Food insecurity affects nearly one in ten people in Djibouti. Of the food insecure, nearly 60 percent live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture-based livelihoods. Yet consecutive years of drought have depleted food and water resources in Djibouti, stretching the ability of rural families to cope. Malnutrition rates are consistently over emergency thresholds. In Obock Region – one of the most affected by the humanitarian crisis – almost 60 percent of households are food insecure and global acute malnutrition rates are above 25 percent. The country is also host to 27 500 refugees – almost half of whom are food insecure – and each year about 60 000 vulnerable migrants pass through Djibouti on their way to Yemen and the Gulf countries. FAO Djibouti is working to increase water access and enhance food production, efforts that are crucial to counter malnutrition and food insecurity.
Increasing water and pasture availability
With low annual rainfall, Djibouti is one of the most water-stressed countries in the Horn of Africa. In recent years, consecutive poor rainfall seasons have contributed to drought conditions, reducing food production. Over 60 percent of households do not have access to improved water sources and women in rural areas often walk 4-5 hours per day transporting water.
Livestock rearing, a mainstay of rural livelihoods, has been undermined by livestock disease and limited access to water sources. Herd sizes have shrunk – drought-related livestock loss is upwards of 70 percent – and milk production has fallen. In the face of such difficulties, many nomadic pastoralists have abandoned their livelihoods, becoming sedentary farmers or joining the rural exodus. High staple food prices and scaled back humanitarian assistance in 2014 have further eroded food access.
Since 2007, FAO has been supporting the Government of Djibouti to improve the food security and resilience of pastoral populations through livestock restocking and maintaining productivity by: guaranteeing the availability of and access to water, promoting fodder cultivation, and providing veterinary assistance. These efforts have contributed to a fall in livestock disease outbreaks and a reduced need for livestock restocking – distributions have thus been scaled down (from 15 goats to 10 per family). FAO and the Government are now focusing on increasing access to water and forage cropping to promote agropastoralism and the genetic improvement of domestic animals (particularly goats) in order to increase their productivity and competitiveness.
The frequency of drought in the region makes it increasingly difficult for families to fully recover each time. Compounded with high and volatile food prices – Djibouti imports more than 90 percent of its food – it becomes clear how precarious the situation is. To reinforce household incomes and restore local economies, FAO Djibouti is engaging vulnerable farmers in cash-for-work initiatives, providing labourers with wages in exchange for work on the construction and rehabilitation of public infrastructure, such as micro-irrigation systems.
Bolstering early warning and disaster risk reduction
Being able to predict and respond quickly to an emergency is essential. FAO is working closely with Djibouti’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of the Interior to strengthen disaster risk management, putting into place mechanisms for early warning systems and information collection and diffusion. In addition, FAO has mapped migration routes and water points for pastoralists as well as cross-border movements within the region.