By Eliaser Ndeyanale
FIFTY-FOUR African countries which assembled for a week for the African Drought conference, called on international communities to assist with funding as 50 million people on the continent face food shortages.
Speaking at the conference which was focusing on one of African’s natural disasters that takes many lives each year and leaves the population in a state of panic and distress which also acknowledged specific needs for African countries to effectively mitigate against drought and develop a strategic framework to enhance resilience to drought events, President Hage Geingob said that Africa’s problems arising from the drought need intervention of the private sector and civil society.
He said an estimated N$40 billion is needed to assist drought-affected countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) alone.
“This is a significant sum of money, and we need the support and solidarity of the international community in order to ensure that lives are saved and that our critical short-term needs are met,” he said.
According to Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Monique Barbut, Africa should explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops and promote water harvesting schemes through recycling and reuse of water.
She stated that Africa should also take cognisance that the traditional approach of responding to drought was not viable anymore.
“It has proved to be ineffective far too often. Instead, Africa could lead a proactive drought revolution,” she said.
She said that investing in early warning systems and addressing vulnerabilities head-on, as well as well-planned and coordinated drought action, would have a positive ripple effect across sectors and across African borders.
The conference under the theme ‘Enhancing resilience to drought events on the African continent’ brought together local and international delegates, and ended on Friday.
A Windhoek declaration on Drought Resilience was adopted on Friday by African ministers. Two outstanding features of the draft are that Africa needs to set up a fund to be used to mitigate drought as well as set up a team that will implement the recommendations made at the conference.
African countries have been urged to consider developing sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock in order to mitigate drought challenges.
Barbut urged the African continent to also explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops and promote water harvesting schemes through recycling and reuse of water.
“We can identify measures to address these risks head-on. Things that can be done at a very practical level to reduce drought risk, started right away and that deliver real and tangible benefits to your communities,”she said.
“Unless countries change their approach when drought comes and less rain is experienced, the future of about 400 million African farmers who rely on rain-fed subsistence agriculture is in jeopardy,” she added.
She noted that Africa would benefit from an early warning system in all countries, and the need to invest in good data and maximise on the available local and traditional knowledge, adding that no amount of early warning will work without action to protect the most vulnerable.
Barbut said that progress is starting to happen in Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco, who are now implementing drought plans with a strong emphasis on risk mitigation and preparedness.
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