World media reports are rolling in—yet again—about the latest drought to hit Eastern Africa. As we know, food security depends on a regular supply of water and right now a prolonged drought with little prospect of rain before September means that tens of millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia are beginning to face a humanitarian crisis.
GWP’s Eastern Africa Regional Coordinator Simon Thuo told us: “The drought has little to do with climate change. Greater Horn of African countries have in the last century experienced rainfall variability between 40% and 60% every year, compared with below 10% in temperate countries. This variability is compounded by high levels of evaporation, typically more than double that of Europe. At the same time, population growth in the region is at its highest in history, doubling every 15 years. For instance, Kenya’s population has gone from 6 million in 1963 to 42 million now, a seven-fold increase in 50 years. Yet, there has been little investment in water security to meet the challenge.”
He continues: “Kenya has only 4m3 water per person, enough to grow just over a kilo of maize, the staple crop; compared to 700 m3 in South Africa and 6800 m3 in the U.S. Add to that inadequate roads, poor financial incentives for farmers and frequent lack of quality seeds, and the results are obvious: more frequent and acute starvation. Donor response could hardly be worse. Instead of dealing with the roots of food insecurity, they respond to graphic images in the media by providing imported grain for famine relief every year, which further reduces the local farmer’s market for the following year, assuring a vicious cycle of poverty and reduced agricultural production capacity.”
In Eastern Africa, GWP is supporting stakeholder forums among government departments, donors, NGOs, research institutions and civil society come up with long-term sustainable solutions to water, energy and food security; as well as addressing the increasingly important challenge posed by a changing climate. Ensuring these solutions inform national policy and planning, particularly budget, is the focus of country-level activity. Only sustainable solutions such as better water resources management and improved governance can help avoid the tragedy of drought in the long term.
The Guardian reports: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/04/drought-east-africa-climate-change