MOZAMBIQUE: 70,000 mt of food aid needed

IRIN NEWS

A joint crop assessment by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimate cereal production in 2005 will reach about 1.92 million mt, 3 percent lower than last year's harvest. The areas hardest hit by the downturn are mainly in the southern and central regions of the country. Food deficits are predicted in the semi-arid areas of Gaza and Inhambane, Manica and Tete provinces, as well as remote areas of the central and southern provinces, including Maputo.

The FAO/WFP mission, undertaken from 25 April to 13 May, noted that the combined effects of HIV/AIDS, recurrent disasters ... weak health services and the limited capacity of community-based safety nets, had aggravated current food shortages. Earlier this month WFP said it was already assisting about 214,000 people in drought-affected areas through its Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), which had been meant to help people recover from the drought in 2002. Lack of access to adequate food is a major concern, especially for communities and families who have not yet recovered from several years of poor crop production and have fully exhausted their assets, and are now engaged in negative coping strategies for their survival, the report observed. Besides the 70,000 mt of emergency food, an additional 44,000 mt was needed to support ongoing development programmes and the PRRO during the 2005/06 marketing year. The UN agencies noted that the adverse impact of HIV/AIDS on already vulnerable households was cause for concern.

New figures issued by the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed that the HIV/AIDS pandemic was worsening, with the prevalence rate among people aged 15-49 years now at 15.6 percent, compared to 14.9 percent last year, and 8.2 percent seven years ago. Food aid should be coupled with non-food assistance and services to preserve, recover or develop the assets and livelihoods of crisis-affected communities, the FAO/WFP report recommended. There is a need for supporting affected farmers, while simultaneously promoting livelihood diversification and strengthening the non-agricultural economy. In this way, households' livelihoods can become more diversified and less dependent on rain-fed agriculture. The assessment also found that industrial crops, such as tobacco, cotton, cashews, coconuts, sunflower and citrus were undergoing an expansion that was contributing substantially to small-scale farmers' food security, while boosting agricultural exports.

(source: IRIN NEWS, June 22, 2005)