Reading every day a number of publications on drought, desertification, hunger, malnutrition, famine, poverty and conflicts, I noticed that more and more voices are raised about the urgent need for a drastic change in strategies : from short-term to long-term solutions.
That is why I have read with great interest yesterday’s AlertNet article of Laurie GOERING : “Q&A: Preparedness key as climate shifts threaten more drought – UN” (see my former posting on this blog).
Let me highlight some paragraphs :
- Finding solutions is particularly urgent as climate change brings more extreme and unpredictable weather, including more “slow-onset” disasters like droughts, warns Luc Gnacadja, executive director of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, …
- Q. You’re calling for “effective, long-term solutions” to famine, including drought management and measures to stop desertification. What are those?A. Drought has been plaguing many areas of the world – Australia, West Africa, East Africa. But it’s only in places where there has been a breakdown of governance that drought becomes famine.In drought-prone areas where early warning systems are not operating to help populations prepare for drought, where safety nets and infrastructure are not in place to assist them, then of course drought will turn to famine and lead to the loss of thousands of lives. And who does drought kill? The children and most vulnerable.
Since January it’s been forecast drought would come to the Horn of Africa. In drought-prone areas, droughts should not be a surprise.
- Q. What do governments need to do differently?A. Governments should mainstream drought preparedness into policies and institutions, and build resilience.
- Q. So, good governance is a prerequisite for dealing effectively with drought?A. What is making the shocks so extreme in Somalia is because of governance breakdown.
Good governance is crucial to implement and scale up solutions, help populations build their resilience and protect ecosystems.
Q. You argue countries prone to slow-onset disasters like droughts should have the same kind of preparedness plans as countries vulnerable to hurricanes or earthquakes?
I hope world leaders will come to see that this is not just about the Horn of Africa. What I hope is that we will invest as much as we are spending now on relief on preparedness for drought. Drought is going to become more frequent and severe. It should not a surprise anymore.
With all respect due to the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, but my personal views on effective, long-term solutions for the problems listed above are somewhat different.
I can imagine that in some drought-affected countries, but not in all, the possibility exists that
“Governments should mainstream drought preparedness into policies and institutions, and build resilience”
“Good governance is crucial to implement and scale up solutions, help populations build their resilience and protect ecosystems”
“we should invest as much as we are spending now on relief on preparedness for drought”.
However, the real change we need in the combat of desertification, hunger, malnutrition and poverty, is not so much the development of new top-down strategies for the governments, new policies, new institutions, new layers in decision-making.
On the contrary, what the billion affected people need is a number of effective, long-term measures in the field, a bottom-up approach leading not only to preparedness, but to an effective reversal of the actual situation.
Those billion people have heard since June 17, 1994 that “song of hope” of the UNCCD, that song about a bottom-up approach that would bring sustainable development.
For almost 20 years, all the desertification experts have been showing that a world-wide application of the “best practices” and “success stories in the field” is the best strategy for drought preparedness, resilience building, ecosystem protection, alleviation of hunger and malnutrition, eradication of poverty.
We all know the benefits of a number of methods, technologies and techniques in different domains ; to name just a few : water conservation and water harvesting, water saving irrigation techniques, soil conditioning methods, permaculture, agroforestry, container gardening, vertical gardening, allotments, community gardens, kitchen gardens, …
Denying that these methods signify a real change for the drought-affected people, is throwing all our practical knowledge and skills away.
Time has come to show those suffering people that we really want “to invest in drought preparedness“, not with new policies and institutions, but by investing in “effective, long-term solutions” realized in a bottom-up approach.