FEWS Greater Horn of Africa Food Security Update 24 Nov 2001
During the crisis last year in much of the Greater Horn of Africa, a major problem was timely information about badly affected groups in pastoral areas - or where this information was available - the timeliness of the response. In recognition of this problem, a workshop was held to address this issue in November 2001. The workshop brought together an impressive amount of experience and expertise on pastoralist systems in the Horn of Africa. Seventy-five participants from seven countries in the Greater Horn, international agencies and NGOs, took part. Elements of Action Plans for assessing and improving pastoral early warning and response were developed for both the countries represented and for the region.
This issue of the Greater Horn of Africa Food Security Update draws from the discussions to highlight major obstacles to improved pastoral early warning and response, as well as some options identified for addressing these obstacles.
The context of pastoralism
Pastoralist systems function in very different contexts in the Greater Horn of Africa, and their worsening vulnerability provides the framework for early warning and response activities. In most countries there is a strong State, and hence scope for developing a national disaster policy. Indeed, in the cases of Kenya and Uganda these are in the process of being enacted within each country's respective legislature. Responsibility for early warning and response in these cases lies clearly with district and national government institutions, even if these lack capacity and need to be strengthened. In contrast, in much of Somalia and South Sudan there are no state institutions, raising difficult issues: Who should take the lead in early warning and response? What is the role of international organizations where there are no obvious counterpart institutions? How can sustainable systems be built?
The political and economic significance of pastoralism varies considerably between different countries. In most of the Greater Horn (Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia), pastoralists are a small percentage of the population, living in remote areas and contributing a relatively small amount to GDP. In these contexts pastoralists tend to be marginalized politically and economically. Even in an emergency there is a tendency for their needs to be accorded relatively low political priority. In contrast, in Somalia pastoralism is a mainstay of the economy and hence of much greater political and economic significance.
Pastoralism in the Horn of Africa is also an international issue - both the nature of the pastoral economy and the shocks that affect it pay little heed to national boundaries - hence the imperative of exploring the regional dimensions of early warning and response. Yet the political tensions within the Horn, and the associated weakness of regional organizations mean that cross-border/ regional responses have been relatively unexplored and only limited progress has been achieved.
Early warning of what?
Most Early Warning Systems (EWS) in the region have been designed to warn of drought-related crises. But this is not the only hazard to pastoralist livelihoods. They are also affected by floods, economic shocks (for example the ban on livestock exports to the Gulf States) and, most importantly, conflict.
Early warning of drought and conflict raise many questions: What indicators should be monitored? How can the information be used? While there is an obvious area of convergence between drought and conflict-related early warning there are also limitations in integrating the systems because of the sensitivity of 'conflict indicators', and the sensitivities (indeed often the responsibility) of making the analysis and early warning public. This is an area of significant concern but with few practical 'models' to build on. Clearly much work remains to be done.
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