Food insecurity escalates in IGAD region amid climate shocks and multiple challenges

Woman prepares millet crops at Natirai farm Loima Sub Location Turkana County. [File, Standard]

Alarming levels of food insecurity have gripped the IGAD region, propelled by a relentless combination of drought, floods, locust infestations, the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing conflicts. The situation has left over 50 million people across seven out of the eight member states in dire need of sustenance.

To counter these challenges, leaders within the IGAD member states are being urged to establish an inter-regional platform that enables coordinated early warnings and responses to address the escalating invasion of transboundary pests. This move is seen as a critical step towards mitigating the impacts of these relentless adversities.

Strengthening regional coordination, bolstering monitoring and forecasting capacities, as well as enhancing the capabilities of plant protection and desert locust control units within member states, have been identified as vital measures to avert impending disasters. These insights emerged during a significant meeting focused on bolstering regional cooperation to combat pressing threats posed by transboundary pests and to foster resilience within the region's vulnerable communities.

Dubbed the "Regional Conference on Risk Transfer and Transboundary Pest Management," the event provided a platform for dialogue, networking, and knowledge acquisition in areas concerning risk transfer, micro-insurance, and transboundary pest management.

In his address at the event, Mithika Linturi, Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and Livestock Development, emphasized that the agricultural sector remains profoundly affected by multiple shocks and hazards attributed to climate change. These disruptions impact production and incomes across the region, leaving farmers grappling with an increasingly uncertain future.

Linturi highlighted the role of climate change, driven by global warming, in rendering weather patterns unpredictable and agriculture uncertain. He acknowledged that such challenges are often beyond the control of smallholder farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture and employ low-tech farming methods, leaving them particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods.

To address these pressing issues, Linturi emphasized the necessity of generating relevant and reliable data for informed decision-making. He advocated for harnessing digital technology and remote-sensing data to enhance service delivery in arid and semi-arid regions.

Furthering the discourse, Dr Guleid Artan, Director of the Climate Prediction and Application Centre IGAD, highlighted the region's dire need for humanitarian assistance due to recurring depressed rains leading to severe, widespread droughts. These compounded shocks have not only eroded people's coping mechanisms but also disrupted livelihoods, displaced communities, and exacerbated resource-based conflicts in various parts of the region.

Hamdi Bukhari, UNHCR Principal Advisor on Solutions and Climate Change, emphasized the shared responsibility of eradicating transboundary pests among IGAD member states and partners. He stressed that collective efforts would not only bolster food security but also improve access to education and healthcare for the region's vulnerable populations.

As the IGAD region grapples with the convergence of climate shocks, leaders and stakeholders recognize the urgent need for coordinated action and regional cooperation to mitigate the impacts and secure a more resilient future for the communities affected.