FAO launches $138 million plan to avert hunger crisis in Horn of Africa

A man collects water from a tank for livestock in a semi-arid area of Kenya. (FAO/Patrick Meinhardt)
A man collects water from a tank for livestock in a semi-arid area of Kenya. (FAO/Patrick Meinhardt)

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says it is launching a 138 million U.S. dollar plan to avert the consequences of drought and crop failures in Eastern Africa and the Horn. The body announced the news in a statement released Monday.

Three consecutive years of failed or poor rains have left millions of farmers and herders in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia without adequate water for their crops and animals, creating a serious risk of widespread hunger in those countries.

Projections indicate that some 25.3 million people will face “high acute food insecurity” by the middle of the year, the FAO warns, adding that, if nothing is done, the Horn of Africa would rank among the world’s worst current food crises.

“We know from experience that supporting agriculture at moments like this is hugely impactful, that when we act fast and at the right moment to get water, seeds, animal feed, veterinary care, and much-needed cash to at-risk rural families, then hunger catastrophes can be averted,” said Rein Paulsen, the agency’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience.

The FAO’s plan will divert funds to purchase seeds and inputs for drought-stricken farmers in time for the crucial March planting season, with the goal of staving off a chain reaction of compounding catastrophes prompted by a lack of seeds in the ground.

Meanwhile, herding communities will be supported with animal feeds and nutritional supplements to ensure that their livestock can continue producing milk, while water will be transported into collapsible reservoirs to be established in remote areas.

Cash-for-work programs will allow able-bodied people in drought-affected areas to earn additional income while building up agricultural infrastructure, while those unable to work will be supported with direct cash infusions.

If fully funded, the FAO says their plan would facilitate the production of up to 90 million liters of milk and up to 40,000 tons of food crops in the early months of 2022, putting over one million highly food insecure people on a “safe footing” for at least six months.