With just six weeks left before the start of the main cropping season in Ethiopia, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called today for urgent funding to help farmers sow their fields and prevent drought-hit areas of the country from falling deeper into hunger and food insecurity.
If seeds are not delivered in time, help will be too late to secure a decent harvest from the imminent meher season, which produces 85 per cent of the nation’s food supply, the UN agency said in a press release.
“The meher season will be critical to improving families’ food security and self-sufficiency in 2016. Seed distributions allowing farmers to plant crops and produce food must be a humanitarian priority,” said FAO’s country representative, Amadou Allahoury Diallo.
He noted that while the food security situation is worsening, the overall funding response to the crisis has so far been “disappointing,” with just 15 per cent of FAO’s 2016 appeal for Ethiopia covered.
Some $10 million is needed by FAO within the next two weeks to distribute seeds to Ethiopian families at risk of hunger and losing their livelihoods, the representative said.
About 10.2 million people in Ethiopia are food insecure following successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths caused by the El Niño-induced drought since early 2015. With this year’s delayed and erratic spring rains, the situation may become worse in the most affected areas, particularly in the north, the representative said.
FAO said it is working closely with Ethiopia’s Government, which has already dedicated considerable resources to the El Niño response.
The agency underscored that nearly one third of the districts in the country – some 224 – are now severely food insecure, 20 per cent more than than just three months ago.
The agency noted that recent estimates by Ethiopia’s Bureau of Agriculture indicate that some 1.7 million farming families are seed insecure, meaning they do not have the inputs required to plant in the meher season. The season starts as early as mid-June for some crops, with planting ongoing until August for others.
More than 90 districts are currently not receiving any kind of emergency seed support or are insufficiently covered, according to FAO Surge Response Team Leader Pierre Vauthier.
“It’s these forgotten districts that FAO is targeting – but without immediate funding support, some 150,000 households will miss their best chance of growing food to bring them through the year,” he said.
Depleted seed reserves
For many households, seed reserves are extremely depleted following unsuccessful planting and re-planting in 2015, while families in the most affected areas have been forced to consume their seeds as food.
As a result of the poor 2015 harvest, farmers’ incomes have been reduced and purchasing power constrained, further limiting their ability to buy the seeds and inputs they need to produce staple crops like maize, sorghum, teff, wheat, and root crops.
FAO said that because the spring rains were initially erratic and delayed, even those farmers who had seeds may not have planted enough to meet their household’s needs, especially in the north.
A good meher season will improve food availability nationwide and enhance access to food and reduce reliance on external humanitarian assistance in the medium term, FAO said.