Since October, a severe drought, influenced by the effects of climate change and La Niña, has ravaged East and Horn of Africa. Over 11million people have been affected while pasture livestock are dying off by the thousands. It is clear that urgent, life-saving measures need to be taken. The UN, the Red Cross and regional governments, have taken steps to alleviate the situation. When we look toward the future, longer-term agricultural investments and initiatives in the region seem encouraging. The questions is, are these initiatives actually creating resilience to climate shocks such as droughts?
Funding is failing farmers
Many of these initiatives, with funding from government and/or international donors pushes farmers toward industrial agricultural. Often paired with this is the destruction of wetlands, forests and grasslands in order to clear land for monocultures. But due to clearing these ecosystems, groundwater is no longer retained, and the risk increases for erosion and desertification. Agro-chemicals, which pollute groundwater for local communities and surrounding ecosystems, are extensively used. Over time these agro-chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) deplete the soil of nutrients and organic matter, which are essential for holding water in the ground.
It’s clear that when it comes to building resilience against future droughts, industrial agriculture is a step backward not forward.
Farming for a resilient future
To mitigate climate shocks and build drought resilience, a number of organizations and an abundance of research point toward ecological farming as being key. Ecological farming is less water intensive than industrial farming. It does not require the use of agro-chemicals and thus does not pollute the water. Ecological farming embraces the use of water-efficient seed varieties and an abundance of different crops. Such practices have shown to increase organic matter in soils and improve its quality. In turn, this delivers higher yields while locking moisture into the ground.
A shift is needed
As the government prepares reactive interventions, worries arise about what the future will hold for the region. Wouldn’t it be more beneficial from a financial, humanitarian and ecological perspective, to invest in solutions, rather than systems which contribute to the problem? Ecological farming is the future! We call on governments and financial investors to make a switch in order to mitigate future droughts. Stand with us by sending an urgent call for change!
Greenpeace Africa has published a report titled: Building Resilience in East African Agriculture in Response to Climate Change and the Financial benefits of Ecological Farming in East Africa, and is currently working with to empower farmers to be more resilient in the face of climate change.