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The East African : Feb 18th 2017
12 NEWS Technology and land ≥efo≥ms would mitigate d≥ought By TOM MATOKE Special Correspondent WITH OVER 12 million people in East Africa at risk of starvation due to prolonged dry weather and drought, environment experts are urging governments to consider land reforms and technology to manage the situation. According to the World Food Programme, the current drought ravaging parts of Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is similar to the one experienced in 2010, where about 10 million people faced starvation. Last month, the Kenya Red Cross warned that the country required Ksh2 billion ($20 million) to deal with the drought, and that hundreds of livestock had died in 23 counties since January. Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the prolonged drought a national disaster, seeking help from the international community. The Food and Agriculture Organisation is urging East African governments to carry out land reforms. Speaking at a meeting in Addis Ababa, FAO deputy director general Maria Helena Semedo said the solution to tackling food insecurity in East Africa lies in reducing land constraints and reforming the agriculture sector, which employs 70 per cent of the population in Africa. Rapidly growing populations in Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan region, are posing difficulties in implementing land reforms. There is increased pressure on land and natural resources, including forests and water catchment areas. Land in Tanzania and Uganda is expected to be under pressure from a projected high population growth rate. Tanzania’s population is expected to rise to 140 million, and Uganda’s to 100 million by 2050. For East Africa to feed its people, it must expand its farms as only 30 million hectares out of the available 83 million hectares are under cultivation. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia have less than 40 per cent of their land under cultivation, despite experts saying that the solution to food insecurity is in self-sustaining agricultural practices. East African governments are also on the spot for not doing enough to stamp out food insecurity. Half-hearted attempts at technologically advanced irrigation schemes like the Galana project in Kenya have come a cropper. The governments are using less than five per cent of fresh water from Lakes Victoria, Tanganyika and River Nile for irrigation. The World Bank attributes low food production to old farming practices such as poor land preparation and inadequate use of fertiliser. The Bank proposes invest- Solution to tackling food insecurity in East Africa lies in reducing land constraints.” FAO deputy director general Maria Helena Semedo ment in technology, land reforms and direct efforts to reduce farm input prices. Andrew Tuimur the Ken- yan Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries adds that farmers should embrace change and grow crops and keep animals which can survive drought. The EastAfrican FEBRUARY 18-24,2017 INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL INFLUX Pastoralists move to north Uganda in search of food He≥dsmen have come in f≥om the weste≥n pa≥t of the count≥y and Ka≥amoja, as well as f≥om Tu≥kana in Kenya, and South Sudan By HALIMA ABDALLAH Special Correspondent A s Uganda grapples with food insecurity, which is termed as a near crisis, it is also dealing with an influx of internal and external pastoralists searching for water and pasture for their livestock in northern Uganda. Internally, pastoralists from the cattle corridor, spanning western Uganda and Karamoja sub-regions, have crossed into several districts in northern Uganda since last year. An estimated 5,000 pastoralists entered the north with over 10,000 livestock from Karamoja alone. Externally, northern Uganda has experienced an influx of pastoral communities from South Sudan and Kenya, through the West Nile and Karamoja borders. Estimates put South Sudanese livestock numbers through West Nile at over 10,000, while those that have entered through Karamoja are yet to be established. “The water and pasture stress is compounded by the Turkana from Kenya. They have crossed with over 60,000 animals to Kobebe dam in Karamoja. The Topath of South Sudan have also crossed to dams in Kaabong,” said Uganda’s Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja. According to the National Meteorology Department, the dry season that started in November 2016 is expected to last until March 2017. The prolonged drought led to scorched crops and pasture, and dry water sources. There is the potential for conflict not just between the Karimojong and South Sudanese pastoralists, who have a past of raiding each other, but also over the scarce resources. Already, conflicts between outsiders and locals have been reported. Traditionally, the Karimojong, Turkana and South Sudanese pastoralists would raid each other for cattle, rape women and attack locals wherever they moved to in search of water and pasture. While such behaviour was discouraged in Uganda through the disarmament process, latest developments indicate that the harsh climatic conditions have reignited the hostility: Communities in northern Uganda have reported damage to crops, violence and rape. “The movement has resulted in displacement of people and destruction of crops. The local communities are living in fear Pastoralists in Turkana. Some 30,000 herdsmen from the area are said to have crossed into Uganda in search of pasture. Picture: File of the herdsmen, but we assure them that the government is addressing the matter to have systematic and orderly movement of the herdsmen,” said John Byabagambi, the Minister for Karamoja Affairs. The influx of pastoralists has placed an additional burden on social services like health, water and food. Last week, Mr Ssempijja told parliament that the food insecurity situation was getting worse — the number of people in need of food relief rose from 1.3 million in November 2016, to SPIKE IN COST OF FOOD East Africa’s ongoing drought has sharply reduced harvests and driven up the prices of cereals and other staple foods to unusually high levels, posing a heavy burden to households and special risks for pastoralists in the region, the United Nations agricultural agency said last week. “Sharply increasing prices are severely constraining access to food for large numbers of households with alarming consequences in terms of food insecurity,” said Mario Zappacosta, a senior economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, in a news release. Local prices of maize, sorghum and other cereals are near or at record levels in swathes of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania, according to the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin. 1.6 million in January 2017. The worsening food security is a result of La Nina, a dry spell following the El Nino climate cycle. A Food Security Analysis, carried out by the Agriculture Ministry last July, shows that about 40 per cent of pulses and 80 per cent of cereals from the first crop season in 2016 were lost. In addition, there was a 20 per cent decrease in livestock holdings. While 69 per cent of the population is not food insecure, increased regional demand has caused the price of food to rise, The gove≥nment saw it coming, but did little to ave≥t food c≥isis By NJIRAINI MUCHIRA Special Correspondent THE KENYAN government is on the spot for failing to plan for the current drought, despite signs that the country was at a risk of a food shortage early last year. At the time, southern African nations that supply Kenya with food imports were hit by a severe drought. The Kenya Meteorological Depart- ment had predicted the probability of the La Nina phenomenon, which is characterised by a long dry spell. This meant that the country would not receive enough rainfall during the short rains season from October to December. President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared the drought a national disaster to save more than two million Kenyans who are facing starvation. The president said the government has set aside $104 million to tackle the drought through interventions like doubling of food rations and cash transfers. And to stabilise the high prices of cereals, the government would allow maize importation by licensed millers. Kenya made the declaration just months after Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said that the country had enough stocks to last until June. Last month, Mr Bett said the coun- try required 29 million bags of maize to feed the nation for the first half of the year, and that farmers had produced 21 million bags last year, leaving a deficit of eight million bags. The country usually produces about 32 million bags annually. Failure to plan According to Mary Mathenge, a director at agricultural research organisation Tegemeo Institute, Kenya could have avoided the current pre- dicament. “This is purely a case of failure in planning, because it was predicted early that the short rains would not be sufficient and there was a drought in the southern Africa region. There was need for mitigation mechanisms,” she told The East African. She added that this failure had put Kenya in a dire situation as it looked to import maize, particularly from neighbouring Uganda. Over the past four months, Kenya has imported about 3,000 tonnes of maize from Uganda. The country is now planning to import more maize from Mexico as it avoids sourcing from countries that have adopted the genetic modification. As the effects of climate change become more severe, Kenya must plan to invest in long term strategies to deal with perennial cycles of drought. In particular, the country must stop dependence on rain-fed agriculture and invest significantly in irrigation schemes. Kenya must also find ways of water harvesting and storage, providing farmers with subsidies, expanding more land for cultivation, and investing in post harvest technologies.
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