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Sahel Complex Food Security Crisis

In 2004, an early end to the rains and desert locust damage to pasture lands adversely affected pasture availability and cereal production in Sahelian West Africa. These events exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and resulted in elevated food insecurity in agro-pastoral and pastoral zones in Niger , Mali , Burkina Faso , and Mauritania . The situation in Niger was considered to be an emergency, with more than 2.65 million people affected. In Burkina Faso , Mali , and Mauritania , more than two million people were food insecure and the situation in these countries warranted close monitoring. USAID recognized that endemic poverty and underdevelopment are critical factors contributing to the humanitarian emergency and is continuing to address these factors through a combination of USAID development and humanitarian assistance.

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In response to the humanitarian emergency, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) to Sahelian West Africa on August 3, 2005 . USAID/DART staff include a public health and nutrition specialist, a water and sanitation specialist, a food aid officer, and an information officer. Additional USAID/DART members already in the region included regional advisors for North and West Africa , a development officer, and a USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET ) representative. On August 11, USAID activated a Response Management Team (RMT) in Washington , D.C. to assist the USAID/DART. DASP Mission Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, Chris Leonardo, served as the Deputy Manager for Coordination.

In September 2005, DASP Detailer Steven Evett, a soil scientist and groundwater specialist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, participated in an assessment of water availability for crop cultivation, animal husbandry, and human consumption in three regions of northern Mali. Water availability in these regions is highly variable, leading to extreme fragility of the the food supply in drought periods. As part of the assessment team, Steve evaluated current conditions and provided recommendations to increase water availability. With poor rainfall in 2004, followed by spotty rains in 2005, water shortages are predicted to occur as early as January 2006 and last through July 2006. The team recommended providing modern wells and improving traiditonal wells to improve access to pastures in mountainous regions in the north. The team also suggested constructing and repairing small water control dams and structures, as well as deepening and extending canals, to bring early flood waters into cultivated floodplains to improve rice production.

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