May 22, 2024

FAO calls for proactive action to protect lives and livelihoods in Somalia from El Niño

FAO calls for proactive action to protect lives and livelihoods in Somalia from El Niño

Hodan Ali in Somalia

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is urging for better preparation and immediate action in Somalia due to the anticipated El Niño and positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) event, along with the approaching Deyr rainy season in October 2023. These occurrences could impact a significant population of approximately 1.2 million individuals in Somalia.

The riverine communities in the country face a high vulnerability to floods. They are potentially at risk of losing their property and livestock, as well as experiencing crop damage, as approximately 1.5 million hectares of land alongside the Juba and Shabelle rivers are highly susceptible to being flooded. This menace to the well-being of the community arises as a result of a severe and prolonged drought, which has already had a detrimental impact on the availability of food and people’s capability to manage emergencies.

El Niño is a recurring climatic phenomenon that happens every two to seven years and carries a variety of potential advantages and disadvantages for rural communities and their ways of life in Somalia.
The Indian Ocean Dipole is a climate phenomenon that is associated with ocean temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Weather forecast models from various international and regional organizations, such as NOAA/FEWS NET, ECMWF, IRI, UK MET, and ICPAC, indicate a high level of certainty regarding the likelihood of more rainfall in the eastern areas of the Horn of Africa. Additionally, these models also predict the occurrence of other changes in the climate during these weather events.

“We have the information needed to take action, and now is the time to work together as a humanitarian community to prevent another climate disaster in Somalia,” said Ezana Kassa, FAO’s Head of Program in Somalia. “We have just three months window to act and prevent the loss of more lives and livelihoods,” he said.

Rural communities in Somalia face both risks and opportunities.

Flooding in riverine communities along the Shabelle and Juba rivers can result in extensive property destruction and hinder essential services like education, healthcare, and transportation. Additionally, it has the potential to interrupt agricultural activities by causing floods on farmlands and damaging crops, ultimately resulting in a scarcity of food.

The impact of El Niño can extend to coastal fishing communities, who may face the consequences of flooding such as storm surges and excessive silt entering rivers and oceans. This can lead to a decline in fish catches, putting the lives and livelihoods of fisherfolk in jeopardy. Livestock that are affected may experience elevated body temperatures and contract diseases transmitted through water, which pose a potential threat of transmission to humans.

However, the occurrence of El Niño can also present beneficial prospects for enhancing the availability of food in rural areas, especially in the wake of the prolonged and intense drought experienced over a period of three years. The rise in rainfall in rain-fed agricultural regions can result in a boost in the production of food and fodder.

When farmers have access to knowledge and learning, they can utilize the increased rainfall to enhance their productivity. Water catchments and dams have the potential to become full, thus ensuring improved water security in the following dry season.

The FAO is urging all parties involved in humanitarian efforts, government partners, and local participants to pay serious attention to the El Niño warnings in Somalia and collaborate to prevent any fatalities or disruptions to livelihoods. This entails educating communities about the flood dangers associated with El Niño in advance, pre-positioning essential emergency supplies like food, water, and shelter, and collaborating with communities to devise contingency strategies for managing the anticipated consequences of El Niño.

Furthermore, a brief period of three months exists in which farmers can be assisted in maximizing the benefits of the augmented rainfall by supplying them with seeds and necessary equipment to enhance their productivity.

FAO is strongly dedicated to ensuring the protection and promotion of food security in Somalia by enhancing the resilience of food systems to climate shocks and future challenges. By collaborating and being proactive in planning for the potential effects of El Niño, governmental authorities and humanitarian organizations have the ability to minimize its detrimental consequences, preserve lives and livelihoods, and capitalize on the possibilities to enhance food security within the nation.