News Release

The Namibian: Let drought become part of planning – experts

Time:2016-08-18 Browse Number:284 Source:The Namibian

DROUGHT preparedness needs to become an integral part of African governments' programmes.

(August 16, 2016) This was the collective view of several speakers at the opening of the first African drought conference, which started in Windhoek yesterday.

The three-day conference is being held under the theme “Enhancing resilience to drought events on the African continent”.

Over 73 million people on the African continent have been affected by the drought, which has been caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

Babagana Ahmadu, country representative of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations to Namibia, said Africa needs to set up early warning systems and engage in research to minimise the effects of drought.

“We should build capacity because drought affects food, and food is the basic need of African people.

Agriculture should therefore be priority number one,” he stressed, adding that the FAO will always be there to support Africa in its efforts.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification's programme officer, Daniel Tsegai, was in agreement with Ahmadu, and said treating drought as a crisis will only treat the symptoms and not the actual cause.

“The time has come for a paradigm shift, for Africa to change its attitude. To move from being reactive to being proactive, we need to strengthen early warning systems,” Tsegai stated.

United Nations resident coordinator Kiki Gbeho said the conference comes at an opportune time as the majority of African countries are experiencing severe drought.

She said the drought is the worst ever, and all members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have declared a state of emergency.

“Response aid alone is no longer enough. We are not investing enough in drought preparedness. Education and capacity building on climate change must be improved,” said Gbeho.

Keynote speaker deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said drought affects key industries.

She said because of the drought, prices of basic commodities such as food have increased and most people who have been relying on farming, are moving to urban areas.

“This is putting pressure on services in urban areas. The provision of water, electricity and sanitation are undermined as a result,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah, who doubles as international affairs minister.

The event, which aims to identify the specific needs of African countries in the area of effective drought mitigation, was attended by regional and pan-African organisations, the African Union Commission, Arab Maghreb Union, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the community of Sahel-Saharan States, amongst others.