Confronting a monster called El Niño

Confronting a monster called El Niño

Livingstone Marufu
How do you deal with something as fickle and destructive as El Niño?
The World Food Programme’s plan for Zimbabwe is to rehabilitate dams, dip tanks and fish ponds.
Working with Government and other UN agencies, the WFP is monitoring the evolution of the El Niño phenomenon and its impact on the agricultural sector and market prices, given that this is coming after a poor 2014/15 summer cropping season.
Weather experts expect El Niño to affect crops further north in Mashonaland Central and West areas this year and early next year.
Mr Tinashe Mubaira, an official with the WFP, said they had over the past three years set up assets that will help communities during this cropping season and well into the future.
“Over the last three years, WFP has been working with the Government of Zimbabwe and partners in empowering communities so as to increase their resilience to shocks by creating assets that will gradually offset the need for seasonal food assistance, promote self-reliance, reduce disaster risk and support climate change adaption.
“These assets include small dams, water harvesting and irrigation schemes, nutrition gardens, dip tanks and fish ponds. Since 2012, WFP Zimbabwe has rehabilitated or created over 900 assets, 114 of which were done in 2015.
“These assets will help the beneficiary communities to absorb the potential impact of this El Nino. WFP is working on a two-track ‘no regrets’ approach — working with partners to address humanitarian needs to respond to existing food insecurity during the lean season (September 2015–March 2016), while monitoring developments and preparing for the potential next wave which may be triggered by El Niño (a development that will be revealed by household and market food security analysis).
“The two efforts need to be linked so that assistance builds the resilience of vulnerable people to climate-related shocks while protecting the development gains of the last decade.”
In Southern Africa, El Niño usually causes droughts while increasing rains in the east of the continent.
WFP is concerned that El Niño could mean significantly reduced rains in the coming months.
As forecast by Zimbabwe’s Meteorological Services Department, poor rainfall conditions and the potentially short rainfall season could have a negative impact on food security, increasing the overall number of people in need and extending the period of assistance for those already affected.
WFP’s Food Security Climate Resilience Facility (FoodSECuRE) will shift the humanitarian model from a reactive system to one that looks forward and saves more lives, time and money.
WFP Zimbabwe has started benefiting from the facility, albeit, at a pilot stage.
This pilot is being implemented in Mwenezi district.
FoodSECuRE has been activated in Zimbabwe to meet climate-related disasters, the dramatic predictions of El Niño and extreme weather.
FoodSECuRE unlocks funds before disasters, but also ensures that funds are available between cycles of disasters, because only through reliable, multi-year funding will vulnerable people build their resilience to the effects of climate change.
“The humanitarian system is increasingly stretched financially and operationally. More weather disasters require responses in more places and for longer periods.
“We need new approaches. Now we have the tools to respond before a disaster hits and between recurrent disasters — it’s the only way to help lift vulnerable people out of a cycle of chronic hunger and poverty, for good,” said WFP executive director Mr Ertharin Cousin.
Mr Cousin added: “Turning the FoodSECuRE tool into a meaningful global facility will require mobilising US$400 million.”
The early stages of El Niño affected parts of the 2014/15 agricultural season in Zimbabwe, resulting in a low cereal harvest.
“In response to this and the resultant heightened food insecurity, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (ZIMVAC) — 2015 rural livelihoods Assessment, estimates that 1,5 million people will be food insecure at the peak of the hunger period between January and March 2016.
“WFP (and its co-operating partners) are currently providing food assistance in 13 districts and plans to upscale this support to 36 districts between January and March 2016, subject to availability of resources. Last month, WFP provided food assistance under its Lean Season Assistance Programme to 212 000 people and should additional resources be available, this programme will upscale to reach 821 000 people.
“For the 2016/17 consumption year, WFP together with our partners in the Government and UN will activate responses based on the above-mentioned analysis or monitoring. These responses are designed to protect the most vulnerable people and safeguard development gains,” concluded Mr Mubaira.

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