JOHANNESBURG – Seasonal floods followed by drought caused by El Nino have caused severe crop damage in Ethiopia.
However, in a Monday press release the UN warned that further damage caused by cooler weather brought on by La Nina, expected in October and onwards, could further devastate food production.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) highlighted that if the floods worsen later this year, there could be outbreaks of crop and livestock diseases, further reducing agricultural productivity and complicating recovery.
“The situation is critical now,” Amadou Allahoury, FAO Representative to Ethiopia, said.
El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years.
It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.
While El Niño, and its counterpart La Niña – which is caused by cooler waters in the Pacific Ocean – occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change, extreme weather events associated with these phenomena, such as droughts and floods, have increased in frequency and severity, according to UN agencies.
“We must make sure that farmers will be able to plant between now and September and grow enough food to feed themselves and their families thus avoiding millions of people having to rely on food assistance for another year,” said Allahoury.
According to FAO, the urgency is due to the country’s main agricultural season, Meher, which produces up to 85 per cent of the nation’s food supplies.
The season starts as early as mid-June for some crops, with planting ongoing until August for others.
To ensure the last remaining planting window of the year is met, an estimated $8.8 million is needed to provide root crop planting materials, legumes, vegetable and cereal seed to 530,000 households.
“Ethiopia needs urgent global support to respond to its humanitarian needs, we have no time to procrastinate,” stressed Allahoury.
The recently released Mid-Year Review of the Ethiopia Humanitarian Requirements Document developed jointly by the government of Ethiopia, UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and other development partners, says some 900,000 additional households need urgent agricultural support bringing the total number to 2.9 million in August.
It added that the overall food security situation has improved only slightly, with the number of people requiring emergency food assistance having decreased from 10.2 million to 9.7 since the beginning of the year.
FAO has estimated that meeting additional agricultural sector needs will require $45 million bringing the total requirement for the agriculture sector to $91.3 million for 2016.
Africa News Agency