AFRICA – The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has stressed on the need to use both simple solution and hi-tech tools to enhance farmers’ resilience to drought.

FAO Director, General José Graziano da Silva says that more than 80% of all damage and loss caused by drought was absorbed by farmers and agricultural sector, reports Biz Community.

“Unlocking the potential of agricultural innovations, be it simple solutions or satellite-based technologies, will help prevent a drought from turning into famine and forced displacement and reverse desertification,” he said.

He noted that one of the main causes of increased food insecurity in the last three years was El Niño provoking severe droughts on the East African coast.

Solutions Adopted

The FAO and partners are supporting the African Union to establish the Great Green Wall -Africa’s flagship initiative to combat land degradation, desertification and drought, the FAO chief said.

The plan is to surround the Sahara with a wide belt of vegetation, trees and bushes in order to green and protect the agricultural landscape, preventing the desert from advancing.

“This measure is helping us to stop desertification which is one of the main reasons of growing conflict between pastoralists and farmers,” he added.

The development of innovative applications and portals in recent years can bring accessible and actionable information directly to the farmers’ hands.

FAO supports countries in raising awareness and building capacity on such tools to strengthen resilient agricultural practices.

FAO has also launched a revamped version of WaPOR, an open-access database tapping near real-time satellite data to monitor land and water productivity in Africa and the Near East.

Data from WaPOR, initially launched in 2017, helps policy makers and farmers to make informed decisions to be better prepared for drought and increase agricultural production with less water use.

The updated version 2.0 offers a better methodology and covers three additional countries with 100-metre resolution data: Iraq, Sudan and Niger. With recent additions, the total amount of countries covered by this resolution has increased from 18 to 21.

The Government of the Netherlands allocated $2.5m for the further development of the WaPOR database and its expansion to other areas over the two-year period (2019 – 2020).

Graziano da Silva was speaking at the opening of the 2nd International Seminar on Drought and Agriculture at FAO headquarters in Rome, as part of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought celebrations.

He emphasised that in order to cope with droughts and to reverse desertification, in addition to geospatial technologies, farmers can also benefit from very simple solutions.