After three years of relative peace in Angola, the food security situation is still precarious for large sections of the population
Three years on since the beginning of the peace process in Angola, the devastation wrought by 20 years of civil war is still severely restricting agricultural production and crippling the country's marketing networks, according to a Special Report by a joint FAO/WFP mission to the country.
With about one million people internally displaced, many farming families have still not returned to their lands and others that have are prevented from working in the fields by mines. Although NGOs and UN Agencies are providing seeds and tools to farmers in most provinces, shortage of fertilizers, plant protection equipment and chemicals, hand tools and animal traction equipment continue to keep cereal harvests down to less than half pre-war levels.
The joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission that visited the country in May, forecast that domestic cereal production in 1997 will provide less than half of the needs of the 12.8 million men, women and children in Angola. Cereal production for 1996 was considered good, at about 500 000 tonnes, but this year's harvest is down because of poor rainfall. As most of the roads have now been demined, the FAO/WFP mission was able to visit 15 of the country's 18 provinces.
Production of the staple cereals - maize, millet and sorghum - for 1997 is projected at 431 000 tonnes, while 972 000 tonnes are needed to meet the country's needs. With commercial imports for 1997/98 projected at just 279 000 tonnes, nearly half the deficit will have to be met by food aid, more than 50 percent of which will be unprogrammed emergency aid. Cassava production is forecast at 698 000 tonnes (grain equivalent), up 85 percent from last year's harvest. However, cassava production and consumption are largely concentrated in the northern half of the country. Before the outbreak of civil war, Angola was self-sufficient in most foodcrops and was a major world exporter of coffee and sisal.
According to the FAO/WFP report, Angola has the potential to be one of the most economically productive countries in sub-Saharan Africa. It is rich in oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals and has "important hydroelectric capacity from numerous rivers, a vast area of agricultural land suitable for a wide range of crops and livestock, large fresh water and marine fisheries and extensive forestry resources." Its petroleum production - 500 000 to 650 000 barrels of oil a day - makes it the second largest producer south of the Sahara, after Nigeria. With total annual exports now valued at about US$ 3 billion, Angola is the fourth largest exporting country in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, a large part of the country's earnings had been devoted to financing over 20 years of civil war, with defence and security expenditure rising to US$ 1.6 billion for 1995 alone. As a result, the country is now crippled by an external debt of more than US$ 12 billion, spiralling budget deficits and annual inflation well into four figures. With the inauguration in April this year of a Government of Reconciliation and National Unity and a National Assembly, both of which include representatives of UNITA, Angola should now be able to embark on the reconstruction and development that will ensure food security for all its people.
In this connection, FAO recently provided much needed technical assistance to the government to review agricultural sector policy and strategy and to organize a national workshop in May 1997 to discuss options for agricultural recovery and development in the country.
9 June 1997