THOUSANDS of local households have benefitted from a US$ 6 million (approximately M72 million) Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) initiative aimed at mitigating the impact of the devastating El Nino-induced drought which ravaged the entire southern Africa region from 2015 to 2017.
The drought severely reduced crop yields and resulted in the deaths of livestock- a situation which left millions of people food insecure, forcing the regional countries including Lesotho to extend the begging bowl to avert famine.
According to FAO, the project was funded by the United Kingdom to the tune of US$ 5 839 416 and ran from 1 October 2016 to 30 September 2017. It had the objective of “improving the food and nutrition security of vulnerable households, while protecting and restoring agriculture-based livelihood opportunities”.
A FAO update released on Tuesday shows that at least 181 292 households with 906 460 people in Lesotho, Malawi and Madagascar benefitted from FAO’s support scheme for smallholder farmers which ended late last year.
The scheme dubbed Emergency support to smallholder farmers affected by El Niño in Southern Africa was aimed at improving the food and nutrition security of vulnerable households, while protecting and restoring agriculture-based livelihood opportunities.
According to FAO, various activities were executed including the provision of inputs such as seed which enabled at least 84 762 households in the three countries to produce crops.
Training was also provided to more than 36 000 farmers, extension workers, school teachers and other stakeholders on “good practices for crop, vegetable and livestock production”.
“The project contributed to increased food availability and strengthened the livelihood asset base of targeted vulnerable households,” the FAO update states.
“In Lesotho, the beneficiaries attained maize yields of 1.4 tonnes per hectare and in Malawi around 1 tonne per hectare.
“In Madagascar, maize and sorghum yields were 0.70 tonnes per hectare and 0.38 tonnes per hectare, respectively.”
In addition, 96 530 families benefitted through animal vaccinations, provision of supplementary feeding for animals and water troughs.
FAO further reported that 55 percent of the beneficiaries were women-headed households.
El Niño is a periodic climatic phenomenon characterised by inadequate rain in some parts of the world and floods in others. Under El Niño, parts of South America experience heavy rainfall, while dry conditions prevail in Australia, south-east Asia and southern Africa.
It used to occur in varying degrees of severity after every five years, but since the 1990s, it has become more frequent due to global warming.
The El Nino-induced drought in 2015 and 2016 left more than 600 000 Basotho food insecure and in need of assistance.
FAO described its recent project as a success it had “contributed to increased food availability and strengthened the livelihood asset base of targeted vulnerable households”.
“The project also strengthened regional and national capacity to effectively respond to livestock-based needs in crises.
“It also contributed to the development of the Southern African Development Community’s Regional Vulnerable Assessment Committee 2017 programme of work,” the FAO statement noted.