The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Djibouti

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2012: Djibouti
Dec 2011

Drought is nothing new in Djibouti – since 2007, rainfall levels have been less than 75 percent of the average.

However, the impact of the 2010/11 drought has been particularly severe, directly threatening the lives of the country’s most vulnerable people. Djibouti is experiencing its sixth consecutive year of rainfall deficit and fifth year of drought. Food and water resources are depleted, and household coping mechanisms are nearly exhausted.

From June to September 2011, over 3 000 new refugees arrived from Somalia, bringing the total number in the country to over 20 000 people, and placing even more pressure on already limited resources.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

The current drought has left almost one-quarter of Djibouti’s population – around 210 000 people – in need of assistance. Over half live in rural areas.

Livestock rearing is the main livelihood activity for 80 percent of rural households. In recent years, herds have been decimated – in some areas, goat herds have been reduced to just 24 percent of their 2003/04 numbers, and milk yields have fallen to 45 percent of 2003/04 production levels. This is due mainly to depleted resources, such as water and pastures, as a result of insufficient rains.

Pastoral families are increasingly facing difficulty in feeding themselves, let alone their livestock, as staple food prices have risen by up to 200 percent in some areas, severely curtailing household purchasing power.

In the southeast of the country, above-normal Heys/Dara rains (October to March) are expected to have a positive effect on pasture and water availability. However, there is a risk that rains will increase outbreaks of livestock disease. Large-scale animal migrations to coastal grazing areas are likely,with resulting high concentrations of livestock that could contribute to the spread of disease. With veterinary services not widely available and animal health workers constrained by limited vaccines and equipment, livestock mortality rates may rise.

Crop production is limited and meets only 3 percent of national food requirements. Erratic rains and limited access to agricultural inputs (e.g. seeds, fertilizers and irrigation materials) have exacerbated already low production, and the number of cultivated plots has fallen significantly.

With over 90 percent of the country’s food imported, Djibouti is extremely vulnerable to fluctuations in global markets. In 2011, increasing staple food prices undermined families’ coping mechanisms. Prices are likely to continue to rise owing to export bans in Ethiopia as a result of the drought. A hike in the price of rice is also anticipated due to increased costs in exporting countries, such as Thailand.

FAO’s response

Efforts to sustainably reduce chronic food insecurity and rebuild the livelihoods of rural households are central to the drought response in Djibouti.

By rehabilitating water infrastructure and distributing irrigation equipment, FAO is seeking to improve access to water for human and livestock populations. Support to crop and fodder production will include the distribution of essential inputs, such as tools and drought-tolerant seeds, reinforced by training on conservation agriculture and irrigation. Cash-for-work activities will rapidly inject cash into drought-hit communities.

Refugee and host communities will also benefit from the establishment of small-scale fodder and vegetable gardens. Alternative livelihoods will be promoted through microfinance and poultry farming. FAO will also promote afforestation in Ali Sabeh region, particularly around the Ali-Addé refugee camp, through sustainable wood production for charcoal use to provide a reliable supply of fuel in the camp, as well as a source of income for camp residents and the host community. Urban gardening will be introduced to enhance the food security of pastoralists who have abandoned their livelihoods and migrated to urban centres. Women-headed households will receive particular attention as they represent 37 percent of food-insecure households in urban areas.

FAO also seeks to improve animal health through a nationwide vaccination campaign, as well as by providing community animal health workers and the Ministry of Agriculture with vital veterinary drugs. Community animal health workers and agropastoralists will be trained on animal health and enhanced livestock production. Destocking and restocking will target households whose herds were hit hardest by the drought.

As co-lead with WFP of the Food Security Cluster, FAO will continue to improve information collection and dissemination, as well as introduce the Integrated Food Security and Humanitarian Phase Classification tool for food security monitoring and analysis.