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West and Central African countries learn to develop National Drought Management policies

West and Central African countries learn to develop National Drought Management policies

05/05/2015

West and Central African countries gathered in Accra with the aim of supporting national capacities for developing risk-based drought management policies.

In 2012, several United Nations entities requested UN-Water, through its Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC), to begin a capacity development initiative to support countries in the development of drought management policies at the national level. 

Since the international launch of the initiative in 2013, five regional workshops have been carried out for the Eastern European region, the Latin America and the Caribbean, the Asia-Pacific region, the East and Southern Africa and the Near East and North Africa Region by UN-Water Members that are the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). 

The sixth and last one - a four-day regional workshop on drought management for West and Central African countries - has taken place in Accra from 4th to 7th May 2015.

“The objective of this joint initiative is to increase the capacities within the target countries on the development of risk based National Drought Management Policies. The goal is to enable participating nations to assess their national situation on disaster management, the position of drought management therein, and to familiarize themselves with a suite of strategies which allow them to develop risk based National Drought Management Policies”, explained Dr David Coates of the Convention on Biological Diversity. 

Strengthening national strategies to combat drought

Ghana’s Deputy Minister in charge of Crops of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Yakubu Alhassan, who addressed participants at the opening session, observed that droughts are expected to increase in frequency and extent due to climate change and among all natural disasters droughts were known to have far reaching consequences on food security, social stability, the environment and economies at large.

According to UN sources, drought accounts for 33% of all the people affected by natural disasters and 22% of all damage done. Scientists also estimate that the fraction of land surface area experiencing drought conditions had grown from 10 to 15 per cent in the early 1970s to more than 30 per cent by early 2000, and that these figures were expected to grow more in the foreseeable future. 

‘Drought is one of the most common causes of severe food shortages, particularly in developing countries, and represents one of the most important natural triggers of malnutrition and famine’, pointed out Mr. Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, in his opening remarks.

‘Countries would greatly benefit from moving away from the reactive, crisis-based approaches to a more pro-active and risk-based drought management approach towards sustainable development goals’, he added.

Adapting to climate change 

The workshop will familiarize participants with the process of drought preparedness, through hands on practice, using your respective countries and working as teams. The process is expected to constitute the nucleus for full-fledged national strategies and action plans that will benefit your countries.

According to Mohamed Bazza, Senior Water Resources Officer, Land and Water Division of FAO, drought impacts can be mitigated through good planning and inter sectoral collaboration when political will exists. Pro-active drought management and planning results in building societal resilience to drought.

‘Drought risk management is also a way of adapting societies, ecosystems and rural livelihoods to climate change’, he said.

The capacity development initiative on National Drought Management Policy development will use a designated space on the UN-Water Activity Information System (UNW-AIS) with project pages documenting the activities of the initiative. The designated space will also serve the participants and others as a resource for follow-up and implementation. It will further make available reference material provided by the members and partners participating in the initiative.

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