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Heavy rain and flooding leading to sustained high food prices during the harvesting period

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Central African Republic
  • October 2019
Heavy rain and flooding leading to sustained high food prices during the harvesting period

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Vakaga, Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou, and Haute-Mbomou through May due to low agricultural production in conflict-affected areas, insecurity that restricts household movement, and high food prices. Internally displaced persons in these areas are most likely to face food gaps, given limited access to livelihoods activities and poor humanitarian access.

    • National agricultural production is currently expected to be above the five-year average, but heavy rainfall in October has prevented crop drying and storage during the ongoing main harvest. As a result, household and market availability of cereals remains low, leading to high cereal prices that restrict food access. In October, the price of cassava and maize in key reference markets in Bangui, Bambari, Bria and Bangassou are on average 60 and 50 percent higher, respectively, compared to October 2018.

    • Despite improvements in security conditions, armed group activity continues to restrict humanitarian access and delivery of food assistance in eastern and southeastern CAR. Poor access is compounded by poor road infrastructure and the difficulties of reaching remote areas, especially in the ongoing rainy season. Attacks against humanitarians occurred 30 times per month on average from July to September, primarily in Kaga-Bandoro, Bambari, and Batangafo. 





    Violence perpetrated by armed groups has continued in some areas. Most significantly, 10-20,000 people were displaced by violence in in Birao of Vakaga prefecture. An estimated 600,000 people remain internally displaced across the country, 34 percent of whom are located in sites and 66 percent with host families. However, an estimated 4,795 refugees have voluntarily repatriated in 2019, in addition to spontaneous IDP and refugee returns.

    Above-average cumulative rainfall in September and October resulted in flooding and displacement in Bangui, Ombella-Mpoko, Ouham, Ouaka, and Basse-Kotto along the Oubangui and Ouaka rivers. The heavy rains have also prevented crops from being dried and stored, which has contributed to low market supply and led to sustained high food prices at a time when prices would normally fall.

    Periodic violence between armed groups is expected to continue, primarily in the east, despite a national trend of improvement in security conditions in 2019. Intercommunal and farmer-herder conflict is also likely during the dry season. Although these conflict events continue to reflect the instability of the situation, relatively improved security is likely to continue to facilitate the voluntary or spontaneous return of IDPs and refugees. 

    Rainfall is most likely to cease beginning in November, and the start of the dry season is likely to facilitate crop marketing and lead to a seasonal decline in staple food prices. Overall, market household dependence is likely to remain typical during the projection period.



    With the main harvest underway from October through January, food availability is gradually improving at the household level across most of the country. According to government estimates, national production is expected to be above the recent five-year average, with a 17 percent increase in cassava production and a 21 percent increase in maize production. The increase in national production is attributed to improved security conditions that permitted an increase in area planted, coupled with generally favorable rainfall. According to the results of various multisectoral needs assessments (MSNAs) conducted in July and August, an average 70 percent of households nationally were able to engage in agricultural cultivation this year. On the prefecture level, production is anticipated to range from 20 to 50 percent above the five-year average in Lobaye, Kémo, Ombella-Mpocko, Ouham-Pendé, Nana-Membéré, Sangha-Mbaéré and Mambéré-Kadai. It should be noted that crop production is still estimated to be below the pre-crisis average.

    In areas where insecurity and flooding has reduced access to fields or caused crop loss, a decline in production is expected to continue to constrain local food availability. Ongoing heavy rainfall and flooding is impeding the harvest or damaging crops in some prefectures, while cassava disease has negatively impacted production in Kémo. In prefectures where armed groups remain active, less than 50 percent of households on average were able to engage in agricultural cultivation. Cassava production is expected to range from 17 to 37 percent below average in the prefectures of Basse-Kotto, Mbomou, Haute-Kotto and Ouaka.

    Despite improving food availability, the ongoing rainy season and insecurity is inhibiting food access, which has sustained high food prices. On the one hand, the rain is impeding post-harvest handling, drying, and storage of crops, which is leading to post-harvest crop loss and affecting crop sales and marketing. On the other hand, market feeder roads remain poor due to the rain and armed groups continue to pose illicit taxes, which increase transport costs. As a result, staple foods such as a cassava are in low supply and cereal prices remain high compared to October 2018. For example, based on market monitoring information, the retail price of cassava rose 100 percent in Bria and 33 percent in Bangassou compared to last year, while the retail price of corn rose an average 75 percent across both markets. However, markets are will supplied with vegetables and wild foods (mushrooms, wild yam, snails) and prices for these products are fairly normal.

    The flooding of the Oubangui and Ouaka rivers in mid-October occurred in several localities along the southern border and in central CAR, including Alindao, Bakala, Bangui, Bimbo, Bouca, Kouango, Mobaye, Moungoumba, and Ombella-Mpoko. This led to the destruction of housing and property and could negatively impact the vulnerability of households in the areas concerned. The interim budget prepared by the government in collaboration with the Red Cross indicates 28,640 people have been affected by these floods. Additional rain is forecast in southern CAR in the coming week, which could further affect households along the Oubangui river and increase the risk of waterborne disease and contaminated water sources.

    Clashes between armed groups and wider insecurity continues to result in new population displacement, prevent a higher level of returns, restrict humanitarian access, and disrupt local livelihoods. However, relative improvements in security conditions across western CAR and localized areas in the east in 2019 has facilitated the return of some IDPs and refugees to their places of origin. In September, armed violence in Birao displaced tens of thousands of people, and 10,000 remained registered as IDPs in Birao as of October, according to OCHA. By the end of September, the total population of displaced persons across CAR had increased to 600,000. Despite this increase, UNHCR has supported the voluntary repatriation of 8,870 refugees to their place of origin since 2017, and the return of 6,350 people sheltering in Cameroon is also underway. Additional spontaneous returns of refugees and IDPs are reported by the UNICEF-led Rapid Response Mechanism, totaling 87,000 in 2019, though not all are able to return to their place of origin and remain secondarily displaced. Continued armed group activity makes the conditions of return precarious, even though there is an improving trend.

    Based on WFP information provided at the September 2019 IPC analysis, food assistance delivery reached at least 25 percent of the population in Obo, Satema, Alindao, and Mingala sub-prefectures, as well as in Birao settlement of Vakaga. This assistance is primarily directed to IDPs at settlements sites or living among host families, though some local families also sometimes access food assistance. Food assistance is also reaching additional IDP sites representing less than 25 percent of the sub-prefecture population, where it continues to mitigate food gaps for IDP households whose access to normal food and income sources has been disrupted. However, humanitarian access constraints continue to restrict deliveries in Haute-Kotto, Haut-Mbomou, and Mboumou.

    As a result of low agricultural production, ongoing insecurity, high food prices, and displacement, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to be widespread in eastern and south-eastern prefectures, including Vakaga, Haute-Kotto, Basse-Kotto, Mbomou and Haute-Mbomou. Without sustained food assistance, IDPs and poor host families will continue to have food gaps through May, despite the availability of the harvest. Household harvests are expected to be exhausted by early February, leading to heightened dependence on market food purchases and wild foods. Food consumption quality and quantity may deteriorate from February to May, but these food sources are most likely to mitigate large food gaps for most households. However, some households in worst-affected areas could experience more severe outcomes, particularly if conflict quickly shifts or cuts off households from food or incomes sources.

    In the central prefectures of Nana-Gribizi, Ouaka, and Ouham, where IDPs represent 41, 21, and 10 percent of the population and mining activity further attracts population influx, demand for staple foods is expected to continue to exceed supply, sustaining high food prices. High food prices in these areas are expected to drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes for poor households in these areas. In contrast, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security is expected remaining areas, given an increase in household crop production, improved access to wild food sources as a result of the rains, and expectation of a decline in food prices after the end of the rainy season.

    Figures Rainfall anomaly map in mm. Rainfall accumulative was 200 mm above average in western and northern CAR and up to 100 mm below

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: Climate Hazards Center UC Santa Barbara

    Picture of a neighborhood inundated by flood water after the flooding of the Oubangui River in Bangui, CAR

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: Florent Vergnes/ AFP

    CAR Seasonal Calendar for a typical Year

February to May is the main rainy season. Mid-February to mid-May is the minor le

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: 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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