Irrigation way out of the drought and hunger
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.