Ir­ri­ga­tion way out of the drought and hunger

East African Business Week - - EDITORIAL -

East Africa is cur­rently ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the worst drought to hit the re­gion in 60 years. The UN has of­fi­cially de­clared famine in parts of south­ern So­ma­lia—re­gions of Lower Sha­belle and south­ern Bakool. It is pre­dicted that the en­tire south of So­ma­lia will face famine within the next two months. About 34 mil­lion peo­ple in East Africa have been hit hard by drought con­di­tions, with sev­eral coun­tries hav­ing seen lit­tle rain­fall over the past year. Ex­perts grimly pre­dict that the sit­u­a­tion will only worsen in 2017. The de­vel­op­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, which has been ex­ac­er­bated by the El Niño ef­fect, has left some 12 mil­lion peo­ple in need of food aid across Kenya, Ethiopia and So­ma­lia. Cat­tle farm­ers, who have al­ready lost more than 100,000 head of live­stock to hunger, have seen prices drop as the re­main­der of their ema­ci­ated an­i­mals fetch less on the mar­ket. The knockon ef­fect has been a rise in food prices, thus in­ten­si­fy­ing the hard­ship. In Tan­za­nia, most parts of the coun­try re­ceived rains be­low av­er­age be­tween Oc­to­ber and De­cem­ber last year and there are signs there will be in­suf­fi­cient har­vests this agri­cul­tural sea­son. In Uganda, the sit­u­a­tion is not much bet­ter. “If noth­ing is done, it will have an ad­verse ef­fect on eco­nomic growth,” Ugan­dan Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ma­tia Ka­saija warned. The food short­age is also putting a strain on the na­tional bud­get. “Per­haps we will have to cut back on other areas, so that no Ugan­dan dies of hunger,” he said. The sit­u­a­tion in Kenya, Ethiopia and So­ma­lia is par­tic­u­larly pre­car­i­ous. Twelve mil­lion need food aid and all three coun­tries have ex­pe­ri­enced dev­as­ta­tion wreaked by El Nino’s ex­treme weather pat­terns. “This has cre­ated a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis,” said Shukri Ahmed from the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions (FAO). “The cur­rent drought is ex­pected to ag­gra­vate the al­ready dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion,” he warned. The drought is ex­pected to be­come even more se­vere in the com­ing months, and the num­ber of peo­ple suf­fer­ing from hunger is set to rise ac­cord­ingly. A new drought is fore­cast for parts of Kenya in 2017. There hasn’t been any proper rain­fall in some areas for more than year. “Cities in north­east­ern Kenya, such as Garissa, Wa­jir or Man­dera, are among the worst af­fected re­gions,” said de­vel­op­ment ex­pert Ti­tus Mung’ou. “Pas­toral­ists there have lost more than 100,000 head of cat­tle.” How­ever, not all needs to be lost. For a long time now, Uganda has seen huge amounts of wa­ter flow into the Mediter­ranean sea obliv­i­ous of its po­ten­tial to al­le­vi­ate is­sues to do with hunger. Re­cently, the Great lakes re­gion saw an in­creas­ing in­ter­est in har­vest­ing the wa­ters of the Nile for ir­ri­ga­tion in or­der to fore­stall such con­di­tions as famine and hunger. Egypt, wary of any­thing that may ham­per the flow of the lifeblood of their coun­try, a pro­ducer of both food and en­ergy, was ap­pre­hen­sive and tried to con­vince the other Great lakes mem­bers to aban­don the idea of ir­ri­ga­tion on the river Nile in vain. This deed alone has given East Africa a way out of this im­pend­ing drought and hunger. To­gether, the East African states can har­ness the river Nile wa­ters and feed their hun­gry.

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