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Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

Crisis in the Horn of Africa

In 2011, the Horn of Africa (HoA) faced one of the driest years since 1950/51, causing a food crisis that escalated into famine in parts of the region, such as southern Somalia. By the end of July 2011, some 12.4 million people were in need of urgent assistance not only to save their lives, but also to recover their livelihoods; this number nearly doubled in the subsequent months given the rapid deterioration of the situation.

In order to both respond to the crisis and ensure that communities are better equipped to cope with droughts in the future, FAO has assisted local populations and governments with:

  • Rehabilitating water sources and establishing small-scale irrigation systems
  • Distributing seeds, tools and other agricultural inputs
  • Providing plant and animal disease control
  • Carrying out animal vaccination campaigns
  • Supporting coordination of food and nutrition security strategies, conducting real-time analysis of changing conditions and issuing timely reports of the current status of hazards, risks and vulnerabilities in the region
  • Implementing cash-for-work activities

About 80 percent of people in HoA rely on agriculture and pastoralism as their primary source of food and income. In the fight against hunger, it is essential that more focus be placed on restoring, protecting and strengthening the means of agriculture and pastoral dependent groups to continue their way of life and to increase their resilience to future climatic shocks.

Compared to the beginning of the 1990s, productivity in some parts of the region (for staple food crops per land area) has strongly increased. However, with rapid population growth, reduced arable land by subsistence farmers and migration to marginal lands, the deepening effects of climate change and continued marginalization of Horn of African economies in the global economy, there is increased pressure on the Horn’s relatively scarce resources. The situation has been exacerbated by high local cereal prices, excessive livestock mortality, conflict and restricted humanitarian access in some areas, which contribute to the challenges in the efforts to break the cycle of food insecurity.

Drought is a chronic hazard in the region, and has been for centuries. Pastoralism, and in particular agropastoralism, is a dynamic and sustainable livelihood system that has adapted to the particularly harsh conditions in many areas of the HoA. In fact, about 80 percent of the people in this region rely on agriculture and pastoralism as their primary source of food and income. In the fight against hunger, it is essential that more focus be placed on restoring, protecting and strengthening the means of agriculture and pastoral dependent groups to continue their way of life and to increase their resilience to future climatic shocks. 

The provision of agricultural assistance promotes stability and thus prevents food crises from worsening in these affected countries, while also limiting the negative impact of further reductions in food supplies. It also contributes to preventing displacement, unemployment, the sale of productive assets, the worsening of health indicators and dependence on food aid and other forms of relief assistance.

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