS. There is a high rate of out-migration due to the poor farming conditions found in this area.

Moreover, the area had been repeatedly plagued by food insecurity problems over the past few years as a result of steadily declining yields from locally grown grain crops and poor grazing and animal watering conditions in the face of an inhospitable climate. This year's rains have also been erratic.

As a result, this year, this and other areas of the country have been targeted by Malian government programs for the distribution of sufficient quantities of grain to meet local needs.

Moreover, a number of non-governmental organisations such as the German Emergency Food Aid Program have mounted projects for the establishment of grain banks and school meal programs and the organisation of cooking demonstrations and Food for Work activities in an effort to strengthen food security.

According to FEWS, these activities have played an important role in "ensuring good grain availability within these areas and, as a result, in preventing mass migration by local residents looking to earn a living."

After farming, livestock raising is the second leading activity engaged in by most area households. Migratory stock-raising activities are of considerable importance in this part of Mali, the FEWS report says.

This year's rainfall deficit had affected the condition of pasturelands, whose vegetative cover is sparser than usual. Water levels in watering holes for grazing animals were also below-normal. The vulnerability of herder households thus was "heightened".

This situation had however prompted the Malian government to take steps to supply the area with animal feed products to be sold at cost, resulting in the delivery of a total of 1,400 tons of animal feed to the five districts comprising the Western Sahel in April and May of this year.

Although the Malian government was doing an important work in providing food and fodder to the area, the situation for Western Sahel household could still become critical, FEWS held. "The food security of area households is contingent on their purchasing power between now and the upcoming harvesting period in October and November," the US agency warned.

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