Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Horn of Africa and parts of east Africa are in the news again. No rain. Like most places in sub-Sahara Africa, this region depends on rain to grow a crop (grain). Irrigiation thouh it was used a long time ago as part of the early civilization (in Ehtiopia especially) does not exist or it may be limited to a select few. To make matters worse, the region has experienced insecurity for years. Some news agencies claim that banditry and lawlessness are the only things growing instead of crops. To understand the perenial food shortages of this region, a thorough analysis of the history and natural events is needed. History is not my turf. One natural event that overshadows lack of rain in the region is what goes on in the tropical Pacific ocean. This year, the ocean has been in a cold phase or the so called La Nina. The temperatue of the ocean water has been below average. The situation is slowly reverting to normal conditions (i.e. average ocean temperature). This situation has translated in ample rainfall in some southern African countries (with bumper harvests of grain expected this year) while other parts of Africa are seeing drought. This phenomenon is well studied and where support structures to anticipate it exist (see efforts from SADC countries and Australia http://www.sadc.int/english/fanr/food_security/food_update_january_2006.php), there is less pain on the vulenrable groups. Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking in war torn regions.

No comments: