Côte d’Ivoire: UN rushes in agriculture aid as gradual calm begins to return

Ivorians collect food at distribution centre in the west of the country

18 April 2011 – As calm gradually returns to Côte d’Ivoire after months of post-election violence, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that it is rushing to assist farmers as they prepare to sow their rice and maize crops at the onset of the rainy season in the north and west of the country.

The agency says it is procuring seeds, tools and fertilizer kits for around 12,000 farming households in both Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, where an estimated 150,000 Ivorian refugees have sought safety since their country descended into violence after the presidential run-off election last November. The unrest displaced up to a million people inside Côte d’Ivoire.

FAO hopes that helping the internally displaced persons (IDPs), as well as refugees and host communities will prevent future tensions and further hardship.

The agency has requested an initial $4.25 million from donors as part of the general $160 million humanitarian appeal for Côte d’Ivoire, and $6 million for Liberia.

“Food to cover the lean season until the next harvest has not been stockpiled as it usually is and there will not be enough,” said Luc Genot, the FAO Emergency Coordinator in the Côte d’Ivoire.

“In addition, pressure is being put on household food supplies by increasing numbers of displaced people from the conflict in rural areas. Unless these people are helped to plant now, they are going to need food assistance for many months to come,” Mr. Genot added.

Violence, fuel shortages and roadblocks have restricted transport, causing seed and fertilizer shortages in the country, according to FAO.

The refusal by former president Laurent Gbagbo to stand down after he lost the UN-certified run-off poll in November plunged the West African country into four months of violence, with his troops pitted against forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized President. Mr. Gbagbo surrendered a week ago and was taken into custody.

The recent violence in Côte d’Ivoire followed a decade of political upheaval that had already taken a toll on the population and on food security in what was once one of the strongest agricultural economies in West Africa.

The FAO intervention to shore up the current planting season has so far received support from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and from the agency’s own resources.

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