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New drought risks in Ethiopia put recovery at risk (17.01.2017)

Hailemariam Desalegn Ethiopia

FAO targets pastoralists in southern regions facing failed rains on heels of a calamitous El Niño.

ROME, Italy, January 17, 2017 -New drought across swathes of southern Ethiopia may jeopardize the East African nation’s restoration of food security after the worst agricultural seasons in decades unless urgent efforts are made to shore up vulnerable households in rural areas, FAO warned today.

While an impressive government-led humanitarian effort has sharply reduced the number of hungry during the worst drought in 50 years, the legacy of last year’s El Niño along with low rainfall during a critical season pose renewed risks now, especially for pastoral communities facing forage shortfalls and water scarcity in southern regions.

Safeguarding recent gains requires responding to the livelihood-sustaining needs of fragile households that lost or sold livestock and other assets, often adding to family debt burdens to cope with the worst El Niño in modern history.

Effective and timely action has reduced the number of people who will need food aid in 2017 to 5.6 million, down from almost twice as much last August, according to the newly released Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD). However, food security in 120 woredas (districts) has worsened since July, while 86 woredas are entering their third year (since December 2015) of top-priority emergency status.

The just-approved HRD, jointly developed by the Government of Ethiopia along with UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and other development partners, covers a range of subjects including education, access to water and nutrition. It advises that the bulk of the agriculture sector needs are related to assistance to pastoralists and agropastoralists livestock assistance – a total of $42 million is required by the sector to reach 1.9 million households, mainly in drought-affected southern and southeastern pastoral regions, this year.

Drought strikes again
While northern and western Ethiopia bore the brunt of El Niño, a new drought is emerging in southern and southeastern pastoral areas including Oromia, Somali and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNP) after poor, delayed and erratic rains curbed pasture and water availability. Some 80 percent of Ethiopians depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods and an even higher share of the country’s arable land relies on seasonal rainfall.

Below-average precipitation has also affected neighboring Somalia and Kenya. The impact is expected to be most dire in early 2017 among livestock, with unusually early migrations, excess mortality rates and extreme emaciation.

FAO calls for an immediate response to support the food security and nutrition of households reliant on animals. Along with the provision of supplementary animal feed, especially along migratory routes, targeted destocking interventions will be implemented to make protein-rich meat available for vulnerable pastoral communities and support livestock prices in local markets.

Poorly-fed animals reproduce less frequently, lengthening the prospective time required to rebuild herds. For Ethiopian households, restocking after the loss of half of one’s cattle typically takes four years without adverse conditions.

Addressing fragility

Even though FAO’s support will focus on communities depending on livestock, some areas along the Rift Valley, however, especially in the northern and eastern highlands, are facing below-average crop production and therefore receive prioritized agricultural support as recovery will take longer than anticipated.

South Sudan refugees and their hosting communities in Gambella Region, are facing significant food availability and access challenges, and enabling households to produce more of their own food is essential.

After having reached 1.3 million farmers and herders affected by the El Niño-induced drought in 2016, FAO is appealing for $20 million to reach one million farming, agropastoral and pastoral households in 2017, with the aim of protecting gains made last year and preventing vulnerable households from slipping further into food insecurity.

FAO’s programme seeks in particular to support crop production, implement emergency response and resilience activities in the livestock sector, support livelihoods in refugee-hosting areas and strengthen coordination, information and analysis.

With continued drought, Horn of Africa braces for another hunger season (20.12.2016)

kenya-drought

Agricultural support critical now to protect livestock, equip families to plant in rainy season.

ROME, Italy, December 20, 2016 – Countries in the Horn of Africa are likely to see a rise in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, as farming families struggle with the knock-on effects of multiple droughts that hit the region this year, FAO warned today. Growing numbers of refugees in East Africa, meanwhile, are expected to place even more burden on already strained food and nutrition security.

Currently, close to 12 million people across Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are in need of food assistance, as families in the region face limited access to food and income, together with rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production. Terms of trade are particularly bad for livestock farmers, as food prices are increasing at the same time that market prices for livestock are low.

Farmers in the region need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years. Production outputs in the three countries are grim.

Rapid intervention

“We’re dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division. “But we also know from experience that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods,” he stressed.

For this reason, FAO has already begun disbursing emergency funds for rapid interventions in Kenya and Somalia.

The funds will support emergency feed and vaccinations for breeding and weak animals, repairs of water points, and seeds and tools to plant in the spring season. FAO is also working with local officials to bolster countries’ emergency preparedness across the region.

“Especially in those areas where we know natural hazards are recurring, working with the Government to further build-up their ability to mitigate future shocks is a smart intervention that can significantly reduce the need for humanitarian and food aid further down the line,” Burgeon said.

Kenya is highly likely to see another drought in early 2017, and with it a rise in food insecurity. Current estimates show some 1.3 million people are food insecure.

Based on the latest predictions, the impacts of the current drought in the southern part of the country will lessen by mid-2017, but counties in the North – in particular Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera – will steadily get worse.

Families in these areas are heavily dependent on livestock. Now, with their livelihoods already stressed – the last reliable rain they received was in December 2015- they will get little relief from the October-December short rains, which typically mark a recovery period but once again fell short this season.

In the affected counties, the terms of trade have become increasingly unfavourable for livestock keepers, as prices of staple foods are rising, while a flood of weakened sheep, goats and cows onto local markets has brought down livestock prices.

To ensure livestock markets remain functional throughout the dry season in 2017, FAO, is training local officials in better managing livestock markets — in addition to providing feed, water and veterinary support.

After two poor rainy seasons this year, Somalia is in a countrywide state of drought emergency, ranging from moderate to extreme. As a result, the Gu cereal harvest – from April to June – was 50 percent below average, and prospects for the October-December Deyr season are very grim.

To make matters worse, the country’s driest season – the Jilaal that begins in January- is expected to be even harsher than usual, which means Somali famers are unlikely to get a break anytime soon.

All indications are that crop farmers are already facing a second consecutive season with poor harvest. Pastoralists, meanwhile, are struggling to provide food for both their families and livestock, as pasture and water for grazing their animals are becoming poorer and scarcer by the day – in the south, pasture availability is the lowest it has been in the past five years.

Some five million Somalis are food insecure through December 2016. This includes 1.1 million people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity (Phases 3 and 4 on the five-tier IPC scale used by humanitarian agencies). This is a 20 percent increase in just six months.

The latest analysis forecasts that the number of people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity may further rise by more than a quarter of a million people between February and May 2017. Similar conditions in 2011 have resulted in famine and loss of lives, and therefore early action is urgently needed to avoid a repeat.

FAO calls on resource partners to urgently scale up assistance in rural areas, in the form of cash relief, emergency livestock support and agricultural inputs to plant in the April Gu season.

If farmers cannot plant during Gu – which traditionally produces 60 percent of the country’s annual cereal output — they will be left without another major harvest until 2018.

Farming families in Ethiopia, meanwhile, are extremely vulnerable as they have not been able to recover from the 2015 El Nino-induced drought. Some 5.6 million people remain food insecure, while millions more depend on livestock herds that need to be protected and treated to improve milk and meat production. Here, too, better access to feed and water is critical.

The crop situation is relatively stable after the country completed the most widespread emergency seed distribution in Ethiopia’s history. FAO and more than 25 NGOs and agencies reached 1.5 million households with drought-resistant seeds.

As a result of enabling farming families to grow their own food, the government and humanitarian community saved close to $1 billion in emergency aid, underlining that investing in farmers is not only the right thing to do but also the most cost-efficient.

FAO’s Early Warning early action work

Somalia and Kenya are among the first countries benefiting from FAO’s new Early Warning Early Action Fund (EWEA). The fund ensures quick activation of emergency plans when there is a high likelihood of a disaster that would affect agriculture and people’s food and nutrition security.

The fund will be part of a larger Early Warning Early Action System that tracks climate data and earth imaging to determine what areas are at risk of an imminent shock and will benefit from early intervention.

FAO Emergencies Director assesses the Scale of the Drought and Response in Afar Region, Ethiopia (13.10.2016)

afar

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, October 13, 2016 – In less than a year, Holo Molo has lost more than a third of his livestock. The father of 14 living in the chronically drought-prone woreda of Elidar, Afar Region is just one of millions of Ethiopian livestock owners who have had their livelihoods uprooted as a result of drought aggravated by El Niño. Despite the significant damage caused by the crisis, Holo contends that he is lucky. “I know a woman who has lost everything, all her animals are dead.”

Since 2015, thousands of households have helplessly watched their animals starve in Afar, an arid region in northwest Ethiopia neighboring Eritrea and Djibouti. The drought caused severe pasture and water shortages in communities almost totally dependent on livestock rearing – ninety percent of the population tend animals for their food and income.

Believed to be the worst drought in nearly half a century, it will take years for families hardest hit by the El Niño-induced crisis to recover. The impact on food and nutrition security has been significant; the vast majority of the region’s districts have been classified as priority one or facing the greatest levels of food insecurity according to the Government of Ethiopia.

In Elidar, the critical karan rains – usually occurring between July and September – were considered late and erratic. The contribution of the previous spring season was minor, only slightly improving pasture and water access between the months of March and May. Already, Elidar’s limited pasture has largely been depleted. Many herding households now depend on infrequent flash floods that send water tumbling from the mountains to be used domestically and for livestock.

The thickets of the mountains are also where many of Elidar’s citizens send their animals to search for feed. FAO spoke with Mutha Ahmed as she tended small ruminants on the banks of a water point constructed by the UN agency in the drought prone community. The mother of five lost 50 sheep and goats during the crisis. “Almost everything has dried up, there is nothing here for animals to eat,” Mutha reflected. “We have not had good rains in years, many people are now scared because the karan season has been poor and it has not fully rained,” said Mutha. With the worst of the lean season approaching in mid-October and November, Afar’s animals should be thriving ahead of the most difficult time of the year. Complicating matters is the fact that milk – critical for the food and nutrition security of most in the Region – has been slow to return to normal production levels, a consequence of prolonged drought.

Dwindling resources in an underfunded sector

FAO is committed to partnering with local authorities and communities like in Elidar and elsewhere in Ethiopia

Despite losing a significant portion of her livestock, Mutha indicated that she did not qualify for emergency animal feed support, a claim supported by regional officials on the ground. “I lost animals, but so many more were worse off than me. I can understand why I was not given anything for my herd,” she said. As a result of limited resources in this particular area, priority was given to households with lactating animals or breastfeeding infants in order to safeguard the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable.

The emergency livestock response is severely underfunded in Ethiopia. Almost 2.4 million households critically require livelihoods assistance to the tune of USD 36.2 million until the end of the year. Preliminary reports suggest that the sector has only received USD 12 million in humanitarian sector funding for 2015 and 2016 emergency drought interventions. With the crop sector demanding very significant  resources, particularly to procure seeds for the meher (summer) season (from which 85 percent of Ethiopia’s food supply is derived), the bulk of agriculture-related humanitarian investments were funneled into saving the country’s local crop production.

In August 2016, FAO clarified the priorities of Ethiopia’s livestock sector, highlighting the most urgent funding needed to support emergency interventions. These include animal health and emergency vaccinations for livestock, determined as critical in livestock-dependent regions such as Afar and Somali as well as Borena Zone of Oromia Region and South Omo Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region. The findings were published in the Mid-Year Review of the 2016 Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD).

FAO’s Director of the Emergencies, Dominique Burgeon, met with numerous drought-affected households in Elidar and other communities in Afar Region during a recent field mission to Ethiopia. Mr Burgeon was also accompanied by FAO Representative to Ethiopia, Amadou Allahoury, and members of his team. The group spoke with beneficiaries of FAO’s fodder seed distribution and assessed the livestock situation in some of the worst-affected priority-one hotspot districts in the Region. The team also viewed local interventions to cope with drought, such as traditional water steam harvesting.

“The situation on the ground remains very critical in Afar and other livestock-dependent areas of the country. While significant resources have been deployed for crop sector support over the last several months, we cannot neglect to fully address the pressing needs of the livestock sector,” said Mr Burgeon.

“The people of Afar have developed numerous innovations in order to cope with the effects of recurrent drought, a reflection of their inherent resilience as a people,” he remarked. “FAO is committed to partnering with local authorities and communities like in Elidar and elsewhere in Ethiopia, in order to jointly amplify our efforts in the difficult months ahead with a strategic focus on recovery and resilience building.”

FAO Ethiopia provided fast-growing fodder seed to at-risk agropastoral communities in order to enable households to produce animal feed independently. During the drought, the Organization also distributed multinutrient-dense ‘energy blocks’ to protect core breeding animals, and delivered animal feed along migratory routes. FAO’s regional water rehabilitation projects improved access to water for livestock, benefiting more than 125 000 livestock owned by about 13 000 households. The Organization also supported strategic destocking through the purchase of thousands of livestock with low body weight which after a health inspection, was distributed to some of the worst-affected internally displaced people.

FAO has mobilized nearly USD 14 million to respond to the crisis. The Organization is now urgently requesting an additional USD 14 million to implement livelihood-saving interventions in the livestock and crop sectors until the end of 2016.

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