Monday, August 15, 2011

Preparing for drought can pay off as climate impacts take hold

Esther Williams in Alertnet: A humanitarian emergency continues to persist across the Horn of Africa. Farmlands are brown and months of blazing sunshine have dried up lakes, rivers and pasture as the worst drought in 60 years weighs on parts of the region. More than 12 million people are affected by severe food shortages and aid agencies like Tearfund are responding with life-saving assistance. Over 40,000 people across the region are receiving clean water, non-food items, and veterinary support for their animals as part of the aid agency’s efforts.

In the midst of a food crisis, meeting people’s immediate needs is crucial. However, as questions are asked as to why this part of world is regularly hit by food shortages, it is vital to highlight that the situation in East Africa had been forecast months before the region began to receive high profile media attention and before donors sat up and paid attention. The reality is that governments are wedded to emergency response and remain painfully slow to invest in disaster risk reduction strategies. We know which parts of the world are most disaster-prone and that lives can be saved through preventative measures.

We know that climate change is a game-changer and, unless rapid action is taken to curb it, the odds are these life-threatening weather events will only increase. So it’s shameful that we continue to stick plasters on gaping wounds. Tearfund conducted a cost-benefit analysis of disaster risk reduction on a food security programme in a Malawian agricultural community. The programme has run for four years and spans 53 remote villages.

The study found disaster risk reduction efforts had had a hugely positive impact on the communities and, remarkably, for every one pound ($1.60) of cash invested, the project delivered 24 pounds ($39) of net benefits for the communities to help them overcome food insecurity while building their resilience to drought and erratic weather....

Farm landscape in central Malawi, near Dedza, a Khulungira village. Shot by ILRI/Stevie Mann, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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