Focus on concrete action on Horn of Africa

High-level operational meeting called in Rome

11 August 2011, Rome - Urgent and concrete measures intended to heighten the international response to the worsening crisis in the Horn of Africa will be the focus of a high-level operational meeting hosted by FAO on 18 August 2011.  

The meeting, to which agriculture ministers of all FAO's 191 member countries have been invited, along with senior officials from Regional Economic Organizations, the African Union, NEPAD, the Rome-based agencies, leading NGOs and other partners, will take stock of the evolving situation, actions underway, needs and shortfalls in the crisis. It will identify concrete programmes and projects, building on already prepared plans and effective actions by governments in the Horn of Africa as well as their humanitarian and development partners that need to be implemented on a wide scale to fully meet immediate requirements and address underlying causes.

It follows up on the Emergency Ministerial-level Meeting on the Horn of Africa held in Rome on 25 July 2011 and will provide input which would be useful for the Pledging Conferences of the United Nations and the African Union.

From crisis to recovery

The follow-up Rome meeting will review existing plans and successful examples of ongoing actions that will enable populations to recover from the crisis. It will discuss actions to address immediate food shortages, and at village level, small-scale water harvesting, irrigation and storage facilities, as well as concrete projects and programmes to implement wells along the pasture route of the livestock, together with rural feeder roads, provision of seeds and fertilizers to farmers, animal feed and vaccines to herders.

These actions should ensure a smooth transition into support for medium- to long-term plans that have been developed by governments within the framework of the African Union-sponsored Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).  FAO also provided support to African countries for the preparation of this programme, the National Medium Term Investment Programme (NMTIP) and the Bankable Investment Project Profiles (BIPPs), in cooperation with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

The meeting of 18 August will focus on a twin-track approach that was called for in the 25 July meeting to resolving the famine in the Horn of Africa, building resilience over the long haul and supporting livelihoods over the short, medium and long-term.

Lives and livelihoods

FAO has issued a road-map of short-term agricultural recovery actions needed to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers and pastoralists across the drought-struck Horn of Africa. Ongoing and planned interventions include distribution of seeds and other inputs, provision of animal feed, livestock vaccination and treatment, cash-for-work schemes and infrastructure improvement.

Building long-term livelihood resilience

In 2000, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, organized an International Task Force on the UN response to Long-term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa under the chairpersonship of the FAO Director-General. A consensus report was adopted indicating concrete measures to be taken to tackle the root causes of drought in the subregion. Unfortunately, despite the setting up of a second task force chaired by the President of the World Bank to mobilize the necessary resources, the programme was never implemented. In February 2006, the Secretary-General also appointed the former Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, to help in addressing the long-term problem of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa.

Political will is necessary and resources need to be provided to address the root causes of the vulnerability of a region where the livelihood of 80 per cent of the population is crop production and animal husbandry and where only 1 per cent of the arable land is irrigated, against 7 per cent in Africa and 38 per cent in Asia. While this is a terrible drought in the Horn of Africa, successful programmes in recent years, even in areas with difficult political and security challenges, have mitigated a deeper crisis. Governments in the region, with the support of their development partners, need to ensure that existing well prepared plans and programmes are implemented on an adequately large scale.

Photo: AU-UN IST photo / Stuart Price
A Somali woman holds her severely malnourished baby outside a medical clinic established by the African Union Mission in Somalia's peacekeeping operation.