World Bulletin / News Desk
Marie Heleine Koyara, the Central African Republic (CAR)'s minister of state for rural development and agriculture, has warned of a possible "severe" food shortage if the spate of sectarian bloodletting in her country didn't end soon.
"There are only a few farmers who have continued to produce food crops during the conflict, and it's not enough to cater to the entire nation," Koyara told Anadolu Agency in an interview at her office in capital Bangui.
"If the violence continues, we might face a severe food shortage because many farmers will flee," she said.
The landlocked African country descended into anarchy in March 2013 when Seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslim – ousted Francois Bozize, a Christian, who had come to power in a 2003 coup.
Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, was then installed as interim president.
In the months since, the country has been plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between the anti-balaka, a Christian militia, and former seleka fighters.
Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict began.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 900,000 Central Africans now live in 115 makeshift sites and host communities across the country.
Almost 250,000 Central Africans have sought refuge in neighboring countries, meanwhile, mainly Cameroon and Chad.
Prior to the crisis, said Minister Koyara, CAR had produced much food.
"Most people in the country now depend on food aid given to them by relief organizations, such as the World Food Program," she lamented.
OCHA estimates that nearly 2.5 million people – over half the country's 4.6 million-strong population – are now in need of humanitarian assistance, some 90 percent of whom eat only meal a day.
The minister admitted that the country was facing a meat shortage because the Muslim traders who used to control the cattle trade from Chad had fled the country due to the sectarian violence.
"Many traders have fled the country fearing for their lives. But we're currently addressing the issue so as to avoid a crisis," Koyara said.
In a report issued this month, UK-based charity Oxfam said that most of Bangui's food trade relied on about 40 large-scale wholesalers who import food from neighboring countries for resale on the local market.
But the report noted that fewer than ten of these wholesalers were still operating, but might also flee if the violence continued.
Prices for most goods had skyrocketed in Bangui, according to AA reporters on the ground.
Koyara, for her part, stressed that her government would seek to modernize the country's agricultural sector.
"We can't accept to see our population going hungry and children becoming malnourished," she said. "We have a lot of resources to develop agriculture."
The minister noted that the government had recently donated nine tractors to help women and young farmers in nine different provinces.
The tractors, she explained, would be used alternately between the local communities of each province with a view to bolstering agricultural output.
"With a well-planned program, agriculture could employee up to a million people," the minister said.Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2014, 11:26