African drought conference opens

15 Aug 2016 16:50pm
WINDHOEK, 15 AUG (NAMPA) – The first ever gathering to discuss issues of drought on the African continent opened on Monday with a call to put in place early actions to mitigate impacts.
Speaking at the event, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Kiki Gbeho raised concern that countries do not invest enough in preparedness.
“Response aid is insufficient; a longer term approach is required in order to build the resilience of the most vulnerable,” she stressed.
To achieve this, she said, methods of addressing climate change will need to be integrated into national planning and policies, while education and capacity on climate change will need to be improved. Early warning systems also will need to be strengthened, according to Gbeho.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations Representative Babagana Ahmadu warned that the impact of the 2015/2016 El Niño weather phenomenon has been one of the most intense and widespread in the past one hundred years, with reduced rainfall and drought heavily affecting agriculture and food security in many African countries.
“In sum, the impacts of drought on agriculture cascade down to all economic sectors that rely on the outputs of agriculture for their input, such as agro-industry, exports, commerce, transportation, tax return, and national economies at large. For these reasons, agriculture should be the number-one priority sector to be considered for action in any drought management strategy. In fact, a drought management plan that does not fully integrate agriculture is doomed to fail,” he warned.
Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Social Affairs and Rural Economy and Agriculture Tumusiime Peace highlighted that the face of Africa has for many decades been dictated by drought.
“Drought has become the fundamental stress to Africa’s development. Africa must put in place drought mitigation strategies and polices with clear strategies for implementation,” she noted.
The Programme Officer of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Daniel Tsegai expressed the same sentiments, noting that Africa’s rise out of poverty has been hampered by frequent droughts and floods.
“None-the-less, solutions are at hand. The message today is simple: we have to prepare better to manage droughts.”
The five-day conference will focus on identifying the specific needs of African countries in the area of effective drought mitigation, with the view of developing a strategic framework for enhancing resilience to drought events on the continent.
The conference under the theme ‘Enhancing resilience to drought events on the African continent’ ends on Friday.