Djibouti: Joint Appeal 2008

Djibouti: Joint Appeal 2008


Despite a strategic coastal location that enables the import and export of goods to land-locked countries in the Horn of Africa, the Republic of Djibouti continues to suffer from widespread unemployment, poverty and social inequalities. Increasing food and energy prices, reduced purchasing powers and the impacts of drought have led to a humanitarian crisis across the country, with large swathes of the population currently unable to feed themselves.

Below average rainfall in 2005, 2006 and 2008 has caused the death of large numbers of livestock and a significant decline in milk production. In addition, local food prices have increased by about 20 percent since 2007. These factors have compounded the widespread poverty and malnutrition already affecting communities in Djibouti, compromising the food security, health and livelihoods of some 120 000 people. Vulnerable communities are under additional pressure from the continuing influx of Somalis and Ethiopians crossing the border in search of asylum.

At present, Djibouti is struggling to host at least 30 000 asylum seekers and refugees in the absence of even the most basic materials for shelter and fuel. The Djibouti Response Plan for Drought, Food and Nutrition Crisis was launched on 31 July 2008 and appealed for a total of USD 31.7 million to support the Government of Djibouti in responding to the food and nutrition crisis aggravated by drought and soaring food prices. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the lead agency for agriculture and aims to assist Government efforts and the people of Djibouti in resuming livelihoods and food production.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

With only 3 percent of the country’s arid terrain suitable for cultivation, pastoralism is the mainstay of the farming economy in Djibouti. Traditionally, most Djiboutians are nomadic pastoralists, but years of adverse climatic conditions and national border restrictions have forced 85 percent of the country’s nomadic population to migrate to urban areas. Even for Djibouti’s arid climate, rainfall in recent years has been extremely low and erratic, with devastating impacts for the country’s remaining pastoralist communities.

Herders have lost between 40 and 70 percent of their animals and struggle to maintain their surviving livestock in the face of poor animal health, degraded pastureland and insufficient water supplies. The drought has also caused a dramatic reduction in ground water levels, while degraded irrigation networks make it difficult to distribute the little water available. The resulting dive in crop production has pushed many farmers into a state of extreme poverty and rendered them unable to acquire the inputs they need.
Many pastoral and farming families are turning to the sale of firewood and the production of charcoal in order to survive – unsustainable activities that diminish already limited natural resources. Others are migrating to urban areas in the hope of gaining support from Government institutions and international organizations. The combined impacts of decreased production, unemployment and soaring food prices have forced urban and rural households alike to reduce their food intake to only one or two meals a day. Urgent efforts are required to restore agricultural production and boost food security in Djibouti.

FAO’s response

FAO’s emergency and rehabilitation interventions in Djibouti have been assisting the country’s most vulnerable communities for the last three years. Within the framework of the 2008 Djibouti Response Plan for Drought, Food and Nutrition Crisis, FAO has requested USD 6.5 million to continue supporting Government efforts to restore the food security and self-reliance of vulnerable pastoral and farming families affected by drought and rising food prices.
FAO activities aim to:

  • rebuild pastoral livelihoods by preventing disease and mortality among surviving livestock, improving animal health and boosting fodder production; and
  • enhance farming livelihoods by increasing crop production and diversifying incomes.