In an interview with at the Africa Climate Summit, Guyo Malicha Roba, head of the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action reflected on El Niño and what it could mean for livestock farmers in the region.

A farmer drives his cattle herd over a busy country road in Talek, Kenya. Photo: Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images. Source: Getty Images

The IGAD Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC) announced that the October to December 2023 climate forecast shows high chances of wetter-than-usual conditions across most parts of the Greater Horn of Africa.

Notably, there is an exceptionally high probability of experiencing wetter-than-usual rainfall in southern Ethiopia, eastern Kenya, and southern Somalia. On the other hand, probabilities indicate drier-than-usual conditions for isolated areas of south-western Uganda and south-western South Sudan.

What the El Nino rains might cause

As a result of the heavy rainfall that may contribute to flooding, experts are calling for more financial mobilisation towards proven, sustainable livestock practices and technologies to combat the situation.

Livestock remains one of the most important economic sectors in Africa, contributing up to 80% of agricultural GDP and providing food and livelihoods for men and women in remote, marginal areas. As such, livestock measures for small-scale and pastoral systems that help curb and cope with climate change, while also reducing inequality, offer hope that Africa can become more climate resilient in a way that leaves no one behind. The ongoing drought has left almost 32 million people across the Horn of Africa in dire need of humanitarian support. An estimated 2.5 million heads of cattle were lost in Kenya alone, driving up hunger and poverty.

Guyo Roba told that because of the self-regulating and self-reconstructing system, people tend to bounce back from one drought to another.

“But now, with the change of the climate, we don’t have that opportunity of reconstructing our livestock and bouncing back. We need to have a better system within the government to look at this as a bigger, unprecedented problem,” Roba said.

How the drought was created

In an exclusive interview with at the Africa Climate Summit (2023), Guyo observed that the drought was created by the climate situation and not by the people.

“So we need to align our intervention into this new reality, whether it is supporting pastoralists to have a better efficient market. To reduce losses, early warning processes. We need constant improvement in how early warning is given. We need to have better financing alignment, and a pool fund to help people restock their animals,” he explained.

According to Roba, there is a good season at the moment owing to the upcoming El Nino rains.

“This is the right time to restock the animals, but there are no finances to do that. People need to have better assets so that they can bounce back and face the next shock in a better way,” he added.

How the government can support livestock farmers

He further said that the government can help pastoralists with livestock production.

“This means investing in animal genetics, and breed improvement, also supporting communities to manage their resources, such as water and pasture resources,” he added.

He further said that the government can also support farmers with market systems, which means investing in the entire system and fixing structural issues in the market.

“Developing the right infrastructure, the right bilateral agreements or specifications between the buyer and the seller so that the livestock keeper is in a better position to offtake their animals to the market for a profitable gain,” Roba said.

 In the phase of climate change, Roba said that livestock insurance is becoming a key issue.

“The long-term is to invest in the entire system because livestock production is a system that encompasses production, marketing, and extension. So, all this bundle of investment has to be aligned for the entire thing to work,” he went on.

Roba observed that there is also a need to have essential policies in place that help people access international markets and have preferential entry to profitable markets.

“Better branding of their products and better niche marketing of certain products depending on the species that people keep. So, these are all things that the government and any other investors can do to help people manage their livestock deaths and at the same time also ensure that people profit from their animals because animals are an asset and you need to invest in them for prosperity,” he explained.

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