The envisaged drought management framework for all African countries this week received unequivocal support from the African Union Commission and Namibia’s Head of State, Hage Geingob.
President Geingob said an overarching drought framework is needed as a guideline for a continent destined to become more prone to extreme weather phenomena like droughts and floods.
“Let us have such a document that guides us on a range of issues critical for drought management, including what we need to do as countries to have effective early warning systems in place, how to increase drought resilience and identify the key challenges and bottlenecks we are facing and how to overcome them for effective drought management,” Geingob said at the official opening of the second part of the African Drought Conference on Thursday in Windhoek this week.
“We are cognisant of the realities that the majority of countries in Africa do not have drought policies in place,” thus an “overarching policy framework” was necessary for Africa, Geingob added.
The high-level segment conference follows a three-day long technical-level conference, during which delegates deliberated on a declaration and a “Strategic Framework for Drought Management and Enhancing Resilience to Drought in Africa” that was adopted at political level by Friday.
Namibian Environment and Tourism Minister, Pohamba Shifeta, said “drought is hitting hard and is a challenge we must overcome urgently”.
Shifeta expressed contentment in seeing an “African ownership” over the development of “drought strategy”, which had the aim to improve resilience, among others. “It would be the first strategy of its kind to be implemented at regional and continental level,” Shifeta added.
Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said weather phenomena like El Nino would increase in future and adaptation to drought was of utter importance. About 400 000 farmers in Africa depend on agriculture and some 65 percent of arable land in Africa is affected by droughts, this impacts African economies, said Barbut. “We are, therefore, forced to decide what to do, we must break the vicious cycle of drought,” she stated.
She further mentioned that the African Union Commission had put in place a strategy for disaster risk reduction (DRR) as well as humanitarian action programmes against drought and famine on the continent.
“Apart from the fact that the achievement of land degradation neutrality is part of the AU Agenda 2063, Africa needs strong drought management and political commitment. The AU Commission is ready to assist the Strategic Framework for Drought Management, which is developed for our continent.”
The African Drought Conference ended yesterday and expectation is that the African Union Commission will adopt the Windhoek initiative in the near future.
Turkish Forestry Minister, Veysel Eroglu, who is also the president of the 12th COP to the UNCCD, noted that apart from drought and land degradation, population increase also put pressure on land. Sustainable drought management systems were thus crucial. “We have developed and implemented water conservation and water re-use projects in Turkey and we are prepared to share our experiences,” said Eroglu in a speech read on his behalf by deputy undersecretary of the Turkish ministry of forestry and water affairs, Ali Riza Diniz.
The African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, pointed out that many African countries were affected by droughts in recent years. The African Union had over time developed several initiatives to improve drought resilience. “Examples are the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative for the Sahel-Saharan areas of Africa, which the AU adopted in 2007,” Peace explained. “I call on the Southern African region to join the Great Green Wall initiative.