Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Climate Crisis is Here

The Somali Region has suffered from chronic drought for several years, with the worst stretch recorded in 2016, from which many households have yet to recover. This year the short rainy season known as the 'belg', which typically lasts from March to May, once again failed to provide much-anticipated ground water. The livestock have already started to die. This has had catastrophic consequences for the pastoral communities which make up the majority of the Somali population. They rely on cattle and other farm mammals for their livelihood: Selling them at the market, drinking their milk and eating their meat. During prolonged periods of drought, animals become more vulnerable to diseases. Herds mingle more as water sources are scarce, increasing the risk of contagion. Swift and adequate treatment of their livestock becomes a priority for farmers.Pastoral communities say they fear for the future of their livelihoods as experts blame climate change.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently distributed livestock medicine and feed to 79,000 households. But it's still not enough for everybody. 

"Cattle are the most vulnerable to drought, followed by sheep and goats," says Ahmed Mohammed, FAO's Somali Region field coordinator. "If we don't protect the core breeding animals at this stage of the drought, this will lead to mass mortality of animals and the families will be stripped of their livelihood assets. Rebuilding these lost livelihoods later on will be an enormous task, so it is less expensive and more efficient to protect and save livelihoods before they are lost."

Families are still worried that the rainy season will continue to fail in the years ahead. This fear has been reinforced by climate experts, who say they have noticed a correlation between recurring droughts in the region and climate change.

"Our research has strongly suggested that climate change has contributed to this decline [in rainfall]," research geographer Chris Funk from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) told DW. "FEWS NET research has advanced a clear causal explanation linking warming in the Western Pacific to increased rainfall near Indonesia and disruptions in the East African long rains." According to Funk, this trend is likely to continue in the years ahead. "The data suggests we should assume that the current increase in drought frequencies will persist," he explains. "This is a little less scary than assuming that the trend will continue, but it's still pretty grim. Just assuming drought will persist in Ethiopia suggests we will likely see about six poor seasons over the next ten years."

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