New Horn of Africa drought warning

By RTCC Staff

A young Somali refugee at a sprawling camp established across the border in Ethiopia. (Source: UN/Eskinder Debebe)

A new drought warning has been issued for the Horn of Africa following a meeting of experts in Rwanda.

The region suffered its worst drought in six decades last year and now the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC) has predicted below average rainfall in the March-May rainy season.

If proved correct, the results on food security in the region could be serious, a UN official cautioned.

“This is not good news for farmers in areas which have been affected by agricultural drought in recent years,” said Youcef Ait-Chellouche, Deputy Regional Coordinator of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).

“We must plan for the probability that rainfall will be erratic and there will be long dry spells which will impact on crop production and food security,” he added.

It is difficult to directly link the droughts the Horn of Africa has suffered to climate change. Continued political unrest in the region allied to poor farming techniques and a reliance on livestock are all contributing factors.

Research does however suggest that climate change will make rainfalls increasingly unpredictable, with growing periods for crops declining by up to 20% come the end of the century.

The 30th Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF 30) in Kigali, Rwanda, considered how the prospect of recurring uncertainty in rainfalls could be mitigated for.

Two years of drought and the recurrence of conflict in Somalia have compounded the situation.

“People’s resilience and coping capacity has been eroded by the last two difficult years especially in Somalia so it’s clear that we must act now,” said Ait-Chellouche. “The general consensus from this meeting is that the Horn of Africa is still very much at risk.”

According to the World Food Programme, there are currently 925 million undernourished people. Increasing pressure on agriculture by climate change could make the situation worse.

RELATED VIDEO: Rodney Cooke from the International Fund for Agricultural Development explains how farmers in Africa are adapting to the effects of climate change.

Rodney Cooke, Director, International Fund for Agricultural Development from Responding to Climate Change on Vimeo.

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