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Drought in Africa: Natural calamities forced the farmers to pray with bended knees

About 16 countries in Africa are staring at food insecurity due to drought and climate change. Besides, the continent is facing a severe attack of locust swarms and armyworm.

Rajender  KumarRajender Kumar | Updated: 18-03-2020 18:21 IST | Created: 18-03-2020 17:29 IST
Drought in Africa: Natural calamities forced the farmers to pray with bended knees
Representative Image : Image Credit : Flicker

There is no rain or very little rain in most part of the African countries. People in the Binga area of Zimbabwe have recently built a dam to store water. This is the third year of drought in the region.

The experts have predicted the need of about $200 million to help Zimbabwe in fighting the food insecurity caused by the drought. Presently, the World Food Program is working on some initiatives but about 8 million people comprising half of Zimbabwe's population are suffering.

Most of the Ethiopian people are dependent on agriculture and livestock for livelihoods. It's about 85 per cent population is dependent on agrarian and allied activities. However, increasing climate disaster and pest/insect outbreaks have left rural communities highly vulnerable to food insecurity. It is very poor rainfall and due to this, livestock has very limited feed and water availability. According to FAO, the invasion could lead to drop in agriculture production. FAO called it fragile in its statement and mentioned that displacement in drought-prone areas has risen with livestock losses, leaving the most vulnerable in the region with no means to recover. People looking towards the open sky with wet eyes and praying for rain. The livestock has now become a burden, as there is no pasture for grazing. Due to drought and regular dry spell natural resource of water in grazing fields have dried. There is no green grass and it is another hard exercise to keep the domestic animals alive and healthy. Whether its Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Niger or Mali farmers are the main sufferers as there is no rain or less rain in most of the regions.

Multitude of Problems

Drought and cyclone both are hitting Africa, very hard. There are 43 million vulnerable, agriculture-dependent people at risk of food insecurity due to climate change, drought and conflicts in 22 nations. To help them the United Nations need 900 million USD. This month Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations appealed the international community to come forward with donations to help. Besides, the FAO has also estimated an additional $138 million that the Organization is seeking for countries in East Africa affected by the ongoing desert locust upsurge.

In this list of 22 nations, 16 countries are severely affected. They are Somalia, Haiti, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Democratic People's Republic of Congo & Burundi. "Farmers do not just work until the sun goes down. They work until the job is done" this popular adage shows the hard work of farmers but they are not able to fight the natural calamities. The farmers in Africa are presently suffering from natural calamities such as drought, cyclone, locust and armyworm; and from the man-made armed conflicts and rebellions. In the drought-affected regions, the crop is drying fast while the locusts and armyworms are destroying the remaining crop.

Economic Crisis

The drought-affected nations are now staring at the severe economic crisis. People dependent on agriculture, livestock and other agro-based resources of income are suffering in many other African countries.

Zimbabwe has experienced deteriorating food security over the past two years, due to shortfalls in cereal production caused by a severe drought and Cyclone Idai in 2019. As a result, humanitarian needs are increasing in the country. Since October 2018, foreign currency deficits and the plummeting value of the Zimbabwean currency has led a huge hike in import cost. As of November 2019, Zimbabwe had recorded a high inflation rate of 440 per cent. Macroeconomic difficulties have also hampered the country's ability to access grains from the international market, with further adverse effects on domestic supplies and prices.

In West Africa, the outcome of the 2019 rainy season was negative in several countries along the Atlantic coast. Agricultural production estimates of rain-fed crops in Cabo Verde and the Gambia are worrying. Maize production in Cabo Verde is expected to decrease by 80 per cent while cereal and cash crop production in the Gambia are estimated to diminish by 46 and 70 per cent, respectively, compared with the five-year average. Since October 2019, high concentrations of animals have already been registered in Guidimakha and South-East Gorgol regions of Mauritania, and the situation is likely to worsen.

The rainy season across Southern Africa in 2018-19 was one of the driest on record in past 40 years, particularly in southern Angola, north-western Botswana, western Madagascar, Namibia, southern Zambia and north-western Zimbabwe.

Fighting the Menace

FAO in collaboration with the affected countries is working on some projects to help the farmers and ensure food security in the region through various approaches. FAO is also working with communities to help them strengthen their approach to farming and natural resource management, raise their agricultural productivity, and pursue livelihood diversification strategies. The farmers are being provided seeds, agriculture tools, fertilizers, irrigation facilities and other agriculture inputs to produce new crops so that they could self-reliant at the earliest. As farming is integrated with livestock, they should also be provided with animal feed, veterinary care, fishing gear, and cash assistance to help them in daily requirements.

The sufferings of the farmers in Africa is not new but was prevalent in almost all the ages. It's probably due to this reason we have 'The Farmers and The Lord', a prayer that apparently took place many decades ago to protect farmers from natural calamities.

Tears, pain and sorrow do not need any language to understand the sentiments. Perhaps it was the reason Isla Grant was so famous in farmers' community in several African countries and also outside Africa such as Ireland, Scotland and Australia. Its due to the song – 'The Farmers Prayer' - she sung in 2009, Grant became popular. The song epitomizes the sufferings of the farmers at the time of drought and natural calamities.

Presently, the farmers are in the same situation as the drought has forced them on bended knees and pray the Almighty for rain. The prayer - Oh, Lord, please hear the farmer's prayer: help-us please send us rain; is very relevant in Africa, today.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are the personal views of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Devdiscourse and Devdiscourse does not claim any responsibility for the same.)

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