With the year’s main planting season just weeks away, many in the Central African Republic (CAR) have been left desperately ill-equipped by months of conflict. In the charred village of Bessan, to the west of the country, the concerns are typical: a dire lack of seeds, tools and manpower.
Here many houses are roofless with fire-blackened walls; even intact homes lack furniture, food or tools.
“The Seleka stole our machetes, hoes, rakes and watering cans and even our beds and other belongings,” one of the villagers, Veronique Nabata, told IRIN, referring to the alliance of mainly Muslim rebel groups that swept to power in a coup in March 2013 and for the next few months committed atrocities in many parts of the country.
“They also took our stocks of groundnuts, maize, beans and pistachio, and the Peuls [a semi-nomadic people] grazed their herds on our fields of manioc.”
Males aged 15-45 are scarce in the village; there were hardly any among the 20 or so people who listened as Nabata and other community leaders explained the difficulties they are facing.
A village elder, Isidore Ngaldi, said the young men were needed to help prepare the fields, but added that they had all fled to the bush.
The last two seasons in Bessan and in many other CAR villages were severely disrupted by marauding Seleka gangs and their local allies. A third unsuccessful season will result in “a full scale food and nutrition crisis”, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned, “requiring a long and costly food assistance operation”.
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