Past, present and future perspectives

Strategies for coping with climate variability in Eastern Africa

All Eastern African governments except Somalia have signed and ratified the UNCCD. Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda have produced National Action Plans, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) (see Chapter 1) has produced a sub-regional action plan for the countries in the Horn of Africa (UNCCD 2001). All Eastern African countries (except Rwanda and Burundi) belong to IGAD. Monitoring and early warning systems have been put in place, through IGAD, to improve the ability to cope with climate variability. ENSO-related events can also now be detected, as a result of research conducted under the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere programme. The WMO issues monthly statements (El Niņo Update) to provide effective, accurate, and timely information to all concerned, to allow them to take mitigatory action. However, most of the national institutions in the subregion are under-resourced making adequate early warning dependent on donor support. In April 2000, an Inter-Agency Task Force on the UN Response to Long Term Food Security, Agricultural Development and Related Aspects in the Horn of Africa was launched. The Task Force has produced a strategy for the Elimination of Hunger in the Horn of Africa aimed at broadening opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, and formulating and implementing country food security programmes. In Kenya, research into traditional methods of coping with climate variability is also underway, with the aim of applying traditional knowledge to commercial enterprises (see Box 2a.2).

Box 2a.2 Traditional strategies for coping with drought

Drought is extremely difficult to predict and the variable duration and extent of the phenomenon make its effects difficult to manage. For pastoralists, following the rains and pasture is a natural part of their system, and setting aside of areas for grazing reserves and splitting of herds to minimize risk are part of their coping mechanisms. However, exclusion from some traditional grazing areas has compromised their ability to cope during dry periods and drought.

A project conducted by the African Centre for Technology Studies (Kenya) aims to identify traditional means of reducing vulnerability to environmental change in dryland Africa, and incorporate them into commercial food production systems. Field studies were conducted to gather information on ways in which rural households use indigenous plants in responding to drought, and how national environmental policies affect their practises.

Source: ACTS 2001