Agricultural Crisis Looms in CAR

    10 February, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    The United Nations says farmers in the Central African Republic need seeds and tools before the next planting season if the country is to avoid a food crisis.

    Two high-level UN officials were recently in Bangui -- the capital of the CAR. One of them: John Ging is the operations director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

    Agricultural Crisis Looms in CAR
    FILE - John Ging, head of operations at the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

    He told reporters the international community must help Central Africans displaced by fight to plant enough food for the next harvest - the next planting season begins in March.

    "The most urgent needs are exactly what you would expect - assistance with the seeds and tools for helping themselves to recover their livelihoods. We've got to focus on helping people to help themselves," he said.

    The United Nations says conflict within the CAR has displaced more than 800,000 people, most of them since September.

    It says not enough land was planted because of the conflict throughout the country last year. Food supplies are now very low and there is a shortage of seeds.

    A complete breakdown of law and order last year meant that crime was a problem. In many areas, bandits stole seeds, farm animals, tools and other equipment, some villages were burned to the ground.

    The group -- Human Rights Watch has been watching the situation in the country. It says the Seleka rebels who seized power last March destroyed many areas even after their leader had become president.

    The Central African Republic is home to about 4.5 million people, but the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says more than one million of them lack a reliable, dependable food supply.

    Last month, Mr Ging called for more aid organizations to come to the CAR.

    "We need more of the large international non-governmental organizations [NGOs] to come here - urgently. If you go to any of the countries where we have very large humanitarian operations, you will see all of the big international non-governmental organizations present in those countries. Many of those large international organizations are not present in this country," said Mr Ging.

    He also asked for more money to meet the needs of the country. So far, he said, only $30 million had been received after groups asked for $247 million. He said the needs are increasing.

    And that's the Agriculture Report from VOA Learning English. For more stories about agriculture, go to our website Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube all at VOA Learning English. Write to us, our email address is I'm Christopher Cruise.