West Africa is facing its third food crisis in less than a decade, affecting the lives of over 18 million people. Communities across the Sahel have had little time to recover from the last food crisis in West Africa in 2010 — their savings and livestock herds remain depleted. Crop yields in West Africa are low and food prices are abnormally high, heightening food insecurity across West Africa.
This year, the rains have failed us. As the rice and other crops were about to do well, the rains stopped coming and the crops began to die. At most times, my wives and I go without food to allow the children to have just enough to eat for the day.
Gelajo Jallow, a farmer from the Upper River Division, The Gambia, West Africa
ActionAid works in many countries in West Africa and among these a number are suffering, directly and indirectly, from the food crisis across the region. Parts of Nigeria and Ghana have been affected but currently the hardest hit countries in which ActionAid works are The Gambia and Senegal.
The food crisis currently being experienced in these two countries is a result of a number of factors, including widespread crop failure as a result of inadequate and erratic rains. The problem has been aggravated by rising food prices, chronic underlying poverty and government policies which have failed to invest sufficient resources in agriculture, particularly for women farmers and farmers with small plots of land across West Africa.
It's estimated that over 605,000 people in The Gambia have been affected, whilst in Senegal, over 850,000 people are going hungry.
Bleak outlook for West Africa
The food crisis is likely to deteriorate further in the coming months, especially if the next rainy season is poor. It’s feared a lack of seed for the next planting season will make the food crisis even worse. It is also likely that water for both human and animal consumption will become scarce in the worst hit areas.
What we're doing in West Africa
ActionAid has been working in Senegal and The Gambia for many years, and our teams of local staff already responding to the food crisis in collaboration with local partners.
In The Gambia, we've provided food supplies for over 15,000 people in the North Bank and Central River regions. Our "food for work" programmes - in which people receive food in return for work on community projects like building dykes around rice fields to reduce salt intrusion - are reaching over 2,000 people.
In Senegal, we've reached nearly 15,000 of the most vulnerable people affected by the food crisis in the east of the country, providing much-needed food. We've also distributed locally appropriate food for young children, who are always amongst the hardest hit in crises like this.