Drought in the Horn of Africa

For more than a year now, the region of the Horn of Africa has been suffering from one of the worst droughts recorded in the last 60 years. Officials say that approximately 12.4 million people spread across the arid provinces of northern Kenya, the south-west of Ethiopia, southern Somalia and Djibouti face starvation and are in danger of running out of food to feed their animals.

Droughts and the volatility of climate are natural phenomena. But, food shortages and acute famines are political ones. Extreme hunger can be prevented by strengthening indigenous and sustainable livelihoods.

Just as it happened nearly 30 years ago, pastoralist areas and lowlands in Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania have been directly affected by drought. It is therefore imperative that rapid national and international action should be taken to prevent the drought and famine from becoming an even larger catastrophe.

Though Slow Food is not a relief organization, it cannot keep its eyes closed to the latest crisis affecting this region that is in dire need of our support. As a global network of supporters (in Europe, Africa and around the world) we have the responsibility of finding out more about what is going on, bringing about increased awareness and brainstorming for local solutions.

By launching this section on the Slow Food International website, we would like to renew our appeal to all those who can provide us with any information which would be useful to better understand what is currently happening in the region. We are looking for testimonies (direct or indirect witnesses, reports, dispatches or quotes) about the daily lives of people in the areas. These can be sent in any form or language to communication@slowfood.com and will be published on this page as we receive them.  


We take this opportunity to express our solidarity with our friends in the Slow Food and Terra Madre network in Africa currently struggling through this drought. We hope that this page will allow their stories to be heard. 

Slow Food International


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9 Esperiences about Drought in the Horn of Africa

1. 05/09/2011 From a Medical Clinic in Eritrea

We are now at the end of the rainy season, but 90% of our land is still gives the impression of suffering - you can see it is crying for water,...(read more..)

We are now at the end of the rainy season, but 90% of our land is still gives the impression of suffering - you can see it is crying for water, many plants are sad, their heads lowered and leaves withered.


During the last three years there was hunger, but that was just the beginning because if it going to continue as it is now the situation will only get worse. People are very worried and we are worried with them, because many of the children we visit are already showing signs of malnutrition.


Those who have some money are running around to fill their cupboards, because it is certain that the crop will be scarce and prices are already rising. The poor live in worry. We, as an institute, thanks to your support still manage to be close to these people suffering and living in uncertainty.


The lowlands, the heart of agriculture, is the area most severely stricken by drought. Those who sowed saw the sprouts coming out of the ground and now wither to death, due to the lack of rain. Many have already lost their hope in this crop.


Farmers say they have no hope for this crop but they abandon themselves to God, and speak words of hope and strong faith, even if you can see sadness and uncertainty in their eyes. Often we hear them quote Jesus' words. Mt 6; "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?"


Hearing them taking comfort from this and be happy for the little we can give them is very moving.


During this month in our clinics we are running the growth check screening for children under 5 months old, using two different methods: one is the relationship height/weight, the other is Muwak, which is the measure of the arm circumference, and we are witnessing with our own eyes that many are being classified as underweight.


Such a high number is worrying us, even though we have faith, because they are so many, what will be, then, of the period between January and August 2012, the hardest in the year?
We, sure of having you by our side, will do our best to be an oasis in all senses for these poor people.


 


 

2. 26/08/2011 Many are still hungry, especially inland

The situation has not improved since July. At the beginning of the crisis the most affected regions were mostly the Scebeli and upper Jubbada, now...(read more..)

The situation has not improved since July. At the beginning of the crisis the most affected regions were mostly the Scebeli and upper Jubbada, now the number of regions has doubled.


Food is arriving in Mogadishu but only the people on the coast benefit from it, the supplies hardly reach the internal regions. This is due to the animosities between the central government in Mogadishu and the integralist groups in the country. There is no collaboration between the two and food often is blocked before reaching the inland.


The rains that started in July with the Hagai season have continued. Farmers on the coast started cultivating with the rains and now they are already eating their harvest. Also the animals reared in that area are fine now. Hagai rains do not usually reach the internal regions, where the shortage of water and food is still severe. New rains should start 20 days from now, in mid September, reaching also the inland.


Mohammed, Somalia


 

3. 15/08/2011 A Message from Tanzania

Whilst I cannot comment directly on the situation in the Horn of Africa, which is incredibly alarming and requires immediate action, I would like...(read more..)

Whilst I cannot comment directly on the situation in the Horn of Africa, which is incredibly alarming and requires immediate action, I would like to contibute some reflections on the approach to food security that we are promoting here in Tanzania.

The Slow Food movement in Tanzania has been working with Resewo  Association to develop a very viable strategy to increasing household food security through the promotion of indigenous foods and vegetables. We have successfully launched demonstration plots, a publicity campaign, supervised the establishment of school gardens and published a cookbook based on these wild vegetables. Through learning, networking and advocacy, Resewo has the potential to disseminate practical knowledge on the cultivation and consumption of traditional foods and particularly under-utilized leafy vegetables, thereby reducing micronutrient deficiencies in local diets. However, to be truly effective organizations such as this need more support and resources before it is too late.

Knowledge on the identification of wild /under-utilized plant resources, and on their preparation as food/medicine is surely central and could be instrumental in reversing malnutrition trends not only in Tanzania but across the region.


Slow Food Bagamoyo member, Tanzania


 

4. 15/08/2011 Bridging the Gap in Kenya

There is a big danger of people dying of hunger in northern Kenya, however the government is going to great lengths to denounce the true situation...(read more..)

There is a big danger of people dying of hunger in northern Kenya, however the government is going to great lengths to denounce the true situation here. Disturbingly, the reality is that as people face starvation in the northern districts of Kenya, farmers in some parts of Rift Valley and Central Kenya have crops that are going to waste due to lack of market for the produce. In particular, there is a glut of potatoes and cabbages.

In Kenya, food is almost synonymous with maize - a lack of which spells of disaster. The other big problem is inadequate infrastructure to allow easy trade between the farmers to the south and the north, which is hunger prone.

Though Slow Food is not a relief agency, by helping facilitate the movement of food from farmers in the south to mitigate the food shortage in the north, we can show how relief aid does not necessarily need to be imported from outside.

Stan, Kenya


 

5. 12/08/2011 Words of a Somali Farmer

Lower Scebeli and Somalia had never experienced such a severe famine. There have always been some, but one like this has never happened before and...(read more..)

Lower Scebeli and Somalia had never experienced such a severe famine. There have always been some, but one like this has never happened before and this famine in fact is one of the worst that Somalia has ever experienced.

Shebeli and Jubbada regions are usually the most flourishing, with water provided by two rivers. But with the lack of rainfall these waters are not enough to irrigate the fields and provide drinking water for both humans and animals. Many families (also with small children) walk over 500 km to reach Mogadishu, Merca and other towns searching for food. They are evacuees, without either food or shelter from rain and cold. The rain started on July 12 and there are showers every 12 or 13 days, but this is just not enough.

Many people have died and herds are almost destroyed. Some farmers still have about 12-20 cows, but miserably fed. On the roads, cars pass with loads of green grass for the animals.

The worst problem from a short-time perspective is the lack of food and shelter for the evacuee families. Moreover, they should be helped to return to their homelands and continue living there. Many planes with food supplies are now coming from various countries, but these are still not enough.”

One of the few organizations trying to help during these tragic circumstances is the Ayuub village and NGO. At the moment, the volunteers (orphans from the famine in the early nineties) are struggling to help rescue people, especially children who are in the same situation that they found themselves twenty years ago, and are now desperately encamped around the village. Some of them come from the country’s inland, where the famine is taking lives today, as in the past. The motto is “Let’s help others the way we were helped before”. They also opened two centers where hot meals are prepared using the equipment from school canteens, now closed for summer holidays, Even though some help is arriving, it is still inadequate. The situation is even more tragic considering that the village is in the middle of the area occupied by fundamentalists, which is well known in Italy as well.

Delegate from Somalia at Terra Madre 2010 and farmer for the last 40 years in Lower Scebeli (southern Somalia).

6. 12/08/2011 Famine and Abundance in Kenya

Myself and many people cannot understand why some people in our country are dying of hunger while farmers in Molo (in western Kenya) are...(read more..)

Myself and many people cannot understand why some people in our country are dying of hunger while farmers in Molo (in western Kenya) are complaining about a lack of market for their potatoes. The prices is so low - about 8 euro for a bag that weighs close to 200 kgs. Why our government or donors cannot buy these potatoes and send them here we cannot understand.

Paul, Kenya

7. 12/08/2011 Hope and Community Gardens

In Kenya, there has been rainfall failure the last two years. In my region (Kibwezi), we have had to survive on irrigated crop from streams that...(read more..)

In Kenya, there has been rainfall failure the last two years. In my region (Kibwezi), we have had to survive on irrigated crop from streams that spring up in the areas that are now drying up. People and animals are suffering with a lack of sufficient food.

Education and diverse activities outside the farm are assisting households to get some money for a small amount of food once in a while. The situation is hard for vulnerable groups and individuals like orphans, windows, women and children. Food prices are too high and only the lucky can afford good, clean and fair food. We just hope that the next rains do not fail. The community gardens that we have established will also be of good use at such a time.

Priscilla, Kenya

8. 12/08/2011 Building Coping Strategies in Kenya

"The situation in East Africa is very grave. The rains have failed in most parts and we are now dealing with severe famine. In the arid and semi...(read more..)

"The situation in East Africa is very grave. The rains have failed in most parts and we are now dealing with severe famine. In the arid and semi arid areas people are faced with a lack of drinking water and pasture for their livestock. Schools are suffering to feed their students with escalating food prices and parents are not in a position to contribute more. The urban poor are in an extremely bad situation with cost of living becoming impossibly high - increase in food and fuel prices has affected everything else including housing, uncontrolled inflation and a weakening of the Kenya Shilling.

At the same time, rich well-connected local and international cartels are strategizing to take advantage of the opportunity. They have twisted our government's arm to allow importation of GMO maize, a move that has already been endorsed by the Kenyan Cabinet. Slow Food is opposed to this move not only for environmental and health reasons but also because it will gravely impair local food production and local and rural economies.

We believe that the more long term and sustainable solution is to increase production and consumption of indigenous foods whose production is more environmentally friendly, locally adaptable, are more drought-tolerant and based on local food culture.

Slow Food in Kenya is working to promote this model of food security. In this difficult period we are working towards enabling vulnerable households (families living with HIV/Aids; with disability; the elderly; women-headed, etc) to access planting materials to prepare for the upcoming short rains. We will follow up this with demonstrations on post harvest handling, value addition and culinary education/demonstration. We are also considering doing a project aimed at empowering rural communities to step up on-farm tree planting thereby contributing to mitigation of climate change.

Climate change is affecting all of us in different ways and this is all the more reason why we should all come together to combat it and at the same time build coping strategies best adapted to our communities.


Samuel Karanja Muhunyu
muhunyusk@yahoo.com


John Kariuki- Slow Food International Vice-President
j.kariuki@slowfood.com

9. 08/08/2011 An Update on the Drought in Northern Kenya

I am a Slow Food member working for a Catholic Diocese in Northern Kenya - an area that has been hit hard by the drought. Following is my update...(read more..)

I am a Slow Food member working for a Catholic Diocese in Northern Kenya - an area that has been hit hard by the drought. Following is my update on the situation I am witnessing here, together with reports from the communities in the area.This part of the country has not received rain for two consecutive years. It is the drought that we have never experienced before.

Livestock, which is the community's main source of livelihood, are dying and human beings will follow if assistance does not arrive quickly.

My organization is a faith-based organization that was started in 1964. In addition to working with local communities on spiritual life, we are involved in spearheading development activities that address their physical needs. The development office runs six programs, which include: Justice & Peace, Health, Humanitarian response, Sustainable Livelihoods, Water and Disaster Risk Reductions.




An Update on the Drought in our Area


CONTEXT
The seasonal rains of 2010 and 2011 failed to arrive, and this has brought great suffering to the communities around Marsabit

Livestock: The communities rely primarily on their livestock for their livelihood, and the animals are suffering greatly from the drought and have started dying. Some herders have lost as many as 100 shoats. Milk is a staple food for the communities, but supply has been reduced drastically. The poor physical condition of the remaining livestock means they cannot be sold, further affecting household food security.

Water: Currently the Marsabit community transport water by truck from as far as 50 km away. A 20-liter jerry can costs 50-euro cents. In the Hurri Hills community, water is trucked from 70 km away, but access is difficult and it is not always available.

Food security: Currently about 60% of the population is receiving rations from WFP though distribution is not regular due food distribution-line problems. The remaining 40% of the population are even more food insecure and need urgent assistance. Inflation has further aggravated the situation. In Marsabit, 1kg of maize meal that cost 70 euro cents two months ago now costs 1.80 euro. The prices are even higher in villages outside of Marsabit.


Health and Nutrition: A high number of cases of malnutrition and diarrhea outbreaks are being reported by health facilities as a result of inadequate water and food. A nutritional survey conducted in June shows that Global Acute Moderate Malnutrition (GAM) stands at over 27% - about 3 times more than what is considered normal. 30% of the children under five years are malnourished.

Possible Assistance Measures

Food aid: targeting most vulnerable groups like pregnant and lactating mothers; the elderly and children under five years; people with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses; and other most vulnerable households identified by the communities.

Water: provision through trucking more water to the region; drilling of boreholes; equipping of existing water borehole; creation of earth dams; supply of water storage tanks for institutions and households where possible.


Medical: Providing drugs for health facilities running out stock in order to help suffering populations with outreach programs.

Livestock: Providing animal feeds; de-stocking through slaughter and moving animals elsewhere.


Resources: Voucher system for the most vulnerable households to buy food; cash resources for building assets.

Total population of the area needing support is 16,698


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