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article imageUN makes appeal for three-year plan for the Sahel

By Raluca Besliu     Feb 4, 2014 in Environment
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), over 20 million people in the Sahel region are at risk of hunger and will need humanitarian assistance in 2014, around 8.7 million more than in 2013.
Around 4.8 million children are acutely malnourished across the region stretching from Mauritania in the west to Eritrea in the east and dividing the Sahara desert and savannas in the south. The Sahel has experienced three major droughts in less than a decade. Insecurity, violence and population growth exceeding food production have displaced 1.6 million people across the region.
The reason behind the recent and considerable increase in numbers of people in need is a deterioration of access to affordable food in northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Senegal, which currently account for over 40 percent of the food insecurity caseload.
OCHA has launched a three-year plan for the Sahel, calling for US$2 billion in 2014, which aims to go beyond saving lives. The new strategy will prioritize early warning signals for droughts, early response to prevent people from falling under pressure or becoming at risk as well as working in partnership with governments and development actors to ensure all initiatives’ sustainability. The long-term goals include ensuring good governance, security and sustainable development for the Sahel region.
In order to achieve these goals, all involved actors are expected to bolster their activities, including by building food stocks, improving use of the limited water supply and water points for pastoralists and farmers as well as ensuring preventative vaccination and timely destocking of animals. OCHA’s three-year plan also includes individual country plans for all countries in the Sahel.
Securing the needed funds will be challenging. In 2013, donors provided only 63 percent of the $1.7 billion needed for the region. For 2014, the European Commission has pledged $190 million in aid to help meet the basic needs of the people in Sahel, while the World Bank promised $1.5 billion in new regional investments over the next two years.
According to the director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the immediate priority is helping farmers in the Sahel have a successful planting season, with the overall goal of building resilience to prevent the next drought from becoming a major humanitarian crisis. Recovering from a bad crop might require three successive good harvests, but often repeated droughts prevent families from making this recovery.
The FAO director has previously stressed that the key to building resilience and ending weather-related food security crises is effective, sustainable and integrated water management to ensure agricultural productivity and rural development.
Agriculture is the most important economic activity in the Sahel, with more than half of the Sahel population being engaged, directly or indirectly, in agricultural activities. Around 95 percent of the food production in the region remains based on rain-fed agriculture.
While the Sahel has low and erratic annual precipitation, its renewable water resources put regional supplies above the standard water scarcity limit. Therefore, the region’s agricultural potential can be stimulated to reach, beyond local sales, regional and even international markets. Some of the vital measures needed to unleash the region’s agricultural potential include investing in small-scale water harvesting and water storage systems, flexible irrigation systems giving farmers more control over water as well as medium to large-scale irrigation systems to facilitate larger agricultural endeavors. At the same time, the Sahel is one of the best places for generating solar power, which could be used to power solar pumps, running on electricity generated by photovoltaic panels or the thermal energy available from collected sunlight. These pumps could contribute to improving the drinking water supply of numerous villages.
More about Sahel, Environment, Un, Drought, Africa
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