One man, Getu Berihun, said his family was badly affected by the recent drought and he is determined to prevent that happening again. “I am willing to try many different crops,” he said. “It’s not easy to farm here, but my intention is to feed my family, so I will work hard to support them.”
The “short rains” in October and November in 2011 were mostly normal across the region, which helped to improve water supplies for livestock and land, and led to a good harvest in early 2012. However, the “long rains” from March to May 2012 have been poor in some areas, which will inevitably slow down recovery efforts and prevent a large number of displaced farmers from returning home to their hard and barren land.
On the one-year anniversary of the declaration of famine in Somalia, it is important to remember that cyclical crises will never be solved in 12 months. Families remain vulnerable and continue to need our assistance during this crucial recovery period. We must remember the human stories behind the numbers, the needless suffering of literally millions in this region.
Guyo Ouampicha, a 45-year-old pastoralist from Marsabit in northern Kenya, is a living example of how investments in the right programs can improve peoples’ chances in the long-term. As a young man, Guyo inherited his father’s goats and cattle. In 1984, after the devastating drought of that year, all of Guyo’s 70 cattle died, leaving him and his family with nothing. To get by, he resorted to selling firewood, charcoal, and wood for house-building so that he could feed his children, but it was difficult to make ends meet.
In 2010, Concern and its local partner set up a communal farming project in his village. Unlike others in northern Kenya who were hit hard by the drought and experienced livestock deaths and high malnutrition rates, the community in Madowadi were protected by their investment in a drip irrigation system. “I don’t think we in Madowadi will ever suffer the terrible effects of drought again now that we have been taught ways around it,” Guyo said.
While it is a good foundation, it is not enough for organizations like Concern to make investments in communities. Governments and donors must also put resources in place so that we can roll-out infrastructural projects that mitigate the worst effects of the region’s new normal of erratic weather patterns, droughts, floods, uncertain planting dates, and shorter growing periods. Without a long-term commitment that focuses on the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, the tragedy that unfolded in 2011 can and will very likely happen again.
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