By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
The growing insecurity, violence and decline in crop production in the restive South West and North West Regions of Cameroon are driving population displacement and worsening food insecurity.
Agriculture is the main stay of populations in the two regions with more than two thirds of the population dependent on farming. With the rainy season-planting season fast approaching, most of the farms still remain disserted and uncultivated in the regions. Over 1 million people have been displaced in the regions with farmers abandoning their fields which are their source of livelihood.
The US Agency for International Development, USAID in a report published February 25, 2019 warned that this unfortunate situation will trigger food insecurity in the coming months in the two regions. “Approximately 1.4 million people in the North West and South West Regions will face stressed (phase 2) levels of acute food insecurity from March-May, according to Cadre Harmonisé (CH), a tool used in West Africa for the classification and quantification of food insecurity”, the report reveals.
According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Networks, insecurity, displacement, a decline in crop production and subsequently strained livelihoods will likely cause vulnerable households in the North West and South West Regions to experience crisis (IPC 3) levels of food insecurity through May of this year.
Senator Ngam Honore of Fundong, in the North West Region of Cameroon-one of the most affected divisions says the agricultural sector has been hardest hit by the crisis which has crippled domestic food production.
An Agricultural economist of the University of Bamenda who opted for anonymity said: “Farmers in West Africa have been severely affected by this crisis, with fear and panic resulting in many having abandoned their farms, which in turn has led to disruption in food production and a soaring rise in food prices”. “Staple foods such as rice and maize will reportedly be scaled back due to shortages in farm labour with potential catastrophic effect on food security”.
The coordinator of the National Programme for Monitoring and Strengthening Food Security in Cameroon, Marie-Jeanine Nkodo Atanga had in 2018 observed that, it was necessary to maintain increased surveillance on the on-going crisis because the “spectre of food insecurity hovers in March and May 2019”.
The humanitarian needs of people in Cameroon have risen sharply owing to the upsurge in insecurity and violence leaving women and children requiring assistance especially in the domain of food.
According to a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, insecurity and violence have forced more than 400,000 people to flee their homes and continue to have serious consequences on livelihoods and living conditions. Around 351,000 IDPs and 372,000 people in the host community need water, sanitation and hygiene services.
Many of the conflict-hit population are suffering severe emotional stress. About 3,700 unaccompanied or separated children need urgent assistance and psycho-social care.