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FAO Warns Southern Africa to Prepare for Drought


With rains expected in a few weeks time, a man in Harare, Zimbabwe, prepares his land to plant corn, Sept. 5, 2018.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has warned Southern African officials meeting in Zimbabwe to better prepare for expected drought or risk food security.

About an hour’s drive south of Harare, 62-year-old maize farmer Leo Yuma is tending to his land.

With the rainy season expected in just weeks, Yuma — with no irrigation facilities for his maize field - said he cannot sit still as drought is expected.

Leo Yuma, a maize farmer in Harare, says he depends on his crop for survival, Sept. 5, 2018.
Leo Yuma, a maize farmer in Harare, says he depends on his crop for survival, Sept. 5, 2018.

He said all his children are unemployed so they all depend on farming for survival. "I do not irrigate — I depend on the rains. I can’t dictate to God what to do. I will depend on his rains for my maize."

Back in Harare, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning southern African officials that investment — not prayer — is needed to prepare for drought.

At a three-day meeting on ending hunger, the FAO warned Southern African nations must take measures to deal with dry conditions or risk food security.

Patrick Kormawa is coordinator for the FAO in southern Africa.

“Drought is with us. This is one peculiar issue that countries have to take into consideration; you do not wait for prediction before you put any measures to mitigate drought. This sub-region only 7 percent of the arable land is irrigated, which is about 34 million hectares. That is not acceptable. Investment in irrigation is very, very important. Investment in climate resilient agriculture is very important,” he said.

Patrick Kormawa, the coordinator for the FAO in Southern Africa, addresses a regional meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 5, 2018.
Patrick Kormawa, the coordinator for the FAO in Southern Africa, addresses a regional meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 5, 2018.

Kormawa said there is about a 40 percent chance the region will be hit again this year by the El Nino weather pattern – with high temperatures and low rainfall.

The last El Nino-induced drought from 2014-2016 led to 40 million people requiring food assistance across southern Africa. Madagascar and Zimbabwe were among some of the worst hit countries.

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