Torrential floods impact food security in West, Central Africa

Souloukna Mourga waded through his flooded millet and cotton field in northern Cameroon, uprooting soggy stems that had a few bolls on them. All six hectares of mostly dead crops were under water.

The 50-year-old father of 12 is one of an estimated 4 million people, many of them small subsistence farmers, in more than a dozen countries in West and Central Africa that have seen their crops decimated by unusually heavy flooding.

Floods have destroyed this season’s harvest, while nearly 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres) of farmland across the region remain under water. Soil nutrients are being washed away, setting the scene for an even worse crop next season.

Around Mourga’s farm in Dana village on the floodplain of the Logone River bordering Cameroon and Chad, hundreds of hectares of crops and dotted huts in hamlets remain under water.

“I have nothing left. We are facing famine…the water has taken everything,” Mourga said.

Some 300km (186 miles) north of Dana, it took Bernadette Handing, 37, two hours in a canoe to reach her flooded millet farm in Kournari, south of the Chadian capital.

“What I was able to save from the farm cannot support our family for a month. What is certain, we will die of hunger in winter,” she said.

Before the floods, West and Central Africa were already facing a bleak food security situation, said Sib Ollo of the World Food Programme.

Conflict in the Sahel region has displaced nearly 8 million people, most of them farmers, for whom the pandemic had disrupted from farming. That, along with prolonged drought last year and fallout from the Ukraine crisis – which reduced fertiliser supplies to the region – meant crop output was going to be low.

“It is an unprecedented situation,” Ollo said. “This is a perfect storm of factors all playing and leading us towards a catastrophe, a major crisis.”

The number of people who are food insecure and need aid in the region was more than 40 million before the floods, said Kouacou Dominique Koffy, head of the West Africa emergency and resilience team for the Food and Agriculture Organisation. -Reuters

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