by Zakari Usman
In January 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) published the rapid assessment report on the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak’s impact on agriculture and food security.
The findings of this assessment, carried out between 14 October and 3 November 2014, show a significant deterioration in households’ food security. The outbreak has had a considerable impact in affected areas, especially on markets, agricultural and livestock sectors and sources of income such as agricultural labour, small shops and hunting and selling bush meat.
According to the assessment’s findings, the coming farming year will see a fall of 4 percent nationally for rice production, the main food staple for Guinea’s population. In affected areas, 74 percent of the communities interviewed said they had reduced their number of meals and 59 percent admit that they have eaten their seed stock. Agricultural production’s contribution to the GDP is set to shrink from 5.3 to 3.3%.
The results of this rapid assessment enable the Government and its partners to identify and set up measures to support the agricultural sector. Alternatives are envisaged to support and protect the livelihoods of communities whose activities have been disrupted by the epidemic. Special attention will be given to women’s groups, especially those whose members used to earn most of their income from selling bush meat before the ban.
When the findings of the rapid assessment were presented in Conakry in December 2014, Jacqueline Marthe Sultan, the Minister for Agriculture, urged partners to act, “We need to act quickly and effectively to help farming communities challenged by the outbreak”.
In response to this appeal, WFP Representative, Ms Elisabeth Marie FAURE explained that “in the short term, her organization plans to reopen canteens in 843 primary schools in rural areas when term starts again in January 2015”.
The FAO Representative, Isaias Angue OBAMA, listed the activities currently implemented by FAO to fight the epidemic, in particular its participation in the National Ebola Coordination Unit’s social mobilization efforts. From October to December 2014, more than 81 823 farmers, hunters and herders were sensitized to preventative measures against Ebola through an awareness campaign led by 90 agents from public ministries trained with FAO support.
He also presented FAO’s response programme that takes into account this assessment’s recommendations, proposing actions aiming to revive agricultural production, income-generating activities, alternatives to selling bush meat and post-harvest activities. In order to implement the programme, FAO is launching an appeal for funding of 14.2 million dollars to improve the livelihood resilience of the 75 000 farming households hardest hit by the outbreak in Guinea.
While recognizing that the current priority is to stop the disease from spreading, the FAO Representative pointed out that “from now on, we must support the rural population in managing the post-Ebola phase. Preparations are therefore underway for an ‘Early Warning System’ project document”. The objective of this new FAO assistance to the government will focus on the establishment of a harmonized framework between ministries and decentralized structures through the creation of working groups to foster a multisectoral approach.