Natural disasters and incidences of civil unrest and economic crises continue to threaten the food security of millions of people around the globe. Emergency programs usually focus on short-term relief, providing shelter, water, food and medicine wherever needed, but there is also an urgent need to ensure that vulnerable people are given the necessary assistance to help them become self-sufficient again. As a result, CGIAR has become increasingly involved in strategies that help at-risk people make the transition from post-emergency to sustainable development.
Triumphing over tragedy
An example of the impact of CGIAR post-emergency work can be found at the scene of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries and left countless others devastated in 2004.
In Aceh, Indonesia, thousands of communities found themselves without homes and livelihoods after the destructive force of the tsunami had receded. However, a lengthy rebuilding process involving The WorldFish Center in partnership with the Aceh Society Development (ASD) Cooperative has helped to put these communities back on their feet by providing vital assistance in the development of local small-scale aquaculture enterprises.
Find out more in a WorldFish photofilm, Rusli’s Story, that highlights the plight of an Achaean fish farmer caught up in the tsunami, and how his life was eventually turned around by the regenerated hope and income he obtained through the development of his shrimp and fish farm.
Boosting rice production during a crisis
Over in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), two emergency rice projects launched in response to the region’s rice-price crisis of 2008 not only met immediate relief goals but also put in place efficient systems to boost rice production in both the medium and long terms.
The first project, carried out by AfricaRice in partnership with national programs and international organizations, ran for two years (2009-10) and provided access to subsidized seed of improved rice varieties, fertilizer, and improved crop management methods to about 56,000 vulnerable rice farmers across Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal. Participating farmers increased their rice yield by up to 100 per cent between 2008 and 2010.
The second project, also carried out by AfricaRice in 2009 and 2010 together with over 70 partners, improved farmer access to rice seed in 20 countries in SSA and built a rice data system for the region.
Read the full report: From emergency to sustainability: rice
Invigorating Haiti’s mango sector
While the AfricaRice projects were well under way, faraway Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake in January 2010 that essentially crippled the Caribbean nation. That same year, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in partnership with Catholic Relief Services began looking at ways of developing the country’s mango value chain. The resulting report identifies opportunities for Haitian producers to capitalize on demand for fresh mangoes from the United States during times of the year when supplies from other mango producing countries are low, and prices are high. The study also found spare capacity in-country for producing high-value dried mango for export.
Find out more in this CIAT post.
Mitigation, the way ahead
In more recent times, the CGIAR Consortium held a briefing on “Famine in the Horn of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigating Drought-Induced Food Crises” to discuss longer-term evidence-based solutions and interventions needed to avert the profound effects of predicted extreme weather events in the future. The event, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2011, brought together experts and stakeholders from the across the Horn and further afield.
The experts discussed a variety of issues including the need for increased investment in agriculture and livestock, natural resource management strategies, support for pastoralists, access to water, grazing lands and markets, the linking of search results with the private sector, and drought tolerant crops. Examples of CGIAR research that can provide solutions to some of these issues, along with reports of the event, can be found here. “CGIAR briefing on the Food Crisis in the Horn of Africa”
If the adoption of CGIAR research results by farmers and herders in the region can be sped up, it will surely alleviate the situation in the Horn of Africa and help these vulnerable people be better prepared for and better able to deal with future crises.
Africa has been described as a continent in perpetual crisis, but this need not be the case.
As USAID’s Jeff Hill said, “It’s not drought, but vulnerability to drought, that’s eroding food security in the Horn.”
From Indonesia, to Africa, to Haiti, and across countless other countries natural disasters and other crises have exacted a heavy toll on populations least equipped to respond. CGIAR experience shows that agricultural research has a vital role to play in dramatically increasing food security and economic development during the aftermath of such emergencies.
Further reading from CGIAR archives “‘Healing Wounds’ Campaign”
The WorldFish Center, AfricaRice and CIAT are all members of the CGIAR Consortium.