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Executive summary

This report estimates that some 70 million people in the Horn of Africa (45 percent of the total population) live in a state of chronic food insecurity, quite apart from the 13 million or so who have found themselves threatened by famine in 1999/2000. 1 These are people who, over the last 30 years, have been threatened by famine at least once in each decade. Even in normal years, the countries of the region 2 do not have enough food, and the average per capita dietary energy supply is substantially less than the minimum requirement. This has a devastating effect on children in particular, who face life-long physical and cognitive disabilities. In Ethiopia, for example, two-thirds of children are stunted, and in Somalia 20 percent of children die before their fifth birthday. The nutritional status of women, who are the main farmers and carers of families, is also a grave concern. In these precarious circumstances any external shock, whether a drought, a flood or an invasion of migratory pests, can push people over the edge.

The main categories of chronically food-insecure people that emerged from discussions at the country level are: a) pastoralists and agropastoralists in arid and semi-arid areas; b) small-scale, resource-poor farmers; and c) the urban poor. The report identifies the underlying causes of long-term food insecurity as a dangerous conjunction of different factors. There is a high risk of natural hazards, especially drought, because of the aridity of much of the region and the fact that rainfall is low, unreliable and unevenly distributed. There is also evidence that the climate is becoming more unstable. Widespread regional and local conflict also triggers food insecurity. It drives people from their homes and disrupts marketing and distribution systems. Governments are using scarce resources on arms and, in 1997, the countries of the region devoted US$2 billion to the military. This discourages donors, who are prepared to support people in need but want to avoid indirectly financing warfare. All this is compounded by high rates of population growth. The population of the Horn of Africa has more than doubled since the first of the modern droughts hit the region in 1974, and it is projected to increase by a further 40 percent by 2015. This puts intense pressure on natural resources

Many of the causes of food insecurity are in rural areas, where 80 percent of the population and most of the food-insecure are to be found. The natural resource base is fragile and degraded. The agriculture practised by almost all farmers is characterized by perhaps the lowest productivity in the world. A mere 1 percent of the cultivable area is irrigated, compared with 37 percent in Asia, denying farmers protection from the vagaries of the climate. The pastoral systems, which are well adapted to the vast arid lands, are nonetheless fragile and susceptible to climatic cycles and population pressure. For almost all rural people, household economies are narrowly based, and they have limited access to technology, knowledge and markets. Being only weakly connected to the market, few of the farmers have benefited from liberalization of the economy or from globalization. Indeed, they may well have suffered adverse consequences, having to pay more for inputs such as fertilizer, and receiving lower prices for their crops. All these factors serve to undermine the capacity of the people of the area to feed themselves or to be able to buy the food they need

Poor infrastructure and low levels of basic services such as health, education and safe water supplies, mean that people are denied the opportunity of making profitable use of the limited assets they have. Access to health services is poor, and children and pregnant and lactating women are especially vulnerable to disease. The spread of HIV/AIDS is a more recent but equally worrying factor, especially since it hits the most productive part of the rural population. On top of this, the overall environment in the region is not conducive to tackling the many facets of poverty reduction. The economies of the countries concerned have been weak, with growth barely keeping pace with population. External assistance has been limited, and has declined by 40 percent since 1990, with an even greater cut in the resources going to the agricultural sector. Overall governance is poor, with a weak policy and institutional framework in many of the countries. Most important of all, there is inadequate commitment to addressing the problems of food insecurity by the governments of the region. The report not only points to the failings of governments but also draws attention to the evident shortcomings of UN agencies and donors in tackling the underlying causes of food insecurity

The report anchors its Strategy and Framework for Action firmly in human rights and the commitment made at the World Food Summit, echoed in the recent UN Millennium Summit Declaration, i.e. to reduce by half the number of undernourished people worldwide by 2015. It proposes to redirect development to the most vulnerable and excluded people, to address food security through focusing on sustainable livelihoods, and to demand a long-term commitment by all parties. The Strategy and Framework for Action has three main pillars: a) broadening opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, by addressing issues of agricultural production, distribution and access, focusing on irrigation (where it can be shown to be viable), on enhancing pastoral livelihoods, and on the strengthening and diversification of production by small-scale, resource-poor farmers; b) protecting the most needy, by strengthening early warning and response systems, by creating dependable safety nets and by helping the urban food-insecure; and c) creating an enabling environment, aimed at improving governance, mitigating conflict, improving access to basic services, implementing effective population policies, developing infrastructure, bringing in civil society, and strengthening regional cooperation, specifically under the auspices of IGAD, which will need strengthening in order to be more effective.

In the final chapter, the report sets out its proposals for the way ahead. It is the feeling of the Task Force that it is unacceptable, at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, that people should die of starvation in the Horn of Africa, or anywhere else in the world. Strong political commitment by the governments of the region to eliminating famine and food insecurity, is fundamental. Their partners in regional organizations, UN agencies, donor agencies and civil society must focus their efforts on supporting governments in this task.

The report proposes a mechanism to help each government formulate concrete investment projects and supporting programmes which would constitute a Country Food Security Programme (CFSP). Each Programme would address both famine elimination and long-term chronic food insecurity, and would include large investment projects as well as small community-based programmes, using decentralized funding mechanisms to ensure that resources reach the vulnerable populations themselves

Famine elimination would include actions for disaster preparedness, restructuring and strengthening early warning systems and basing them on active two-way communications between local communities and national and international decision.makers. The complex issue of strategic grain reserves and protected funds set aside for imports would be addressed, as well as means of moving quickly from emergency relief to rehabilitation and development. The need for protecting the most needy would be addressed through cash- or food-for-work schemes for the able-bodied. For the elderly, the handicapped and orphans, safety net mechanisms would be needed, but these would have to be community-based in order to be sustainable

Programmes to address long-term, chronic food insecurity would focus on broadening the opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. The immediate focus would be on enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale resource-poor farmers, through a combination of agricultural technologies and support services, access to markets and credit, along with rural enterprises and agroprocessing. For many farmers this would mean making better use of water, through, for example, small-scale irrigation, building on the experiences of FAO's Special Programme for Food Security. In the drier areas, the focus would be more on the promotion of drought-resistant crops, as well as the conservation of both soil and water - more "crop per drop". Pastoralists could achieve greater security if they had better marketing and information systems for their stock, as well as broader opportunities for investment instead of simply buying more livestock. They could also boost their incomes by processing milk and meat, as well as hides and skins, into products for sale. All farmers should be looking to diversify their sources of income, for example by rearing more short-cycle livestock, taking advantage of non-timber forest products and, in some places, developing ecotourism

Underpinning these actions is the need to create an enabling environment for the economy and to enhance food security. Policy and institutional measures to resolve problems of governance would be part of the programme, as well as proposals for conflict prevention and resolution, in collaboration with the regional intergovernmental bodies. Infrastructure must be developed, especially rural roads and livestock markets, to provide better access to trading opportunities. Basic services, especially health, water and sanitation, as well as both formal education and skills training. Civil society must be allowed to play a greater role in achieving food security, using the skills and experience at community level of NGOs and rural producers' organizations

There is clearly a need for concerted action at the regional level to address problems such as conflict, trade, transboundary human and animal health issues and early warning systems. This has led the report to call for the formulation of a Regional Food Security Programme (RFSP), which would complement and strengthen the programmes prepared by each country

The process of preparing CFSPs would be first and foremost the responsibility of governments. Each programme would build upon existing national strategies and programmes and would, in particular, reinforce the Poverty Reduction Strategies being prepared under the auspices of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, as well as the World Food Summit Follow-Up Strategies for National Agricultural Development. This work should be started quickly in order to maintain the momentum of the Task Force, and could be completed by mid-2001. In each country, UN agencies, under the charge of the UN Resident Coordinator, would need to provide support to government and local communities in identifying and formulating their priority projects to address food security. They would be able to draw upon the skills and resources of the UN Country Team and the UNDAF Thematic Group on Food Security and Agriculture. Similarly, support would need to be provided for the formulation of a RFSP.

The process envisaged would have three main phases: first, CFSP formulation, to be completed by mid-2001; second, mobilization of resources, which can start during the formulation phase; and third, implementation. The first priority is to mobilize resources for the preparation and implementation of the CFSPs and the RFSP. Once these programmes were formulated, there could be a high-level regional conference at which governments could commit themselves to the elimination of famine and food insecurity, while UN agencies, donors and NGOs could pledge their support. The elimination of food insecurity, however, is a long-term undertaking, and CFSPs would have a horizon of at least ten years. The submission of the Task Force report marks the beginning of the process.

1It is estimated that, in October 2000, almost 20 million people were in need of emergency food aid

2Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda, which together are members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

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