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Rural households face 30-to-45-day "period of hunger"

Although the current agricultural season (September 2003 - January 2004) was progressing "fairly well" in most of Rwanda, the poorest rural households in certain areas would experience "a difficult period of hunger" that could last 30 to 45 days, FEWS NET reported on Friday.

FEWS said the areas most likely to be affected included Butare, Gikongoro, Gisenyi and Ruhengeri provinces and in Bugesera region, as well as in pockets of Umutara and Kibungo provinces.

It said the total population living in those areas and exposed to the hunger period was estimated at 1.5 million - almost 20 percent of the total population of Rwanda - of which about 25 percent, or roughly 375,000 people, actually experienced hunger during lean periods of the year.

FEWS said that most households in hunger-affected areas employed a wide variety of coping strategies, such as off-farm employment, temporary migration, petty trade, transport and trading in food commodities across agro-ecological zones, and participation in cash-for-work and food-for-work projects. It said that some households also reduced the number of daily meals - generally from three to two - and/or the quantity eaten per meal. Despite this, FEWS said, the food security status was considered "fairly good" in most of the country, at least until the end of the year.

"While it is too early to predict the outcome of the current season, there is an area in central Rwanda, including Gitarama Province and Bugesera Region in Kigali Rural Province, where rains are still not yet established," FEWS stated.

In those areas barely half the population had planted, whereas they normally should have planted by 15 October.

"If rainfall improves now, there still remains a possibility for late planting by end of October- early November," FEWS said. "If not, the current food crisis in Bugesera, which up to now could be described as moderate, may become severe."

FEWS NET, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, is a USAID-funded activity that collaborates with international, national, and regional partners to provide early warning and vulnerability information on emerging or evolving food security issues.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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