MOST DROUGHT-AFFECTED AREAS INCLUDE 4.6 MILLION PEOPLE
IN ETHIOPIA, 4 MILLION EACH IN SOMALIA AND THE SUDAN, 3.75 MILLION IN KENYA, 1.5 MILLION IN SOUTH SUDAN AND 180, 000
IN DJIBOUTI ARE IN NEED OF EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE
By David Musyoka NAIROBI (Xinhua) — One of the most defining factors for the Horn of Africa region in 2011 was the hunger and famine that affected a total of 18 million people, but efforts to seek long term solutions like weather indexed insurance and research on disease and drought resistant crops continued.
As of November, food situation in the Horn of Africa remain critical, according to the most recent global food analysis report by the United Nations agency Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Most drought-affected areas include 4.6 million people in Ethiopia, 4 million each in Somalia and the Sudan, 3.75 million in Kenya, 1.5 million in South Sudan and 180, 000 in Djibouti are in need of emergency assistance.
“Despite some improvements in the situation in Somalia due to substantial humanitarian assistance and favourable rains, food insecurity is expected to remain critical in drought-affected areas until the harvest of short-season crops in early 2012,” said FAO.
The most unique feature of hunger this year is that it was not limited to areas traditionally prone to drought. This is because extremely high prices of food have pushed many people in urban areas to poverty and others already poor into deeper poverty.
According to the Early Warning Network (FEWS NET), food security outlook for the coming months depends on the amount of rainfall the region receives at least till the end of December.
In September, leaders in the Horn of Africa met at the International Conference on Drought Situation in the Horn of Africa in Nairobi to find solutions for recurrent hunger.
The leaders pledged to work together and with international partners to find long term solutions to the problem.
“Combined regional approach should be developed, anchored on local programmes, and supported by the international community,” said Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete reaffirmed his country’s support to regional efforts towards ensuring food security and accepted to lift export of maize ban that existed in his country.
President Kikwete said despite the drought, there were areas that still enjoyed good rains raising the need for proper policy formulation to increase production in those areas so that the surplus could be transported to deficit areas.
The Tanzanian president expressed the need to revamp infrastructure, especially roads and railways, to facilitate smooth transportation of food within the region.
The leaders agreed that any lasting solution to the current crisis therefore requires holistic approach involving humanitarian assistance aimed at alleviating the suffering of Somali refugees, internally displaced people (Climate Refugees) and importantly, those facing hunger in both rural and urban areas in the countries of the Horn of Africa.
They also greed on the importance of security assistance to restore peace and stability in Somalia; development assistance to improve the adverse impact on communities that host refugees and climate Change assistance to reverse environmental degradation and to finance adaptation measures, including water harvesting and irrigation.
The year also saw concerted efforts by the private sector, scientists and development partners in addition to government to find sustainable solutions to address recurrent hunger and famine.
In Ethiopia and Kenya, weather based crop and livestock micro- insurance services continued to be sold to an increasing number of small scale farmers who are most vulnerable to harvest losses as they not have any other source of household food and income expected for their livestock or crops they grow for household food and sell the surplus.
In Ethiopia, the World Bank and its partners have been popularising the High Value Livestock Insurance. Its other partners include the Association of Ethiopian Microfinance Institutions and Nyala Insurance Company.
The importance of this insurance cover is because in Ethiopia, over 50 million people depend on livestock for their livelihood and the sector accounts for 37 to 38 percent of rural household’s cash income.
In Kenya, APA Insurance, Jubilee Insurance, Heritage Insurance and UAP Insurance companies have all introduced crop and livestock insurance products targeting small scale farmers.
Farmers are paid for either harvest losses or are paid for the inputs they spent growing the crop ensuring that they have enough inputs like seeds and fertilizers for the next season.
“The insurance schemes have the potential to attract other agricultural value chain investors to direct their resources in the sector they have avoided because of losses relating to bad weather conditions,” said James Nyoro, a food security expert and the Managing Director of Rockefeller Foundation in Africa.
“Agricultural insurance is particularly important in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa today as the extreme weather patterns generated by climate change are introducing greater volatility to food production and food prices,” Wilson Songa, Kenya’s Agriculture Secretary told Xinhua in a recent interview.
In Kenya, maize, wheat, livestock and sorghum farmers who lost their harvest to dry weather conditions have already been paid for their losses, enabling them to have inputs to replant and restock, an achievement they could not make in absence of insurance.
Among the many inventions made by scientists in Africa in collaboration with their global partners include the development of 50 new improved varieties of sorghum that are resistant to both drought and Striga disease.
These varieties have been tested in Kenya, Eritrea and Sudan, and are set for wider trial in seven countries – Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.
“We are at the tail-end of developing technologies that offer hope for problems that have been very serious sorghum production constraints in East and Central Africa. In a year’s time we should have products ready for farmers,” said Dan Kiambi, Executive Director of the Nairobi-based Africa Biodiversity Conservation and Innovations Centre (ABCIC).
FAO estimates that striga disease destroys 7 billion U.S. dollars worth of cereal crops every year in Africa, jeopardising the food security of more than 100 million people. In the Horn of Africa, Striga destroys about 2.89 billion dollars worth of maize and sorghum every year, and sorghum suffering 86 percent of this loss.
“Striga is second only to drought as a factor reducing the yield of staple food crops in Africa. It is one of the most serious constraints to cereal production in Africa, sometimes causing up to 100 per cent yield losses on farmers’fields,” said Kiambi.