By Moses Walubiri
Regional countries under Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are fine tuning an ambitious multipronged response to the perennial problem of drought, with member countries keen to avoid ‘firefighting’ every time Mother Nature unleashes her wrath.
A four day summit tailored to concretizing a common response to drought in the region opened in Kampala Monday, with heads of states of member countries expected to grace its closure on Thursday.
The horn of Africa and a huge swath of eastern Africa that make up IGAD member countries’ territory have lately suffered intermittent ruinous droughts.
Following a particularly devastating drought in 2010 that affected 13 million people and almost decimated livestock in Somalia, Eritrea, northern Kenya and Djibouti, IGAD heads of state decided to take a proactive approach to the problem.
The approach dubbed regional drought resilience and sustainability platform, according to its Platform Coordinator, Dr. John Kabayo, is “aimed at ending emergencies that come in the wake of severe droughts.”
“There are countries like Israel, Egypt and Tunisia which are located in deserts, but actually doing well in terms of food security. We might not be able to stop occasional occurrence of droughts, but we can stop the tendency of every drought turning into an emergency,” Kabayo said yesterday.
The program which is expected to last 15 years is being funded by member countries under the auspices of a string of donors – World Bank, African Development Bank (ADB) and Germany. Already the ADB has bankrolled the project to the tune of sh300m, according to Kabayo.
Among the mooted proposals, according to Kabayo, include a concerted effort to stem land degradation, opening up different sources of income to reduce dependency on the land for sustenance, water harvesting for irrigation in arid areas and devising means of sustainable harvesting of forest resources.
The Inter Governmental Authority on Development Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim talks during the openning ceremony of IGAD on drought in the region at Speke Resort Munyonyo. Photo by Kennedy Oryema.
According to the Executive Secretary of IGAD, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, 70% of IGAD region is arid with the desert threatening to continue encroaching on the remaining patches of green in the Ethiopian Highlands, parts of Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda.
“While droughts may be an unavoidable natural phenomenon in the region, their impact can be mitigated by appropriate actions, to avoid the occurrence of famine and other disasters,” Mahboub said, revealing that “relief is not the solution to challenges caused by drought.”
IGAD region has an estimated 214 million people, with Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan as its members.