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FAO in Somalia

Rapid Results Drought Response Plan

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The drought emergency in Somalia has reached a critical point, and risks spiralling out of control. It is now Jilaal, the driest and hottest time of year in Somalia (January-March), following two seasons of failed rains in 2016. During the harsh Jilaal months, Somalis rely on remaining water and pasture from the preceding rainy season, and food and income from the preceding harvest. This Jilaal, however, pastures, wells and grain stores are largely barren. To make matters worse, the 2017 Gu rains (April-June) are likely to be below average.  

Early warnings are loud and clear: hunger will continue to spread and deepen in early 2017. Already, 5 million Somalis are acutely food insecure. Among them, those requiring urgent humanitarian assistance – in food security “Crisis” and “Emergency” – rose by 20 percent in 2016 and will likely increase by at least 20 percent further in the first half of 2017. These figures will be confirmed by the 2016/17 Post-Deyr Seasonal Food Security and Nutrition Assessment to be issued in the coming weeks by FSNAU, FEWS NET and other partners. This is a critical moment to scale up food security efforts. No delay can be afforded.

Farmers and pastoralists have most to lose when the rains fail: their food sources, income and assets. During Gu 2016, Somalia’s biggest cropping season (April-June), farmers produced half the cereals of an average year (1995-2015). In food and people terms, the shortfall amounts to over 63 000 tonnes of staple food loss that could have fed nearly half a million Somalis for a year. The ongoing Deyrharvest fares worse, at 50-60 percent below the long-term average. In Lower Shabelle and Bay regions, where two-thirds of southern Somalia’s cereals are grown, poor households will likely deplete their cereal stocks within one month, by February 2017. The harvest shortfall will trigger an early start of the “lean season” and push cereal prices higher, further diminishing household purchasing power. In some areas, staple food prices have already started increasing sharply since October. The poor harvests of 2016 also left farmers without seed to plant with the first Gu rains of 2017, anticipated in April. Families unable to plant during Gu will lack a cereal harvest until January 2018.

Pastoralists are struggling to keep their animals alive. The extreme dry conditions, water shortages and lack of pasture have made animals weaker, more prone to disease and less productive. Weak animals supply less milk and meat. They are also worth less when sold or traded for other food items, such as cereals. Livestock often represent a pastoralist’s lifetime savings and primary sources of cash, food and nutrition. Livestock losses have been reported from north to south. When livestock die, families have very little, if anything, to fall back on. For every productive female goat that dies, one Somali child loses a daily supply of milk.

FAO’s Rapid Results Drought Response Plan for Somalia 2017 focuses on four short-term achievable results that need to be delivered for families to preserve their sources of food and livelihoods: (i) immediate cash relief, (ii) livestock preservation, (iii) a better Gu harvest in 2017, and (iv) livelihood diversification. FAO will adjust its response to evolving needs on the ground as climate updates and post-Deyr seasonal assessment results become available.