Changing food insecurity narrative in Central African Republic

By Marie-Therese Nanlong

Jos – A country with food insecurity is vulnerable and susceptible to violence. Lack of peace and food security expose citizens to a lack of development.

The Central African Republic, CAR like other African countries is faced with widespread food insecurity propelled by insecurity (which causes mass displacements of persons) floods; weak agricultural policy implementation; high cost of agricultural inputs, and others and these adversely impact human capital development and national income.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA’s report in 2023 revealed, “With 50% of the population not eating enough, CAR has one of the highest proportions of critically food-insecure people in the world.”

The organization added, “As of 28 February 2023, the total number of IDPs in CAR was estimated at 483,074 individuals… The new displacements mainly took place in areas affected by violence and atrocities by armed men, as well as floods and accidental fires in the Bamingui-Bangoran, Haut-Mbomou, Lobaye, and Mbomou prefectures…

“Persisting insecurity and population displacements continue to affect agricultural activities and limit farmers’ access to crop growing areas and agricultural inputs; elevated international prices of fuel and fertilizers, largely imported, have reportedly led to a lower use of agricultural inputs in 2022, especially among smallholder farmers, with a negative impact on yields…”

But the African Union, AU has credible initiatives which present opportunities for member countries including the CAR to explore and address prevailing food insecurity and malnutrition. Such include the Malabo Declaration on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods, the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), and others.

In 2014 at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, member countries committed to transforming the African agriculture sector to end hunger in Africa by 2025.

But time is running out, 2025 is almost here and the 3rd CAADP Biennial Review Report says “Only Rwanda is on track to meet the goals and targets of Malabo by 2025,” hence collaborative efforts are needed in all countries to meet the target. This cannot be done by dependence on food aids, a viable option is a massive investment in strategic agriculture driven by education, innovations, and technology.

How is CAR addressing violence and food insecurity?

CAR has been engulfed in violent conflicts since 2013 but partners at the organizational, regional, continental, and other levels are assisting to address both violence and food insecurity. The AU and its affiliates, the EU, the UN and its affiliates, the WHO, CSOs, states, and non-state actors have made some efforts to curb violence, ensure food security, and economic recovery of the CAR using inclusive agricultural transformation.

Ambrose, a CAR citizen in Nigeria said, “The UN had engaged our citizens and sensitized them on the need to consume locally produced food items, school feeding programmes were promoted to encourage school attendance and also improve nutrition. There was a cash transfer initiative to low-income households especially those headed by females and local farmers were supported to cultivate crops for local consumption.”

The African Development Bank in its economic outlook 2022 noted, “CAR has ratified international agreements to combat global warming, including one with the EU on forest regulation strategies and policies include the National Forest Monitoring Strategy, the National Strategy to Combat Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the National Policy on the Environment.

“The CAR has set targets for 2030 on land degradation neutrality… There has been a food and agriculture pact; a government initiative to rebuild a productive, profitable, sustainable, and wealth-creating agriculture.”

One of the aims of the food and agriculture pact is to boost food production in the areas of crops and livestock farming as well as fish production to meet the food needs of citizens. The country is known for the local production of rice, maize, beans, peanuts, oil palm fruits, plantains, sorghum, millets, and other grains as well as large-scale livestock farming and mining.

CAR’s President Faustin Touadera, has at different fora discussed the political future of the country, security, regional cooperation, and sustainable development and assured of his government’s commitment to strengthen partnerships to address the challenges that the country is going through.

The 3rd CAADP biennial review report indicated that the CAR is “on-track in meeting the 2020 milestone of access to irrigation technology and other agricultural water management solutions which is indispensable to building a resilient food system against the backdrop of declining productivity and high weather variability.”

The performance target was to increase the size of irrigated areas by 100% in 2025.

Solutions available:

At the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU, held in February, the AU Nutrition Champion, King Letsie III of the Kingdom of Lesotho urged African leaders to strengthen political will toward achieving continental nutrition targets.

He said, “… If we can accelerate investments and improve the coordination of efforts in agriculture, Africa will advance nutrition and improve food security outcomes.”

The Director, of AUC Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, who spoke with the Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awardees via Zoom; advocated that member-states keep their word and commit the recommended 10% of their national budgets to agriculture and related activities to transform the sector because “agriculture is still a very important tool to take Africa out of poverty.”

He also advocated for a secured land tenure policy to encourage women in farming and pushed for modernized farming and agricultural practices.

His words, “We advocate that in each of our 55 Member-States, through their legal mechanisms, through their Parliaments, they should put in place laws and regulatory frameworks that allow for access to land by women; to have secured land tenure. Women are the main producers in agriculture, the food that we eat, most of it is produced by women… we advocate for increased public expenditure on agriculture… We advocate for the adoption of modern inputs that have the benefit of cut-edge scientific advances. Whether it is in improved animal breeds or improved crop varieties…”

The 3rd CAADP biennial review report recommends that “Member States should put in place policies and plans to facilitate small holders’ physical and economic access to fertilizer in the right mix and at the right time.”

Antoine from Mbaiki said, “A country whose citizens are hungry will be retarded; hungry and malnourished people cannot think constructively. The government must address food and other kinds of insecurity. Food banks should be maintained so that supplies could be given to citizens at subsidized rates. The potential for aquaculture and tourism in Lobaye should be harnessed to address poverty. We should start by making people safe then we can have food.”

Ambrose mentioned earlier maintained, “Rural people especially the women should be mobilized and registered for cluster farming using cooperatives. Education and farm inputs should be provided, these will strengthen social cohesion and get the job done.”

Ibrahima Bah, a former head of economic security programmes at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bangui, in an interview published on the ICRC website noted, “Farmers can be encouraged to reconsider certain practices that are both risky for themselves and the environment… Farmers can be trained in new agricultural practices that would reduce both the need to travel and the environmental impact.”

Guido Rurangwa, World Bank’s Country Manager for the Central African Republic stated on the Bank’s website that “CAR has abundant arable land and a favourable climate for agriculture and livestock. A comprehensive strategy, underpinned by concrete reforms, can unlock the potential of the agriculture sector, protect livelihoods, accelerate growth, create jobs, and improve the living conditions of Central Africans.”

The World Bank further suggested that “Establishing a regulatory framework for rural finance, a national farmers database with groups classification and adopting the agropastoral land code could help strengthen the capacity of farmers and herders. A rural finance regulatory framework and low-interest loans from microfinance institutions and expansion of mobile banking services could help transition farmers from the informal to the formal credit market and from subsistence to commercial agriculture…”

AfDB, IFAD intervention:

The African Development Bank, AfDB with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD has jointly financed the Savannah-Based Agricultural Value Chains Development Support Project (PADECAS), to sustainably grow food and beef production in CAR.

PADECAS the AfDB explained is a CAR Government’s “desire to make the agriculture and livestock sectors participate actively in the quest for economic growth capable of generating jobs and substantial incomes for rural communities.”

The initiative spans 2019-2023 and the objective is to “contribute to the improvement of food and nutritional security through the increase of agricultural production and the improvement of the livelihoods of the beneficiary populations” and the aim is to “stimulate investment in the production of staple crops and livestock and to provide job opportunities for women and young people, particularly graduates …”

Meanwhile, Consul Aloy Michel, at the Consulate of CAR in Abuja, Nigeria stated, “Finance is a major challenge in combating crime and malnutrition. In 2022, the African Development Bank approved a grant of over USD5m to assist CAR in the production of additional 32,000 tonnes of food and enhance food security, the government is working hand in hand with the AfDB to accomplish the mission.

“The citizens are trying to produce for themselves on a small scale. The President is a hardworking person, he has introduced the same to his government and efforts are ongoing to make the country food secured.”

This article was developed with support from the African Union through the African Union Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awards, a partnership with the African Women in Media.

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Changing food insecurity narrative in Central African Republic

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About The Author
- Friday Bako is Certified National Accountant (CNA), Blogger, Social Media Influencer/Strategist, Youth Activist and Advocate for good governance.