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Risk-management strategies needed to make societies drought-resilient, UN urges

Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano
FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Risk-management strategies needed to make societies drought-resilient, UN urges

To make people more resilient to droughts, governments need to create coordinated national plans that incorporate drought preparedness, monitoring and information services, senior United Nations officials today urged at the close of a high-level international meeting in Geneva.

In a joint statement, the heads of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said that “national policy frameworks that improve drought prediction and make this information available so that communities can act are indispensable.”

They noted that while national drought policies vary depending on a country’s local circumstances, sustainable development is the key to more resilient communities, “allowing families to escape the trap of having to rely time after time on emergency food aid.”

Resiliency also makes it possible to avoid short-term responses that further degrade the land and to pursue actions that restore drought-affected areas, the UN officials added.

The roles of farmers are essential in drought preparedness. The statement cites using drought-resistant crops varieties and techniques that boost soil fertility as ways to increase productivity and sustainability in drought-prone agriculture.

“These resources need to be introduced in ways that encourage farmers and other rural producers to be self-reliant in managing climatic variability,” they said.

Since 1950, the world’s drylands have increased by almost two per cent per decade, according to figures in the statement.

Among those areas is the Sahel, which stretches across Cameroon, Chad, the Gambia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. Some nine million people in the region require food assistance from WFP, through emergency food assistance, rural development, nutrition and education activities – one year after the launch of a massive global effort following a drought.

In the week-long meeting, officials have pushed for a multi-sectoral approach, saying that the delivery of drought information and services is most effective when all actors, including local, regional and national governments, coordinate their efforts.

“Resource managers, educators, health providers, civil society and non-governmental organizations, the private sector and others should be engaged in developing and implementing policies,” said the statement by WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva and UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja.