Home Country News Drought threatens to cause devastation in East Africa

Drought threatens to cause devastation in East Africa

by Grace Kisembo

Food and Agriculture Organization Director of Emergencies and Resilience Rein Paulsen told reporters that a “very small window” exists for taking urgent action.

He said this at a virtual news conference on Monday after a visit to the East Africa region where droughts have wrought havoc as more than 1.5 million heads of cattle died and cereal production nosedived drastically.

This is not good news for the Horn of Africa region, a region where livestock and agriculture are the mainstays of people’s lives.

“We are most definitely now sitting on the brink of catastrophe,” said Paulsen, adding that the agency had put out a call for millions in funding it needs until June this year to support their work in the region, which includes parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya, such as providing urgent fodder and water to keep livestock alive.

It remains to be seen whether the region will receive adequate rain between March and May, after “extremely poor” short rains that came between October and December last year – the third consecutive failed rainy season with lower average rains, a worrying concern for vulnerable households.

The result of the drought meant that overall cereal production for the last rainy season in southern Somalia was estimated to be 58 per cent lower than the long-term average, Paulsen said. In agricultural areas in marginal coastal zones in south-eastern parts of Kenya, “we’re looking at crop production estimated to be 70 per cent below average”, he said.

In addition, most water sources that have usually been resilient to climate variability have dried up in Kenya, he said.

Paulsen said $130m in funding is essential now to provide cash for people to buy food until production resumes, to keep livestock alive, and to provide drought-resistant seeds that can help farmers reap a harvest.

“We have a window to the middle of this year – to June, which is a very time-sensitive, narrow window for urgent actions to scale up to prevent a worst-case scenario,” Paulsen said. “Agriculture needs a lot more attention. It’s central to the survival of drought-affected communities.”

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