Sunday November 19, 2017

Amid Drought, Somali farmers turn to Ugandan roots to fight Hunger in Africa

The key, she told the visiting Somalis, is to find ways to process crops to increase their value, such as turning cassava or sweet potatoes into finished products like flour

FILE - A farmer works in an irrigated field near the village of Botor, Somaliland, April 16, 2016. Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by the severe El Nino-related drought.-VOA
  • Droughts and unpredictable weather are making getting a crop ever hard
  • Uganda is now the leading producer in the region of root crops
  • The organisation’s members lost 15 tonnes of cassava flour -worth ,$4,500 in 2012, due to lack of buyers

September 24, 2016: To fight hunger, Somali farmers turn to Ugandan roots- Amina Shale, a Somali farmer, says worsening droughts and ever more unpredictable weather are making getting a crop ever harder.

“It can take a whole year before the rains come,” she complained. “Growing crops like tomatoes is very tiring because I have to water them at least twice a day.”

But Shale now has some new ideas about how to cope, thanks to a trip to visit the neighbours.

She and 26 other Somali farmers travelled to eastern Uganda last month to see how sweet potatoes are turning into a climate-resilient boom crop for that East African nation.

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Uganda is now the leading producer in the region of root crops, which researchers say are much tougher in the face of worsening climate-change-related problems such as drought and flooding.

Some roots, like cassava and sweet potato, are being processed into flour and increasingly used for everything from doughnuts to wedding cakes.

That is helping boost incomes and ensure food security – something urgently needed in Somalia, where 40 percent of people are acutely food insecure, according to an estimate by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Today, few Somali farmers know of – or grow – crops like sweet potatoes or cassava, Shale said. She plants vegetables and fruits such as tomatoes, kale and pawpaw.

But during the FAO-backed trip to Uganda, she saw how root crops require less irrigation – and she is now considering switching, she said.

On both sides of the border, farmers are struggling with problems brought on by more erratic weather, including new or worsening pests and diseases attacking traditional staple crops.

Extreme weather is also causing more of the crops that are harvested to rot quickly, said Akello Christine Ekinyu, a Ugandan farmer from Odowo who now grows and processes cassava and sweet potato.

Ekinyu, one of the hosts for visiting Somali farmers, said the crop switch had helped lift her family out of poverty.

“I built a new brick house with the income I got from these crops,” beamed Ekinyu, wearing a gold dress and matching headscarf.

In a day, she said, she can make about 100,000 Uganda shillings ($30) selling cassava and sweet potatoes, compared to $2 when she worked day jobs in town. That has been enough to send her two children to university, she said.

New Sources of Income

The key, she told the visiting Somalis, is to find ways to process crops to increase their value, such as turning cassava or sweet potatoes into finished products like flour.

She learned to do this after joining the Soroti Sweet Potato Producers and Processors Association in Uganda.

FILE - Children are seen enjoying orange sweet potatoes. (Courtesy - HarvestPlus)-VOA
FILE – Children are seen enjoying orange sweet potatoes. (Courtesy – HarvestPlus)-VOA

Echabu Silver, the group’s chairman, explained that “instead of consuming or selling the cassava when it is raw, farmers should process it, turn it into new products and then sell it at a higher price.”

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That could be anything from crisps and doughnuts to flour for wedding cakes, he said.

Tony Ijala, the manager of Cassava Adding Value for Africa, a roject led by the Natural Resources Institute of the University of Greenwich, said cassava is increasingly no longer grown for home consumption only, but also sold at markets.

“Even retired Ugandans are planting – and deriving an income from – cassava instead of relying on their extended families,” he said.

Building markets for the new crops have taken time, however.

Akorir Helen Mary, former secretary general of the Arapai Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Uganda, said the organisation’s members lost 15 tonnes of cassava flour – worth $4,500 – in 2012, due to a lack of buyers.

But now, four years later, “there is high demand for cassava in the market, as [it is] most Ugandan industries’ – like breweries’ – preferred raw material,” he said. (VOA)


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Severe Drought leaves 237,000 people thirsty in Central China’s Hubei province over past 3 Weeks

The province received average precipitation of 10.5 mm since the beginning of the month, only 10 percent of the normal volume, the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters

Drought. Pixabay

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South Africa in “Severe” Drought: To relieve impact Rangers kill 350 Hippos, Buffalos in Wildlife Park

South Africa's parks service stopped killing elephants to reduce overpopulation in 1994, partly because of public opposition

a herd of buffalo pass by in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, Aug. 7, 2016. Rangers are killing about 350 hippos and buffalo in an attempt to relieve the impact of a severe drought. VOA

Rangers in South Africa’s biggest wildlife park are killing about 350 hippos and buffalos in an attempt to relieve the impact of the region’s most severe drought in more than three decades.

The numbers of hippos and buffalos in Kruger National Park, about 7,500 and 47,000 respectively, are at their highest level ever, according to the national parks service. Officials plan to distribute meat from the killed animals to poor communities on the park’s perimeter.

The drought has left millions of people across several countries in need of food aid.

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Hippos and buffalos consume large amounts of vegetation, and many animals are expected to die anyway because of the drought, said Ike Phaahla, a parks service spokesman. A drought in the early 1990s reduced Kruger park’s buffalo population by more than half to about 14,000, but the population rebounded.

Rangers are targeting hippos in “small natural pools where they have concentrated in unnatural high densities, defecate in the water, making it unusable to other animals,” Phaahla wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

Parks officials have described drought as a natural way of regulating wildlife populations. Earlier this year, they said they didn’t plan any major intervention to try to save wild species in Kruger park, but the drought’s impact intensified. Hippos are in particular trouble because they can’t feed as widely as other animals, returning to water by day after grazing by night.

South Africa’s parks service stopped killing elephants to reduce overpopulation in 1994, partly because of public opposition.

Around 1900, hunting had cleared out elephants in the area that became Kruger park. Today, there are an estimated 20,000 elephants there. Poachers killed 36 elephants this year in the park, raising concerns that the Africa-wide slaughter of elephants for their ivory is finally affecting South Africa.

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Poachers have already killed large numbers of rhinos in the park, which borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique and is almost the size of Israel.

Generations ago, an estimated 15,000 people lived in the area that was officially proclaimed as Kruger park in 1926. Some communities were removed from the wildlife reserve under white minority rule at that time.

“These people were pure hunter-gatherers and we greatly underestimate their role in shaping this ecosystem,” Phaahla said. “We have removed this important driver from the Kruger ecosystem and we are researching ways to simulate the return of their role again and the removals or offtakes (of some animals) aim to do just that.” (VOA)

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Maharashtra Drought Crisis: Shrikant Jadhav of Junnar finds an alternative to counter the problem

Shrikant Jadhav of Junnar in Pune district of Maharashtra has taken the initiative to supply water to the areas in the state badly affected by drought, without any external help.

The drought in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy :
  • Due to summer, this year, many of the rivers in India like the Krishna, Cauvery and many others have dried up
  • As the result of this extreme dry condition, a situation of severe drought has dawned upon several states of India
  • Shrikant Jadhav, took it upon himself to provide water to the drought affected areas with the help of his very limited resources

In 2016, several parts of India are facing a severe drought problem. As pointed out by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, Maharashtra is the most affected state. Groundwater tables in the region have fallen way below the permissible limit and hand pumps have dried. It is after a long time that India has to face such consecutive droughts. The water scarcity is affecting a huge number of people across the drought-affected states such as Maharashtra.

Government water train. Image Courtesy :
Government water train.Image Courtesy :

The government is trying its best to help out the distressed people. A water-carrying train had been arranged to carry water to Latur in Marathwada, a severely drought affected part of Maharashtra. Junnar in the city of Pune in Maharashtra is another region gravely disturbed by the water scarcity. The government sends water supplies once every month but that is not enough for so many people.

Shrikant Jadhav helping people. Image Courtesy :
Shrikant Jadhav helping people. Image Courtesy :

A resident of Junnar, Shrikant Jadhav has been seeing the plight of the people for a long time and then he decided to do something to put an end to their suffering. “I see the rich people getting drinking water cans – this solves their problem. But the poor cannot even afford water these days,” he said to The Better India.

The poor villagers of Marathawada carrying water. Image Courtesy :
The poor villagers of Marathwada carrying water. Image Courtesy :

Shrikant has a small mobile repair shop in Junnar and it was not easy for him to take this initiative. He has spent his own money in order to supply water to the people. He approached a water supplier and negotiated the rate to 35 rupees for each can. He has supplied over 20,000 litres of water till now. He continues to carry on his noble work every day.

He calls his initiative “Parivartan Helpline Seva” and runs it along with the support from his family members. His card reads, “If you are struggling for drinking water then just make one call to get free drinking water”.

India needs more people like Shrikant Jadhav who enjoy helping the distressed and working for a cause which is bigger than their own.