El Niño could boost agricultural production in Kenya

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP

El Niño rains could be double-edged sword for Kenya

Gilbert Nakweya

“If [people in] such areas do serious farming during this season, they will increase the country’s agricultural productivity.” – Samuel Mwangi, Kenya Meteorological Department

Speed read

  • The El Niño-related rainfall is expected to peak this month
  • Experts say it could boost agricultural production and power generation
  • But it could also increase the spread of diseases such as malaria

Kenya should take advantage of the predicted El Niño-related rainfall expected to peak this month and extend to early parts of 2016, according to meteorologists.

Kenyan meteorologists say that although the rains will negatively impact on people and their livelihoods, the country should be prepared to reap the benefits of the rains.

“We have positives that Kenyans, especially those in the agricultural marginalised areas, should take advantage of,” said Samuel Mwangi, a meteorologist from the Kenya Meteorological Department.
Mwangi tells SciDev.Net that farmers in such areas as Mbeere, Makueni and Machakos which usually experience dry seasons, should tap into the rains and plant food crops.

“If [people in] such areas do serious farming during this season, they will increase agricultural productivity on their farms, hence improving the food security situation in the country,” explained Mwangi adding that the national and county governments should help farmers in these areas by providing farm inputs such as seeds.
Read the full article: SciDevNet

Reforestation in Brazil

Photo credit: Mongabay

Remnant Brazil nut tree in a landscape cleared for soy fields. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.


Reforestation contributed more than $5 billion to Brazil’s economy

by Mike Gaworecki

  • Planting new trees and restoring deforested land contributed nearly four-fifths of that windfall, some R$16.1 billion ($4.27 billion).
  • Sustainably produced forest products contributed another R$4.6 billion ($1.2 billion).
  • Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has committed to restoring 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of forest by 2030.

Brazil’s Statistics Bureau, known as IBGE, says that reforestation and sustainable forest management provided the country with R$20.8 billion (about $5.5 billion) in revenue last year, according to The Rio Times.

An IBGE study found that planting new trees and restoring deforested land contributed nearly four-fifths of that windfall, some R$16.1 billion ($4.27 billion). Sustainably produced forest products contributed another R$4.6 billion ($1.2 billion).

The regions where reforestation projects were most prevalent are the Amazonian states of Rondônia and Pará, in the north and northeast of Brazil, The Rio Times reported.

Brazil has reduced deforestation drastically over the past decade, thanks in part to $1 billion in funds provided by Norway to Brazil’s Amazon Fund. The amount of Amazon rainforest lost in 2014 was 75 percent below the 1996-2005 baseline, for instance, though there are signs that deforestation rates have started to climb again.

Research has shown that reduced rates of deforestation in Brazil might save as many as1,700 lives every year.

Read the full article: Mongabay

Opuntia: A real success story for rural development at larger scale in the drylands

Spineless varieties of Opuntia can be very rewarding

by Willem Van Cotthem (University of Ghent, Belgium)

Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA01 copy.jpg
Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA01 copy.jpg – Nice Opuntia plantation, excellent yield in a short period

Planting spineless varieties of Opuntia can be very rewarding, not only to combat desertification, but also to produce fodder for animals. These varieties are growing quickly with a minimum of water in the drylands, like the ones in the very dry Nordeste of Brasil (see pictures).

Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA02.jpg
Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA02.jpg – Rows of cacti contribute to limit soil erosion

Cacti normally have a wide appeal to growers of ornamental plants, but they have only few economic uses. However, many cacti produce edible fleshy fruits (raw, jam, syrup). Some species are used in living hedges or even for furniture. Commercial plantations of the “prickly pear” Opuntia are found in Brasil, Mexico and California.

Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA06.jpg
Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA06.jpg – Rows on the contour lines

The disk- or racketlike, superposed parts of the Opuntia stems can be used as fodder. Goats, sheep and cows eat the fresh disks, cut into slices. One can also have the sliced disks sundried, grinded to flour and mixed with a bit of water for animal consumption.

Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA07.jpg
Photo WVC: 2000-06-BRASIL-OPUNTIA07.jpg – Many new disks are developed and can be harvested soon

Opuntia plantations on contour lines help to limit erosion on slopes. Regular harvesting of newly formed disks is easy. Feeding Opuntiaslices or flour significantly enhances meat and milk production.

I recommend to apply these Opuntia plantations as a real success story for rural development at larger scale in the drylands. It is a sustainable method to combat desertification, to limit soil erosion, to limit water consumption for irrigation, to improve environmental conditions and to easily improve sustainable fodder production, leading to alleviate hunger and poverty.

Multilateral Action for combating desertification



Policy Update #13

Combating Desertification through Multilateral Action


From 12-23 October 2015, delegates who had convened for the twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 12) considered whether the Convention would take on a goal akin to the Aichi Targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the objective of limiting temperature increases to 2˚C from pre-industrial levels for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Fortunately, the UNCCD COP 12 convened at an auspicious time in 2015, capitalizing on the global momentum and energy following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September and leading up to the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, which is expected to adopt a new agreement on climate change in December. Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) include a specific target on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) (SDG 15.3) in its Goal to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss,” as well as a Goal on sustainable agriculture and food security (SDG 2), both of which are extremely relevant to the UNCCD mandate.

Ensconced between these two meetings, calls for greater recognition of the ties of desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) to climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity loss, and agriculture were realized. COP 12 adopted the LDN by 2030 target and agreed on indicators (trends in land cover, land productivity and carbon stocks above and below ground) to be used to measure progress.[1] These outcomes, relevant for reporting across all three Rio Conventions (UNCCD, UNFCCC and CBD), are expected to more firmly link the UNCCD to the CBD and UNFCCC.[2]


Water security in Botswana

Photo credit: UN News Centre

View of plains in Botswana. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Drought in Botswana is learning opportunity to achieve water security – UN rights expert

A United Nations human rights expert today urged Botswana to take the current extreme drought in the southern African country as an opportunity to develop a strategy for providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all as “a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths” in the long run.

“The current drought should not be considered as a sporadic event, but rather as a driver for acquiring water security as a national priority,” said Léo Heller, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation at the end of a nine-day official visit to Botswana.

“A strategic and participatory process, oriented to the provision of water and sanitation for all, will be a short-cut to prevent illnesses and deaths related to water-borne diseases and economic losses,” Mr. Heller said.

Botswana has been going through one of the worst droughts in its history with a significant part of the population facing a severe water shortage.

“Such a measure hits the poor and the vulnerable hardest,” Mr. Heller said, noting that the situation raises serious human rights concerns of water quality, water quantity and related health impacts.

“As water stress in Botswana is predicted to get higher and higher due to the impact of climate change and increasing water demand, the Government must establish measures in order to prevent severe environmental situations from translating into water shortage, affecting people’s standard of living,” he said, adding that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is one of the most important obligations of the human rights framework.

Mr. Heller said he “found an alarming level of highly precarious water supply in these villages – in some cases with no public provision at all” and in some cases with the bush as the only solution to most of the people’s physiological needs.

“I was surprised by still a common practice of open defecation in villages,” he noted.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Contribution will be used to meet the immediate food needs

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Dry earth in the desert plains of the Danakil depression in northern Ethiopia. Photo: Siegfried Modola/IRIN

Ethiopia: crucial funding helps UN agency avoid cutbacks in food aid to drought-affected people

Thanks to timely contributions from key donors, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it is able to continue food distributions later this month for more than 1.5 million people in the Somali region of Ethiopia, and can scale up nutrition help to more than 700,000 children and nursing mothers in the most drought-affected areas.

The United Nations agency stressed that the scaling up of food and nutrition support is crucial to prevent vulnerable people falling into a deeper crisis. However, even with the new contributions, it only has 7 per cent of the $228 million budget required for food and nutrition interventions until June 2016.

A dramatic increase in the number of people in need of relief assistance, from 2.5 million at the beginning of the year to 8.2 million in October, led to a serious funding gap, and WFP was concerned that it would have to entirely stop distributions for people affected by the drought at the end of November.

Such a situation was avoided it said, thanks to contributions from Canada, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). The United States Agency for International Development also confirmed a contribution equivalent to $17 million.

“These donors have shown incredible leadership in their response to the current crisis, and their generous contributions will help people cope with this humanitarian crisis exacerbated by El Nino,” said John Aylieff, WFP Representative and Country Director in Ethiopia, in a press release.

According to the agency, the contribution will be used to meet the immediate food needs of vulnerable people in the early part of 2016, while the cash contributions will allow WFP to extend life-saving food and nutrition assistance until the end of the year.

Read the full article: UN News Centre

Food insecurity and El Niño in Central America

Photo credit: UN News Centre

Three women plant seeds on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann


El Niño: 2.3 million Central Americans will need food aid, UN warns in latest alert

Some 2.3 million people in Central America will need food aid as the current El Niño weather pattern, one of the strongest on record, exacerbates a prolonged drought, the United Nations warned today in the latest alert on the impact of the phenomenon which causes floods in parts of the world and drought in others.

“Unfortunately, another dry spell in 2015, this time exacerbated by El Niño, has again caused significant losses during the first crop cycle, the Primera season,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Miguel Barretosaid in Panama.

“This has hit small producers and their families who were struggling to recover from the previous year’s drought, and the number of people in need may increase soon.”

The WFP alert came just two days after UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake warned that 11 million children are at risk from hunger, disease and lack of water due to El Niño in eastern and southern Africa alone.

Mr. Barreto said $75 million is needed in Central America, where the drought has already lasted two years in the Dry Corridor that stretches from Guatemala to Nicaragua, but resources are being depleted. WFP assisted more than 200,000 people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras last year.

More than 65 per cent of households in the ‘Dry Corridor’ had no food stocks left at the start of the 2015 Primera season and latest forecasts indicate a 100 per cent probability that the current El Niño, which has been active since last March, will continue through December and likely persist until early 2016.

Read the full article: UN News Centre