Farmers from Africa to India struggle with insufficient rainfall

As farmers from Africa to India struggle with insufficient rainfall, the U.N. has sought consolidated efforts to combat climate change threat and counter its effects on global food security.

“Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,” warned World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

Integrated policies

“We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,” he said in a statement, apparently prompted by lack of rains in Africa and large parts of India.

The WMO and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), along with other U.N. agencies, are intensifying efforts to establish a more coordinated and proactive strategy for managing drought risk to fill existing policy vacuum in countries around the world.

A high-level meeting on National Drought Policy has been scheduled in March next year in Geneva, Switzerland.

Pointing to the situation in India, WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch Director Mannava Sivakumar said the country was experiencing very serious droughts with countrywide rainfall 17 per cent below normal.

In Punjab, India’s breadbasket, rainfall was recorded 70 per cent below normal, he said.

The south-west monsoon season that began in early June in India brought deficient rainfall in half of the 624 districts through the end of July.

From June through August — the first half of the monsoon season — total average seasonal rainfall was just 81 per cent of the Long Term Average, while in the north-west region of the country, cumulative rainfall was 65 per cent of the long-term average. In India, monsoon rainfall less than 90 per cent of Long-Term Average constitutes drought, the U.N. said.

Underlining the severity and reach of the drought and its potential impact on global food prices, Mr. Sivakumar said one quarter of the U.S was experiencing exceptional drought while the entire country was facing its longest 12 month period in a drought since 1895.

Impact on food prices

Mr. Sivakumar emphasised that the effects of the drought on the U.S.’ soybean and corn harvests was having “a major impact on food prices”.

The U.N. agency on weather, climate and water added that the drought gripping the U.S. and the ripple effects on global food markets underline the vulnerability of the inter-connected world to a natural hazard that is expected to increase in future.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 62.9 per cent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought as of end of July.

The per cent area of the country in the worst drought categories (extreme to exceptional drought) doubled, from 10 per cent in June to 22 per cent in July.

According to the WMO, severe drought also developed in parts of East Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011 with the most severely affected areas encompassing the semi-arid regions eastern and northern Kenya, western Somalia, and southern border areas of Ethiopia.

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