ADDIS ABABA – With funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Relief Fund (UN CERF), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it s implementing a US$ 10.6 million project to protect pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods in areas that are likely to be adversely affected by the forecasted below-normal rains of March-May 2021.
The initiative is in response to predicted La Nina conditions that would result in below average harvests in some southern, central, and eastern parts of Ethiopia.
FAO said it is implementing the project between March – September 2021 in the Afar, Somali, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ (SNNP) regions, benefiting over 117 000 households.
Acting before disaster strikes
Anticipatory action consolidates forecasting information and forward planning in ways that allow governments and the humanitarian community to act in advance of disasters or before they reach their peak, as soon as a warning sign appears.
Fatouma Seid, the FAO Representative in Ethiopia, said, “Acting on early warning information has been shown to curb projected increases in food insecurity, malnutrition and rural poverty. In doing so, it can protect lives and livelihoods in a rapid manner and ensure greater resilience of the most vulnerable”.
FAO will provide the targeted households with improved locally adapted drought-tolerant crop seeds including cereals, pulses, and vegetable seeds.
Livestock support services will include a health campaign (treating major animal diseases and parasites) as well as provision of supplementary animal feed and vitamins to vulnerable pastoralists. This campaign will prevent deterioration in animals’ body condition so they can survive during the drought and remain productive.
Furthermore, FAO will provide the beneficiaries with unconditional cash packages expected to cushion them from drought’s adverse impacts.
“They will be able to meet their immediate family needs without resorting to negative coping mechanisms,” noted Ms. Seid.
Working with regional governments and implementing partners, FAO will also provide extension-support and appropriate training to beneficiaries and the entire communities to improve farming practices and livestock management.
Similarly, local suppliers, including private pharmacies and community-based animal health workers, will benefit from animal health services and business management training.
Multiple and cyclic shocks
Ethiopia suffers from chronic and acute food insecurity associated with recurrent and cyclical droughts and erratic rainy seasons. The frequency of severe drought is increasing over time.
The timing of the 2021 forecasted drought couldn’t have come at a worse time. Ethiopia is affected by the compounding impact of desert locusts, COVID-19-related restrictions, conflict, and macroeconomic challenges that are negatively affecting the food security and livelihood of millions of people.
Moreover, many rural households engaged in agriculture and pastoralism are yet to recover from the 2016/17 El Niño – induced drought, one of the worst in history.
Featured Image: The project to protect pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods in areas that are likely to be adversely affected by the forecasted below-normal Gu rains of March-May 2021 [Photo FO/Tamiru Legesse]