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Increasing food prices, conflict, and flooding limit household access to food

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • October 2022
Increasing food prices, conflict, and flooding limit household access to food

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  • Mensajes Clave
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2023
  • Mensajes Clave
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to persist in the Far North, which has been more affected by flooding, and in the landlocked eastern areas of the country, which are more exposed to rising food prices, where poor host households and internally displaced people (IDPs) have poor harvests and low-income sources. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity is expected in the calmer southwestern and central areas, where current harvests are average.

    • Conflict and insecurity remain key factors in acute food insecurity due to the long-term decline in agricultural and economic productivity. However, conflict levels have decreased from last year, allowing for a relative improvement in typical livelihood activities. Additionally, favorable rainfall in most of the country has led to average to above-average harvests for most households, except those in flood-affected areas, where armed groups are active or where there is a high presence of IDPs.

    • Despite some positive trends, livelihood recovery remains limited. Deteriorating road networks, insecurity, and high fuel prices contribute to poor market supply and food prices in landlocked areas. Additionally, localized flooding has caused crop losses in the Vakaga and Ouham prefectures. Food assistance needs are expected to increase from February to May 2023 as poor households deplete their food stocks and food prices begin to rise seasonally, especially in areas most affected by flooding and insecurity.

    AREA

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    National

    • Excess rainfall caused flooding that affected nearly 104,000 people and loss of productive assets, especially in the country's central, northern, and northwestern parts.
    • Food prices are slightly to moderately above the five-year average (Figure 1) due to the increase in transportation costs because of fuel shortages and the indirect effects of the Russo-Ukrainian crisis. Additionally, there are difficulties in supplying markets due to poor road conditions and insecurity.
    • Looting, robberies, and attacks by armed groups in the northwest and east, and the presence of explosive devices reported in the northwest, continue to limit population movement and access to fields and usual sources of food and income.
    • Although staple food crop production is expected to be close to average in many sub-prefectures, crop infestations (in cotton and vegetables) currently prevalent in West Africa and northern Cameroon could affect the country and result in losses, especially in vegetable production. This would reduce sources of food and household income.
    • Basic food prices are expected to remain above average due to the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on food and fuel prices, as well as typical seasonal factors. Fuel prices are of particular concern, as food distribution is already costly in CAR due to poor road conditions and insecurity.
    • The security situation will remain precarious in areas where armed groups are present, particularly in the northwest and east. Additionally, the local elections scheduled for 2023 could be accompanied by socio-political unrest that would disrupt economic activities or increase population displacement. 

    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH MAY 2023

    Flooding occurred in the northwestern part of the country between July and September because of slightly to moderately above-average rainfall compared to the 1991-2020 period. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the floods affected 104,000 people, including 29 percent of the population in the northern prefecture of Vakaga and 21 percent in the Kabo sub-prefecture (in the Ouham prefecture). Crop damage was particularly severe in the Vakaga prefecture, where 17,689 ha of crops were destroyed. In addition to the flooding, the intensity of the rains caused the road network to deteriorate, making it difficult to move goods internally, provide humanitarian assistance, and import goods from Cameroon.

    The security situation has remained relatively calm since the beginning of 2022 compared to last year. Military clashes and attacks on civilians have decreased considerably, probably because of the increased offensive by the regular armed forces and their partners and the redeployment of security forces to some regions of the country. Between January and September 30, 2022, 179 security incidents were recorded, compared to 498 during the same period in 2021, according to Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) data. Over the same period, fatalities decreased by about 37 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. This has contributed to a 28-percent decrease in the number of IDPs between December 2021 and September 2022.

    Nevertheless, the security environment remains precarious for civilians and along some roads. Looting and robberies were reported in the regions of Haute-Kotto, Ouham-Pende, Basse-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou, Mbomou, Ouham, and Bamingui-Bangoran. Explosive devices noted in the west and northwest continue to impede the movement and supply of markets, access to fields, and delivery of humanitarian assistance. Additionally, the destruction of crops in fields related to transhumance movements is marked by tensions and violent clashes between herders and farmers, as well as clashes between armed groups and herders with looting or attempted looting of livestock. These clashes are more frequent in the western (Ouham and Ouham-Pende), central (Bamingui-Bangoran and Basse-Kotto), and eastern (Mbomou and Haute-Kotto) prefectures.

    Agricultural activities were generally good, except for recurring constraints on access to seeds for production, localized restrictions on-field access, and crop diseases, especially in the Nana-Gribizi and Kemo prefectures. According to the WFP Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) survey conducted in August/September 2022, approximately 68 percent of households reported that the current harvest would be average or above average. The primary source of food for rural households is self-production and gathering and collecting forest and wildlife products such as caterpillars, wild yams, bushmeat, and greens (cassava leaves and Gnetum africanum). Poor rural households derive most of their income from selling crops (groundnuts and cassava), leafy vegetables and other gathered and wildlife products, mineral extraction, and wood and charcoal along the main roads and near urban centers. However, due to their landlocked region and the high cost of transportation, buyers from cities are unwilling to pay them reasonable prices, so the income generated is low compared to normal.

    Food assistance distribution over the past three months has been hampered mainly by the deterioration of the road network, which has prevented deliveries to some of the country's landlocked eastern sub-prefectures. However, according to data compiled by the food security cluster, food assistance between July and September covered more than 25 percent of the population in the sub-prefectures of Bria, Bambari, Bozoum, and Kabo. Rations provided correspond to 75 percent of minimum caloric needs. This assistance has helped reduce the adoption of Crisis consumption strategies by households in these areas. According to humanitarian actors, assistance is expected to continue between October and December 2022 at the same level as in previous months. As in previous years, assistance is expected to continue between January and May 2023, but with reduced coverage of areas and recipients. Planning data for the period is not available.

    With harvests underway, most households, particularly in the relatively calmer southwestern and central regions, should have typical food consumption based on their production between October and January. However, assets from agricultural and non-agricultural income remain insufficient to rebuild livelihoods in areas still under threat of looting and are limited by conflict-related restrictions on field access or movement to access usual sources of income. In these areas, poor households will remain exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity between October 2022 and January 2023. Over the same period, poor households exposed to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are primarily those affected by flooding (Vakaga prefecture and Kabo sub-prefecture in Ouham). Similarly, poor host households and poor IDPs in areas that are landlocked and under the influence of armed groups (Basse-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou, and Mbomou) will also be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). They will develop coping strategies by limiting the frequency and portions of daily meals due to their dependence on markets and limited purchasing power.

    Between February and May, poor households in relatively calmer areas may still rely on their production of cassava; green vegetables; and gathering, hunting, and fishing products to access food and generate income. These households are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. Early stock depletion will result in greater household dependence on the market in areas most affected by flooding or security restrictions as food prices begin their seasonal rise in April. In addition to the eastern prefectures, restrictions on food consumption in the Haute-Kotto, Bamingui-Bangoran, Nana-Gribizi, Ouham, and Ouaka prefectures will expose them to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity.

    Households living in urban centers depend on markets for food supplies. The southwestern and central prefectures of Lobaye, Ombelle M'Poko, Sangha-Mbaeré, Nana-Mamberé, and Kemo are the main supply centers of local foodstuffs to the capital, Bangui. Ongoing disruptions to fuel supplies have led to a 30- to 40-percent increase in fuel prices on the informal market, which has affected the cost of transporting goods. Amid inflation, food prices rose slightly to moderately in September compared to the five-year average, by 6 percent for cassava (Figure 1), 17 percent for maize, and 46 percent for imported rice. The income of poor households in urban areas comes mainly from selling construction aggregates, petty trade of market garden produce, and small day labor (masonry, mechanics, and carpentry, among others). However, increased transportation prices and high prices for staple foods negatively affect their purchasing power and, consequently, their access to staple foods. Poor households representing more than 20 percent of the population are forced to reduce dietary diversity or limit the portions of meals consumed. They are exposed to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. No significant change in access to income is expected in the coming months. Instead, seasonal price increases will continue to keep consumption Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until May 2023.

    Figures

    Figura 1

    Fuente: FEWS NET

    Figura 2

    Figure I.

    Fuente: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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