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Delegates to debate strategies on disaster resilient society

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU –— Delegates from Lesotho and 49 other African states will gather in Arusha, Tanzania, next month to address challenges of building a “disaster resilient society”.
The seminar, to run from February 13 to 15, will be hosted by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR).
The meeting will seek to devise strategies to prevent Sub-Saharan African countries from exposure to disaster risks and changing climate, which according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “undermine economic growth for Sub-Saharan Africa”.
“The IMF is projecting an economic growth of 5.25 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2013, a rate that places the region second only to Asia’s booming economies and well above the world of focus of 3.6 percent,” the UNISDR says.
“However, this impressive growth could be undermined by exposure to disaster risks and changing climate.”
The meeting will also focus on the preservation of agriculture and livelihoods in the African continent “against the severe impact of global warming”.
The recent Eighth Annual Meeting of the African Science Academies concluded that climate change will impact Africa more severely than any other region in the world and that “severe weather events such as droughts and floods are on the increase”.
Pedro Basabe, the head of UNISDR’s regional office in Africa, has noted that with global warming affecting agriculture and livelihoods in a continent where agriculture contributes 50 percent of total exports and 21 percent of total of GDP “it is evident that long-term action must lead to sustainable development policies which take account of these challenges”.
“Climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and poverty reduction policies need to be integrated into the policies, budgets and planning of African countries and institutions,” Basabe has said.
Protecting African livelihoods, Basabe added, required international, regional and country approaches that recognised and acted on the overlap of conflicts and severe weather hazards.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane last August declared an emergency food crisis in Lesotho adding that 40 percent of the country’s 1.8 million people needed food or they will starve.
According to Thabane a vulnerability assessment conducted by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) had concluded that an estimated 725 519 people would require food aid between August 2012 and April this year adding “or they will starve”.
Thabane attributed the food shortage to the poor harvest of 2012 cropping season which he said had produced just 16 788 metric tons or a mere 20 percent of Lesotho’s national food requirements.
Unfavourable weather conditions which included the late onset of rains, insufficient rains and early frost, the PM said, had resulted in low yield per acre and an increase in fallow land.
The PM said he was declaring a food crisis situation in Lesotho and called on development partners to “assist us to address and redress the situation”.
Lesotho’s agriculture sector has been in free-fall for the past three decades.Agriculture’s contribution to the GDP slumped from a high of 25 percent in the 1980s to around 10 percent in the 1990s.
And in 2011 it contributed a mere 7.7 percent to the GDP.
This is despite the fact that about 82 percent of Lesotho’s population is involved in agriculture as subsistence farmers.
In the 1980s Lesotho used to produce 80 percent of its cereal needs but now it can only manage a measly 30 percent.
The two-day training programme will also accommodate 12 to 15 journalists from Lesotho and other African countries.
The Fourth African Regional Platform will bring together government, UN, and NGO representatives from 50 African states.

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