Fresh FAO report & many problems. Ethiopia is faced with Fallarmy infestation: 968 ha of corn ravaged, as TPLF claims all is well!

10 Apr

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)
After two days of meeting of the Executive Committee of the EPRDRF, they announced on the media they are winning, they are on top of everything, including the political crisis, the nation’s economic performance and overall growth and development, embarrassingly according to ENA’s news report.

While the EPRDF report is restrained about the outcome in good governance, although it claims the regime is getting more support at the popular level. If so, it is not clear why the additional four months of martial law is needed. In Amhara, preparations for the border demarcation are going well.

In the economic field, the second phase of GTP is going well, faster growth being registered! As far as agricultural growth is concerned, the ruling party anticipates 12 percent growth, notwithstanding the disappointing rainfall situation.

In a country that can grow the economy, with industrial sector’s high performance in conditions where electricity is more off than on and agriculture registering its full potentials, despite inadequacy of the rains, is no less than a miracle how the regime plays with political propaganda.

Even the TPLF regime is patting itself on the shoulder for its success in maintaining inflation in single digits, while since January 2017, prices of goods and services, including food inflation have started sprinting, as data by the Central Statistical Agency (CSA) show: In January 2017 general inflation was 6.1 percent, 7.0 percent in February 2017, 8.5 percent in March 2017. Once could see that food inflation has jumped from 5.0 percent in January 2017 to 9.6 percent in March 2017.

It is against this backdrop that I would like to discuss the fresh report from FAO regarding the problems of agriculture and food insecurity.

FAO’s latest report The future of food and agriculture: Trends and challenges seems to suggest there is a lot to be concerned about the future of its vision, i.e, a ‘world free from hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all, especially the poorest, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner’.

A case in point is that not long ago Ethiopia was in the midst of El Nino-instigated drought. Both by the direct consequences of the drought and new agricultural problems, several millions of people have been severely affected at different levels.

The armyworm burrows into cobs (Credit BBC News)

On the heels of that disaster, we have been hearing that Ethiopian agriculture, especially cereals in southern Ethiopia are being smitten by the Fall Armyworm.

On Ethiopian media this was raised only once, although the United Nations since October has been excessively concerned about its occurrence in the south in Bench Zone area. The story on Fana disclosed two weeks ago that this had destroyed “968 hectares of corn.” There is not anymore talk of it, although the country has not been on top of it.

At least, for the affected population by both problems, with every passing day the quality of citizens’ lives declines. During El Nino in many places pupils did not go to school. There is no food to nourish them both at home and in schools. There is a terrible shortage of water across the nation.

The health of children is affected. Cholera has become the number one cause of illnesses and many deaths in south eastern Ethiopia.

The number of stunted children has worsened. Livestock have been decimated.

The above report, therefore, is about such concerns in different countries. It is about the hungry and the underprivileged in different parts of the world. Of these, it states:

“Some 795 million people still suffer from hunger, and more than two billion from micronutrient deficiencies or forms of overnourishment. In addition, global food security could be in jeopardy, due to mounting pressures on natural resources and to climate change, both of which threaten the sustainability of food systems at large. Planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue.”

It thus underlines that, while the majority of the extremely poor are still found in Asia, yet “almost three-fifths of the world’s extremely poor are concentrated in Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Nigeria. Equally frightening is:

“These countries along with five others, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Pakistan and the United Republic of Tanzania, account for more than 70 percent of the extremely poor. More than 400 million extremely poor people live in conflict areas, signalling the need to address poverty across the entire humanitarian and development continuum.”

After the above, in stating the obvious and in stark terms, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is stating, “The trends and challenges analysed here are cause for both hope and concern.”

The general trend and the major drivers of agriculture in the 21st century are:

1.   Population growth, urbanization and ageing
2   Global economic growth, investment and trade
3   Increasing competition for natural resources
4   Climate change
5   Agricultural productivity and innovation
6   Transboundary pests and diseases
7   Conflicts, crises and natural disasters
8   Poverty, inequality and food insecurity
9   Nutrition and health
10   Structural change and employment
11   Migration and agriculture
12   Changing food systems
13   Food losses and waste
14   Governance for food security and nutrition
15   Development finance

The above concerns and challenges revolve around:

*   High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production.

*   Conflicts, crises and natural disasters are increasing in number and intensity. These reduce food availability, disrupt access to food and health care, and undermine social protection systems, pushing many affected people back into poverty and hunger, fuelling distress migration and increasing the need for humanitarian aid.

*   Critical parts of food systems are becoming more capital-intensive, vertically integrated and concentrated in fewer hands. This is happening from input provisioning to food distribution. Small-scale producers and landless households are the first to lose out and increasingly seek employment opportunities outside of agriculture. This is driving increased migratory flows, especially of male members of rural households, which is leading, in turn, to the ‘feminization’ of farming in many parts of the world.

*  But pro-poor growth must go beyond agriculture, by involving both rural and urban areas and supporting job creation and income diversification. Social protection combined with pro-poor growth will help meet the challenge of ending hunger and addressing the triple burden of malnutrition through healthier diets. Permanently eliminating hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty also requires building resilience to protracted crises, disasters and conflicts, and preventing conflicts by promoting inclusive and equitable global development.

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