El Nino impact on food security: $160 million needed urgently to support 4.8 million people at risk, says FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched a new plan to minimize the impacts of El Nino, a climate phenomenon, on the agricultural livelihoods and the food security of vulnerable and at-risk populations.

WMO has recently predicted that El Nio, a climate pattern, may continue through April 2024. This may lead to more extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves.

According to the Anticipatory Response and Action Plan, nearly $160 million is needed urgently in order to provide support to more than 4.8 million people by March 2024.

The plan currently prioritizes actions in 34 countries, including those of Eastern and Southern Africa and Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean. These were selected based on an evaluation of the historical impacts of El Nino, as well as other factors such as the most recent seasonal climate forecasts, agricultural seasonality, and current vulnerabilities.

El Nino’s latest forecast is likely to cause a further increase in global temperatures and will be comparable with the six most powerful events recorded in history. FAO’s plan focuses on two crucial time frames: acting ahead of El Nino to avoid its impacts and providing a first response where El Nino’s devastation could not be prevented.

Three key objectives are the focus of this report:

  • Reduce the impact of El Nino through proactive actions. For example, helping fishermen protect their boats from storms and flooding, strengthening river embankments in advance of floods, providing drought-tolerant seed to farmers who are rainfed, or protecting livestock.
  • Profit from the positive effects of El Nino to offset losses. For example, provide seeds to farmers who have been affected by flooding so that they can plant again and reap a harvest when floodwaters recede.
  • Provide early response in areas where El Nino has caused devastation. This includes prepositioning time-sensitive supplies such as seeds, veterinary medicine, and water bladders. Cash is also provided to families who are severely affected to meet their immediate needs.

The current El Nino cycle is occurring at a moment when 258 million people suffer from acute hunger, and only 20% of the funds required to provide food security assistance to those most vulnerable are available.

El Nino 2015-2016 affected more than 60 million people in the world, leading 23 countries to request international humanitarian aid totaling $5 billion.

El Nino is a phase of El Nino Southern Oscillation that has temperatures higher than normal in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. The sea surface temperature will be warmer by more than 0.5°C. El Nino has been known to cause warmer-than-normal temperatures in many parts of the world and to disrupt major weather systems such as the Indian Summer Monsoon.

El Nino can have contrasting effects across Asia and the Pacific. It may bring too much rain or too little, depending on where it occurs. El Nino in Eastern Africa is characterized by above-average rainfall during the rainy season of October to December. This can lead to heavy rains, flooding, and landslides in areas such as eastern Ethiopia, Kenya, and southern Uganda.

El Nino is a phenomenon that affects the agricultural and food security of southern Africa, Central America, and other parts of South America.

El Nino’s disruption of rainfall and temperature patterns may have a significant impact on agriculture, rural livelihoods, and food security. Early warnings like these clearly require action. FAO’s El Nino Anticipatory Action and Response Plan needs urgent funding in order to provide immediate support for a number of identified countries around the world. This is based on an analysis of historical trends and seasonal forecasts. It also takes into account the vulnerability of the populations and agricultural seasonality.

Kavitha Kuruganti is the founder of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. The organization works to improve agricultural livelihoods. She says that one possible solution could be giving import preference to countries that don’t cultivate GMO varieties. She says that even consignments with non-GMO certification should be tested.

The issue will only get worse as countries continue to develop GMOs. Australia has developed a GM banana variety that is awaiting approval for commercial cultivation. The list of GMOs is likely to grow.


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