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Investments in agriculture far less expensive than food-aid – said Lloyd Le Page at CGIAR briefing

Panelists Lloyd Le Page CEO CGIAR and Namanga Ngongi President of AGRA from the CGIAR media briefing. Photo: ILRI/Samuel Mungai
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Sep 7, 2011

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The CGIAR news briefing “Famine in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigating Drought-Induced Food Crises” held on 1 September at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya was visited by several prominent guest and researchers while at the same time being streamed online. This made the research briefing accessible to a whole new audience! The director for policy at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Jeff Hill, participated in the briefing as did Lloyd Le Page chief executive officer of CGIAR, Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, David Miano Mwangi, assistant director for animal production at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Mark Gordon, co-chair of the UN Somalia Food Cluster at the World Food Programme (WFP). The participating experts were interviewed by more than 20 journalists on the subject “Famine in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigating Drought-Induced Food Crises’.  

Jeff Hill said during the meeting that underinvestment in pastoralist communities in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya have contributed to the extreme levels of food insecurity in the Horn's dry lands. And that it is not drought, but vulnerability to drought that is eroding food security in these areas due to under-investment. The best way to prevent famine in arid lands is to ensure herders have access to critical dry-season grazing and watering areas, according to an ILRI report. Read more about this topic in our related blog post “Pastoralism key in managing drought’.

Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa noted that ‘we have to adapt agriculture to the changing nature of our environment, change our market structures to accommodate and promote drought-tolerant crops and we should consider adjusting our food habits to make better use of crops that are adapted to the region.’

Lloyd Le Page added that “modest investments in agricultural research that allow the world's most vulnerable people to take charge of their food security are far less expensive than constantly parachuting in food aid and humanitarian assistance. Yet donors and governments continue to fall short of their promise to boost investments in the farm sector."

As a way to manage drought and less rainfall in the future, the panel suggested that a creation of commodity exchanges for food crops to help reduce speculation on food prices, insurance schemes that was broadened to include livestock, sustainable land management probrams. Other proposed solutions to avert future food crisis was construction of soil banks and underground reservoirs. Read more here.

To see the whole briefing or listen to the audio please visit the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) Focus: Horn of Africa page. To read more about the briefing please visit ILRI's news page.