Food Production in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa, frequently suffers from the effects of seasonal droughts. For example, during the 2019 agricultural season, Zimbabwe endured a particularly devastating drought resulting in more than 5 million rural Zimbabweans experiencing food insecurity and nearly 4 million requiring food assistance. On top of issues of food insecurity that lower yields caused, Zimbabwe’s annual inflation rate rose to rates above 190% in June 2021, resulting in a higher overall cost of living throughout the country. Additionally, the price of maize has risen by more than 50% since the beginning of 2021. Luckily, drought-resistant grains are boosting food production in Zimbabwe.

How the Zimbabwean Government is Assisting Farmers

To solve the problem of lower yield due to maize not being able to withstand drought conditions, the Zimbabwean government has begun assisting farmers in the transition to farming smaller drought-resistant grains like sorghum and millet. This transition has resulted in food production increases in Zimbabwe, though it has not been easy for many farmers, as these smaller grains require more work to keep up. The small-grain crops attract birds, making a protection system essential to guard their crops. Moreover, when harvested, small-grain crops require more labor-intensive processing. Additionally, because the farmers have stopped farming as much maize, they have subsequently become unable to produce the corn necessary to make many staple Zimbabwean foods.

Responsive Drip Irrigation

Responsive Drip Irrigation is aiding farmers with an innovative irrigation system that helps crop production in drought conditions. It developed an irrigation system that reacts to the crops’ chemicals to determine when the plants need water. Of course, innovative technology such as Responsive Drip Irrigation is expensive and therefore difficult to make available to many Zimbabwean farmers. Nevertheless, in August 2021, Responsive Drip Irrigation began working with smallholder farms to help encourage food production increases in Zimbabwe.

The CAWEP Program

Additionally, in December 2022, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced the implementation of a new three-year initiative to make water more accessible throughout rural Zimbabwe. The CAWEP program allocated $14.8 million to increase access to water for various household uses, improve access to clean and affordable energy, and refurbish current irrigation systems. CAWEP should eventually connect as many as 12,500 people to electricity, assist 150,000 people with accessing water and establish more than 100 hectares of land as workable agricultural property. By making water more accessible to these rural Zimbabwean farmers, the UNDP hopes to increase food production in Zimbabwe.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

Finally, the World Food Programme (WFP) has also worked to provide support for rural Zimbabwean farmers in the face of probable climate shocks such as prevalent droughts. as of November 2022, the WFP has provided nearly 10,000 metric tons of food, more than $420,000 worth of cash-based transfers and has reached close to 500,000 people with these cash transfers. As of December 2022, the WFP provided more than 550,000 people with emergency food assistance.

The Road Ahead

Though frequently facing the brunt of powerful droughts and an ever-growing inflation rate, food production is slowly increasing in Zimbabwe as farmers shift to more sustainable crops and receive help from humanitarian organizations such as the WFP and the UNDP.

– Chris Dickinson
Photo: Flickr

Terror Reign in Somalia
Al-Shabaab is an insurgent and militant group based mainly in Somalia. It has close relations with Al-Qaeda. For more than a decade now, al-Shabaab and the Somali government have been fighting in the Somali Civil War. Al-Shabaab’s terror reign in Somalia needs to end by combatting the economic instability and poverty that allow it to continue.

Al-Shabaab’s Origin

Al-Shabaab emerged in 2006 as a splinter group of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that had taken control of Mogadishu and de facto control of Somalia from the Somalia government. In response, the Somali government backed an Ethiopian invasion that defeated the ICU. The Somali people’s resentment of the Ethiopian invasion and the ICU defeat led to an opening for al-Shabaab and its terror reign in Somalia.

By 2008, al-Shabaab took control of southern Somalia and gained dominance by seizing multiple territories throughout the country. In 2012, al-Shabaab officially aligned itself with Al-Qaeda and became Al-Qaeda’s representative in East Africa.

Poverty Leads to Recruitment and Abduction

A lack of economic stability drives terrorism in Somalia. Al-Shabaab capitalizes on the fact that poverty, unfortunately, aids the recruitment of militant groups. Since about 67% of Somali youth are unemployed, many young men join militant and insurgent groups like al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab provides a monthly salary that exceeds the average Somali per capita annual income of  $400. Teenagers that are 14 years old and younger are al-Shabaab recruits. In fact, 70% of al-Shabaab’s recruits are under the age of 24 and the median age for recruits is 17.

In addition to this, children between the ages of nine to 15 have been forcibly recruited into al-Shabaab. Since 2017, al-Shabaab has abducted children, predominantly from pastoral and rural areas, to be frontline fighters. Al-Shabaab also forced Islamic teachers and elders in Somalia to recruit children from school and arm them with military-grade weapons.

Famine and Drought Displacement Led to Al-Shabaab’s Recruitment

The Somali government’s lack of response to famine and drought has also allowed al-Shabaab to exploit poverty in Somalia. In May 2022, the United Nations Refugee Agency reported that the 2.97 million Somalis displaced due to drought, violence and food shortages led to extreme overcrowding in refugee camps. Refugee camps are often used as hunting and recruiting grounds for terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab since they are remote and far away from authorities like police officers.

Support from the United States and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

After President Trump withdrew all military support from Somalia, in May 2022, President Biden redeployed special forces into the country to help assist the Somali government in its war against al-Shabaab. He also approved a Pentagon request to target specific al-Shabaab leaders as part of the counterterrorism strategy.

In addition to the renewed United States support in the fight against Al-Shabaab’s reign of terror, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one organization that is currently helping Somalis get back on their feet economically from the effects of war, drought and food shortages. Since 1981, Somalia’s been receiving aid from the IRC which supports 280,000 Somalis annually.

Since drought is a huge issue, the IRC launched the Building Resilient Communities in Somalia to help educate families about disaster preparedness and financial resilience. These IRC programs mainly target female-led households so that females can learn how to build financial resilience during catastrophes, especially droughts. More than 1,400 Somali families received emergency cash for basic needs from the IRC. The organization has also provided business start-up grants and entrepreneurship training.

Looking Ahead

If Somalia cannot resolve its economic instability, al-Shabaab probably cannot be successfully defeated. Severe poverty is one of the primary reasons why so many young men join al-Shabaab. Joining an insurgent group should never have to be in any child’s future. Children in Somalia deserve better. They deserve a stronger and safer future where al-Shabaab no longer exists and economic instability is no longer a problem for their nation. The support from the U.S. and the IRC should help put Somalia in a better position to combat both poverty and al-Shabaab’s terror reign.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Ethiopia
The Oromo Liberation Army and Tigray Defense Forces in Ethiopia are actively in conflict with the Ethiopian government and have received labels as terror groups in the country. However, due to the ongoing drought in Ethiopia, the groups have been working to establish a nationwide truce to allow humanitarian groups to provide aid to the affected areas of Ethiopia where people do not have access to food and resources. The drought is the worst the nation has seen in the past 40 years and has contributed to more than 20 million people needing dire assistance this year. The impact of the drought on the already impoverished country has been so drastic that the role of the military structures in Ethiopia is changing with the idea of a potential truce to improve the impoverished conditions during an ongoing conflict.

Ethiopia’s Conflict

Millions of Ethiopians have been displaced due to the conflict between rebel groups, including Oromo Liberation Army, Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Force which has been ongoing since November 2020. The war has political roots, such as an election, power struggle and claims of marginalization of certain minorities. Both sides have engaged in war crimes resulting in genocide, sexual violence and widespread looting and destruction of property. In addition to these direct results of war, humanitarian crises and famine have also come to light due to environmental and economic factors.

The Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, ordered offensive forces to fight the rebel forces. The government intervention and blockades in Tigray have limited access to 9.4 million people across northern Ethiopia in need of humanitarian aid. Road access for supply trucks with medicine, nutritional supplies and general aid has had its limitations due to such blockages, further exacerbating the famine.

The Impact of the Drought in Ethiopia

In addition to the ongoing Ethiopian conflict, the drought has played a part in increasing humanitarian needs across Ethiopia. The worst Ethiopian drought in decades has led to widespread harvest failures and livestock deaths decreasing food insecurity, increasing famine and increasing acute malnutrition in the country.

Required humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia will be 40% higher in 2022 than in 2016 as a consequence of the El Nino drought. The ongoing Ethiopian conflict in northern Ethiopia is further increasing the severity of the situation, as it is currently affecting more than 8 million people. As the drought in Ethiopia continues to ravage more parts of Ethiopia, this number will likely increase.

The Ceasefire

In March 2022, the Tigray Defense Forces and the Ethiopian government established a humanitarian truce to prevent mass starvation in the northeast region of the country – almost 40% of Tigray’s 6 million people are victims of famine. The purpose of the ceasefire was also to allow emergency humanitarian aid the opportunity to relieve the pressure of the refugee crises, mass displacement and critical environmental issues. U.N. fuel shortages have added to the issue as aid workers had to travel by foot to deliver supplies. However, the added safety of a ceasefire has enabled aid workers to make unrestricted deliveries, presenting a semblance of hope for faster recovery in the region.

Recent Developments

In August 2022, the U.N. called for another ceasefire after the northern region of Tigray saw more bouts of violence during the attempted ceasefire. Peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front will likely begin soon, but may now be pushed back or indefinitely postponed. Neither side will admit to commencing the attack, but the fighting has nonetheless increased tension between the groups. As a result, political negotiations and unrestricted access to those in need have halted with the return of fighting, as both sides have released opposing statements regarding further steps in the conflict.

– Nethya Samarakkodige
Photo: Flickr

https://borgenproject.org/food-insecurity-in-africa/After little to no rain since 2020, the Horn of Africa drought is plaguing several countries, causing displacement in Ethiopia. The UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations have been working with local disaster prevention centers to provide food, water and shelter to the thousands who find themselves within the affected areas.

Horn of Africa Drought: Zero Rainfall

Ethiopia is experiencing one of the worst droughts that have occurred in the last 40 years. “We have never seen a drought like this, it has affected everyone, we have named it ‘the unseen,” said Ardo who lives in the Eastern Somali region of Ethiopia.

The UNHCR has been working with local communities impacted by the drought by providing water, shelter and clothing. The U.N. agency and other regional disaster management organizations assisted more than 7,000 drought-affected households. However, despite the humanitarian assistance, the needs of the communities are steadily growing. “The most pressing issue here is a lack of water, as well as effective water management,” said Abdullahi Sheik Barrie, a field associate in the UNHCR office in the capital of the Somali region.

Following the deterioration of water sources, livestock is dying which removes people’s ability to provide for themselves. While the drought is predicted to continue during the next couple of months, Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR spokesperson announced the estimated cost to adequately address the crisis. “To deliver life-saving assistance and protection to some 1.5 million refugees, internally displaced people, and local host communities…UNHCR is appealing for $42.6 million,” said Mantoo during a press briefing.

Problem Solving

USAID is also providing assistance to people in the Somali region. The agency has declared a $488 million budget for providing humanitarian aid to Ethiopia. USAID’s funding will cover, “food supplies, including sorghum, peas and vegetable oil.”

Although almost 1 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes in the hopes of finding food and water, humanitarian organizations claim that this number will continue to rise and there is an approaching risk of a fifth failed rainy season. As such, the World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the drought affecting the Horn of Africa a grade three health emergency which is its highest rating. “We don’t know where the bottom is yet for this crisis…the fact is that we are in a devastating situation already and the likelihood is that it’s going to continue,” said Michael Dunford, the head of the WHO in Eastern Africa in an interview with the Telegraph.

Lives At Stake

Abdul Risac, mayor of a small city in the Somali region called Buaro, told the Telegraph that his communities have no other form of income and lack proper methods to deal with this drought. Selma, a 20-year-old mother of two who recently arrived at a displacement camp once had 100 goats and sheep but now has none. “We realized we couldn’t survive so we came to this place, ” she said to the Telegraph.

Selma also added that her family, like many others, can only return to their homes if they acquire livestock. “It’s my dream to return, but now we’re goatless and have no way of breeding more animals. It’s hard to know what our options are. All I know is being a pastoralist,” she concluded.

While the Horn of Africa drought is expected to persist, the UNHCR and USAID are providing their support in the form of life-saving funding for internally displaced persons in Ethiopia.

– Henry Hyman
Photo: Flickr

Drought Crisis in Kenya
In September 2021, the East African state of Kenya declared a drought emergency. Since September 2021, Kenya’s northern regions have noted “less than 30% of normal rainfall,” standing as “the worst short-rain season recorded in decades,” said the Famine Early Warning Systems Network. This lack of rainfall has led to the loss of livestock and the worsening of existing food and water shortages across the country. With predictions of a fourth consecutive poor rainy season that will exacerbate the impact of the drought crisis in Kenya, one cannot overstate the need for humanitarian aid and creative innovations.

Impact of the Drought Crisis in Kenya

  • Mass Livestock Deaths: Animals are central to the wealth and nutrition “of nomadic communities across the vast semi-desert plains of northern and eastern Kenya.” However, with the drought wiping out pastures, “wild animals are dying and herders are reporting losses of up to 70% of their livestock.” The existing cattle are either too frail to provide milk or too malnourished to sell. As of November 2021, the price of a cow declined “from about 40,000 Kenyan shillings ($357) to 5,000 KSH ($45).” Such drastic declines are severely hurting the livelihoods of farmers in the region.
  • Rising Food Insecurity: The drought crisis in Kenya and loss of income, which the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated, have caused the price of staple foods and water to become unaffordable. This has contributed to a deterioration in food security across the region. The number of people enduring crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in Kenya has risen from 1.4 million in 2021 to 3.1 million in 2022. The food and water shortages disproportionately affect the pastoral areas of Marsabit, Turkana, Baringo, Wajir, Mandera, Samburu and Isiolo — these counties account for half of the population facing crisis levels of food insecurity or higher. With up to four million Kenyans needing humanitarian food aid in the initial months of 2022, the drought crisis in Kenya is worrying.
  • Malnutrition: The drought crisis has also raised malnutrition levels in Kenya. By November 2021, “more than 465,000 children and 93,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” endured acute malnutrition in Northern Kenya.
  • Civil Strife: Aside from prompting a humanitarian crisis, the drought is also “intensifying ethnic conflict.” Although “raiding has always been a part of pastoral culture,” the drought crisis in Kenya has intensified the animosity among rival nomadic groups as these groups are now fighting for limited resources.

SupPlant Brings Irrigation Tech to the Drought Crisis in Kenya

In early 2022, Israeli smart immigration startup, SupPlant, raised $27 million from several investors to support its platform. Some of these funds will go into the development of SupPlant’s new AI-based irrigation tech that would help “bring precision irrigation to Kenyan farmers and permanently alleviate the pressures of future droughts.”

This sensor-less technology “collects and analyzes hyperlocal climatic, plant and irrigation data” and then, provides “low-cost irrigation recommendations, weather forecasts and crop stress alerts” to farmers. Being that many areas are struggling to find or transport water, knowing exactly when to irrigate and how much water is necessary for the optimal crop yield will be beneficial to small-scale farmers.

SupPlant aims to equip a minimum of two million small-scale farmers in Africa and India with the technology at some point in 2022. In Kenya, SupPlant has already started working with about 500,000 small-scale maize farmers, with women making up the majority of these farmers.

Hope for the Future

The irreversibility of droughts has increased the importance of long-term sustainable development projects in helping affected communities cope with the devasting impacts of droughts. With more initiatives of the same kind, Kenya can recover.

Divine Adeniyi
Photo: Flickr

Angolas Drought
The drought in Angola is the worst the country has seen in four decades. Angola’s drought has initiated widespread food shortages and hunger among Angolans, touching as many as 1.3 million people in late September 2021. The World Food Programme (WFP) has recognized the dangers of the drought and its impact on Angola. As a result, it has begun to provide
nutrition support in the country.

 

The Drought in South-West Angola


Angola’s rainy season typically occurs from
November through April. The remaining months of the year are the “colder” season, and rainfall dwindles during that time. However, during the 2020-2021 rainy season, fewer than 100 millimeters of rain fell per month. 


Based on averages from previous years, the predicted rainfall shows little to no rain predicted in December, which was often one of the months to receive the most rain in Angola. The Cunene, Huila and Namibe provinces have been bearing the brunt of Angola’s drought’s impacts. Climate experts have predicted that Angola’s drought will persist, and it already began impacting the agricultural and livestock sectors in Angola
 in April 2021


The Impact of Drought in Angola


Angola’s drought has caused a loss of up to
40% of agricultural output. Most of the farms in Angola are small, communal farms designed to serve communities. The farms typically produce vegetables and fruits, such as cassava, bananas, potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, citrus and pineapples. All these crops require low-to-medium levels of water, which under normal conditions, is not an issue.

The drought has increased food insecurity across Angola. The diminished crops and livestock have left more than 100,000 children under the age of 5 years old hungry. The number could increase over the next year.

Many in the workforce work in the agricultural sector, accounting for more than half of the labor force at approximately 50.2%. The lowest pay for an agricultural worker in Angola is 66,100 AOA, roughly $110 USD per month. 

Many live in extreme poverty in Angola. With the low agricultural output, farmers are often unable to earn wages. As a result, poverty, which reached 88.5% in 2018, could rise further by the close of 2021. 


The World Food Programme’s Assistance


Angola’s drought has brought distinct challenges to the country, but even though the situation seems dire, the World Food Programme (WFP) has outlined plans to provide resources to the country, such as food and nutrition support.
The WFP will likely set up food distribution centers. Additionally, the organization has analyzed the regions that the drought most impacted in order to organize relief efforts. 


When Angola’s drought began, the WFP saw that its assistance would be necessary and initially collaborated with schools to provide food and nutrition to children, easing the burden for parents. However, the issue of food has extended beyond school. In fact, almost daily, children in Angola struggle to secure food. 


The WFP is working with the officials representing the
Angolan provinces to expand nutrition activities and outreach to maximize the effectiveness of their work. The WFP is a branch of the United Nations (U.N.), serving as the world’s largest aid relief organization. With funding from the U.N., WFP plans to secure $6.3 million to pay for the services and supplies to assist Angola.


The WFP’s aid will not undergo strict coordination and organization by WFP alone. The assistance will help Angola’s government regulate food security and nutrition mechanisms within each province to limit the
necessity of WFP’s assistance later.


The WFP’s work in response to
Angola’s drought will help the Angolan government build resilience and hopefully become less reliant on aid from organizations, such as the WFP.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in AngolaThe catalyzation of food insecurity is causing around 6 million people to fall into hunger in Angola, according to UNICEF. The number of people going hungry in Angola, however, continues to rise due to the most severe drought since 1981 in conjunction with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of droughts, especially in Southern Angola, caused the death of 1 million cattle. This created surges of poor malnutrition and severe illnesses. Despite this, hope exists for those suffering from hunger in Angola.

Drought

The severe drought in Angola has continued spreading for almost three years now, traumatically affecting hunger in Angola. Crop production has decreased by nearly 40%, forcing more families into poverty. The drought has, within only three months in Cunene, Angola, tripled levels of food insecurity. The growing scarcity of food and heightening hunger of Angolans is pushing them to seek refuge in proximate countries such as Namibia.

Pedro Henrique Kassesso, a 112-year-old man, can attest that this three-year-long drought has been the worst he has ever experienced in Angola. The drought has affected almost 500,000 children. Not only has food insecurity heightened, but school dropout rates have risen due to increasing socioeconomic troubles. Hunger in Angola has forced children to put aside their education to support their families in collecting food and water.

Longing for Land

Former Angolan communal farmers are longing to get land back from commercial cattle farmers. According to Amnesty International, the Angolan government gives the land to commercial cattle farmers. Commercial cattle farmers have taken 67% of the land in Gambos, Angola. The battle for land has exasperated the hunger levels of communal Angolan citizens who have been reliant on their land and livestock for survival. The combination of loss of land and drought equates to millions of Angolan citizens ending up in poverty.

Despite the drought and rising food insecurity in Angola, people from neighboring countries are seeking refuge in this nation. As of 2017, 36,000 people have undergone displacement from the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and found refuge in Angola. Because of asylum seekers and refugees fleeing to Angola, the nation’s population is rapidly growing. Angola’s population is growing by 1 million people every year, according to the World Population Review. As a host country to asylum seekers, battles for land, ongoing drought and rapid population growth, more people are succumbing to poverty and hunger in Angola.

Hope on the Horizon

Despite the surging levels of food insecurity in Angola, hope is rising on the horizon. In fact, the government of Japan donated $1 million toward United Nations agencies that serve to uplift Angolan citizens who have succumbed to poverty especially due to the drought and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Angola. The donation from Japan, along with the funds raised to end hunger in Angola by the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Programme (WFP) projects to at last tackle the issue of malnutrition and hunger in Angola.

– Nora Zaim-Sassi
Photo: Flickr

Brazil’s Recent Drought Impacts Coffee and Orange ProductionBrazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and oranges. The country produces around a third of the world’s coffee and orange supply. In addition, Brazil exports the largest amount of Arabica coffee beans and orange juice. However, with the recent drought in Brazil, the crops that rely on irrigation, such as orange trees and coffee plants, are suffering. Coffee and orange production is declining, impacting the supply chain of both products around the world and putting a heavy burden on Brazilian farmers.

Impact on Coffee and Orange Crops

Brazil is currently facing one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. The agricultural regions in Brazil, particularly the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, are generally tropical, but they are suffering from dry soil and scarce water reservoirs. Brazilian farmers started turning on irrigation systems for orange and coffee crops early, in fear of the lack of rainfall and limited water reservoirs with the dry season approaching. However, coffee production is taking even more of a hit due to 2021 being a “limited year.” Coffee production runs on a biennial cycle, meaning while there will be a higher production of coffee during one year, the next year will yield a lower amount of coffee from the same trees.

This year’s crop production indicates that if the drought continues, it will severely impact the orange and coffee supply. The past season’s orange production decreased by 31% in comparison to the last season and estimates project that coffee production for the 2021-2022 crop cycle will drop by the same percentage. More specifically, Arabica coffee may see a decline in production of “between 32.4% and 39.1%.” With coffee trees not receiving enough moisture and orange groves experiencing ripeness inconsistencies, coffee and orange production is decreasing.

Overall Consequences of Drought

With the lack of coffee and orange production, the supply of these crops is limited. Limited supply and high demand are driving up the prices of both products, particularly coffee. The prices going up for these popular crops indicates that the products will be more inaccessible due to expensive price points.  Already, wholesale coffee prices have surged at a record high in comparison to recent years; the rate for Arabica coffee reached almost $1.70 per pound this year, which is a 60% increase from 2020. Along with higher coffee price points, orange prices are expected to rise and there may be an orange juice shortage.

Overall, Brazil is a large agricultural hub, not only producing coffee and oranges but also other vital crops, such as sugar cane and corn. Therefore, “the drought is also hurting key farming states, at a time when the agricultural sector has been driving Brazil’s economic recovery, with growth of 5.7% in the first quarter.” However, the drought not only affects the supply chain but also the farmers themselves. Farmers are selling coffee for very low prices and have had to even renegotiate prices with traders. The drought negatively affects everyone in the supply chain, however, farmers and their families depend on the income they get from selling crops.

The MAIS Program Provides a Solution

While there is no solution to directly combat the drought in Brazil, there are organizations that help farmers with agricultural technology and even an organization that helps farmers when it comes to climate crises. The MAIS Program uses different strategies in order “to help farmers plan for drought-intensive periods.” Some of its initiatives include modules with the ability to provide income to farmers with technical assistance. The organization provides solutions to farmers, including using the Opuntia-ficus cactus “as a substitute for corn and a biophysical water and food storage system” and planting drought-resistant trees. This program is designed to help farmers adapt to changes in weather and ensure food security in Brazil.

Every dollar that goes into the program generates $7 in the Jacuipe Basin of Brazil, among other impacts. Programs like MAIS help farmers deal with the impact of weather on crops, including the drought in Brazil that is affecting coffee and orange production.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Pixabay

Tiger Reserve in IndiaThe opening of a tiger reserve along the Vaigai River in India offers hope that more conservation efforts will replenish the dried-up river. Once a vast, plentiful river that farmers relied on for crop cultivation and drinking water, this body of water has largely dried up. Many citizens and conservationists look forward to the preservation efforts now that India has directed efforts into preserving the surrounding land. Hopefully, the new tiger reserve will improve water insecurity and agriculture in India through the revival of the Vaigai River. 

What Happened to the Vaigai River?

The Vaigai River is dry for almost 300 days a year due to poor maintenance over the last 30 years. Sewage drainage and insufficient silt removal have changed both the quality and quantity of the water. Moreover, drought and inadequate rainfall have also been contributors to the depletion of the river. In fact, this year was the first time that the Vaigai Dam had enough water to release in 12 years. Additionally, the insufficient rainfall can be partially attributed to the rapid deforestation India has faced. 

Further, the sewage in the water has made the river a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Moreover, India carries 2% of global malaria deaths and 85.2% of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden. The country has made significant strides in malaria case reduction. However, this issue puts residents along the river at risk for infection.

Why the River Is Important

Residents in three districts receive their daily drinking water from the Vaigai Dam. This is significant as less than 50% of the Indian population has access to clean drinking water. Also, at least two-thirds of all Indian districts face water insecurity issues due to groundwater depletion and drought.

In 1959, the Madurai District built the Vaigai Dam to provide drinking water and combat water insecurity for farmers, who rely on the river to irrigate crops such as rice, cotton, peas, black gram and sorghum.

How the Tiger Reserve Can Help

On February 8, 2021, a government order declared two major wildlife sanctuaries would be combined to create a fifth tiger reserve along the Vaigai River. This new reserve will be called the Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve.

Once the reserve is operational, poaching, encroachments and grazing will be outlawed. This will preserve the surrounding land and the river. Experts except the tiger reserve will be in the forests of Meghamalai. This location is ideal as it will protect the land from deforestation and increase rainfall and water flow by acting as a watershed.

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 will be used to enforce the regulations now that the land surrounding the river is considered protected land. This means poor silt removal practices, sewage drainage and poor maintenance by any government official can result in a fine or jail time. This gives Indian citizens the ability to hold their government accountable for the mismanagement of the river.

A forest official told The Hindu News that “with this new tiger reserve, Vaigai river and its catchment areas will be fully protected. The river, battling for its life, will be saved. This will help in the long-term sustenance of people in several southern districts.”

Looking Forward

This new tiger reserve in India is one of the first protective orders for the land surrounding the Vaigai river. Farmers, conservationists and citizens alike look forward to seeing the Vaigai river return to its former glory, alleviating water insecurity and aiding crop cultivation.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Food insecurity crisis in SomaliaSomalia’s climate consists of sporadic periods of intense rainfall between long periods of drought. So far in 2021, a devastating mix of severe droughts, intense floods and locust infestations in Somalia have devastated crop production and livestock herds, leading to a hunger crisis. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the previously high rates of poverty in the country and have contributed to the food insecurity crisis in Somalia. USAID is aiming to combat the hunger crisis in Somalia by providing food assistance while also targeting assistance efforts to limit malnutrition among children and pregnant women.

Causes of the Food Insecurity Crisis in Somalia

Typically, heavy rains strike Somalia between April and June and again between October and December. During the two rainy seasons, extreme rainfall and flooding regularly displace Somalis across the country. However, in 2021, the rainy season ended in May instead of June. This early end caused intense droughts in Somalia.

Rainfall in some areas of Somalia has amounted to only half of the year-to-date average. As a result, deficit farmers in the south and northwest of Somalia have not been able to access water supplies adequate to plant Somalia’s staple crops. Moreover, pastoral households’ inadequate access to water has decreased the size and productivity of livestock herds. The subsequent meat, milk and crop shortage might surge food prices in Somalia.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network projected that the Somali yield of cereal crops in 2021 will be up to 40% less than the yearly average. The drought has already decreased the food and water intake for farmers and pastoralists across Somalia, and low crop and livestock yields in the late summer harvest will lead to lower incomes for farmers and pastoralists. This will limit the purchasing power of Somalis employed in the agriculture sector. Altogether, the drought and subsequent low-yield harvests could extend the risk of a food insecurity crisis in Somalia past the summer.

The State of the Somali Food Insecurity Crisis

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale is a system that governments, non-governmental organizations and the U.N. uses to analyze the severity of food insecurity situations. The IPC scale ranges from minimal (IPC Phase 1) to famine (IPC Phase 5). By the middle of 2021, the IPC expects 2.7 million Somalis to encounter at least the crisis level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 3). Specifically, the analysis expects 2.25 million Somalis to be at the crisis level of food insecurity while another 400,100 will be at the emergency level of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4).

COVID-19 in Somalia

While the COVAX initiative and the Somali Federal Government have started the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Somalia, the virus continues to devastate the fragile economy. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate (percent of the population below $1.90/day, 2011 PPP) in Somalia was at 69%. The poverty rate among Somalis in rural areas was at 72%.

Further, the worldwide COVID-19 induced lockdowns have limited employment opportunities for Somalis working in foreign countries. Consequently, Somalis working internationally are not able to send much money back to their families in Somalia, which heavily supports consumption in the country. Moreover, Somali businesses have reduced their full-time staff by an average of 31% since the pandemic first struck Somalia.

Lastly, a global reduction in demand for Somali livestock has decreased Somali livestock exports by 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, which further weakens the income of already impoverished Somali pastoralists. Thus, the global economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 threatens to intensify the food insecurity crisis in Somalia.

US Aid to Somalia

On June 24, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a pledge of $20 million in assistance to Somalia. USAID’s aid pledge to Somalia was part of a larger USAID plan to provide a total of $97 million to African countries to combat the health and socioeconomic ramifications of the pandemic. The U.S. aid plan will focus on tackling the food insecurity crisis in Somalia and will supply the country with staple crops like sorghum and yellow split peas. The funding also aims to limit the malnutrition of children and pregnant women.

The aid package builds on a U.S. commitment of $14.7 million in June 2021 to provide drinking water, fight malnutrition and support victims of gender-based violence.

While Somalia’s struggle with poverty and malnutrition is a longstanding and complicated issue, assistance from the U.S. and the rest of the global community could prevent a famine in the short term and boost the country’s economic development in the long term.

– Zachary Fesen
Photo: Flickr