Southern Africa El Niño Response Plan (2016/17)

Southern Africa El Niño Response Plan (2016/17)
Aug 2016

The El Niño phenomenon poses a global threat to the agricultural livelihoods of millions of people. In Southern Africa, the impacts of El Niño have been felt across all sectors — food security, nutrition, agriculture, water and sanitation, energy, health and education — which leads to the suffering of vulnerable populations and to economic contraction.

The poor 2015/16 agricultural season, compounded by last year’s poor harvest that left only two countries with surplus food to export, has greatly affected the food and nutrition security of millions of people. The lean season is expected to continue through April 2017, which will have a cumulative eroding effect on the production capacities of farmers in the 2016/17 agricultural season. With 70 percent of the population in the region depending on agriculture for their livelihood, these same people not only produce food for themselves, but for the entire subregion. Supporting these farmers will be crucial to avoiding protracted relief operations and increased vulnerability, which can lead to migration as income and labour opportunities cease to exist.

In 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) established a Global Task Team on El Niño, which focuses on coordinating FAO’s response to the impacts on agriculture, food and nutrition security and the livelihoods of affected populations. In December 2015, FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System issued a special alert on the effects of El Niño in the region. Based on this information, the Southern Africa El Niño Response Plan 2016 was drafted and further benefited from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) El Niño meeting held in Johannesburg on 25–26 February 2016. The recommended response actions from the SADC meeting are supported by this Plan.

Given the magnitude of the crisis across multiple countries, timely and coordinated support is required to assist vulnerable families to restore agricultural production, regain their livelihoods and better withstand future climatic shocks. FAO is committed to complementing and supporting governments’ efforts in the region to effectively respond to the immediate stress effects of El Niño on vulnerable farmers’ assets and livelihoods, as well as pursuing policy and investment options to build their resilience

The evolving climatic patterns characterized by cyclic droughtfloods and cyclones have become more frequent in Southern Africa. Their scale and complexities demand that all partners on the ground work together to help communities become more resilient to these threats. With agriculture regarded as a key driver in the economic growth of countries in the region, the adoption of policies, technologies and practices that build the resilience of agriculture-based livelihoods to potential threats is crucial.