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The Sudan: Impact of Early Warning Early Action

Protecting agropastoralist livelihoods ahead of drought

Climate-driven hazards are increasing in intensity and frequency, with weather-related crises now occurring nearly five times as often as 40 years ago. At the same time, needs are expanding and resources are limited. New tools and ways of thinking and acting are essential to reduce the impact of these disasters as effectively as possible.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is developing innovative early warning systems to anticipate risks and intervene at the right time. The right time is often early – before a crisis becomes a humanitarian disaster. FAO’s approach is shifting from a reactive mind-set to one focused on mitigation and prevention.

When the state of Kassala in eastern Sudan experienced a dry spell in 2017 and 2018, FAO took steps early to protect the livelihoods of vulnerable agropastoralists. This study analyses the outcomes of FAO’s Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) approach in the Sudan.

The Sudan is one of the driest countries in Africa, with erratic rainfall on which most agricultural production depends. What are known as extreme years, where rainfall is either heavy or below-average, are becoming more common than average years. It makes life very difficult and unpredictable for the 70 percent of rural people who rely on traditional rainfed agriculture for their food and income. Below-average rainfall means less pasture grows and less fodder can be put aside for the lean seasons, which come earlier than in average years. As a result, livestock are significantly at risk.

Kassala is one of the Sudan’s most vulnerable states, home to around 1.8 million people. Agropastoralists who practice non-mechanized traditional rainfed agriculture and small-scale herding are the most vulnerable, as they rely heavily on short growing seasons depending on seasonal rains. Most grow sorghum and millet – some of the few crops which can grow in the clay soil – raising cows, sheep and goats and selling firewood, grass and charcoal in rural markets. They are not equipped to cope with climate shocks.

The EWEA pilot system for the Sudan was designed to monitor the risk of drought and dry spells in Kassala as well as the state of North Darfur. The success of such systems in countries where early warning data can be scarce relies on building strong partnerships with local and national agencies so that knowledge gaps are filled in order to have a good overall picture of the situation.

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