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Climate crisis: drought and hunger in eastern Africa

March 2023

Millions of people across eastern Africa are facing a severe hunger crisis as an ongoing drought causes the driest conditions seen in decades and worsens widespread food shortages.

We urgently need your help to provide farmers, who rely on rainfall to feed their livestock, grow crops and make a living from agriculture, with farm inputs like drought-tolerant seeds and support to prepare them for future climate extremes.


"We have not seen a drought of this magnitude since 1981."

Dr Diana Onyango, Head of Technical Team, Farm Africa


The most extensive and persistent drought in decades hit the Horn of Africa in October 2020 due to poor rainfall and is continuing to ravage the region.

Farmers and their families have been living without sufficient food, water and crops for the last two and a half years and with forecasts of a sixth poor rainy season, the situation is expected to worsen well into mid-2023.

Both Ethiopia and Kenya are in the emergency Phase 4 as measured by the IPC Acute Food Insecurity Phases.
Phase 4 refers to situations where households either have large food consumption gaps, which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality, or are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies and asset liquidation.

If rains continue to fail this year, Ethiopia and Kenya face the risk of moving into the fifth and final phase of food insecurity: famine.

This will be the sixth consecutive failed rainy season in the region, which is now on the brink of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.

The southern and eastern pastoral areas of Ethiopia, north and eastern parts of Kenya, northern Uganda and a large part of south-central Somalia are the worse affected areas, with over 30 million people needing urgent humanitarian food assistance.

The deterioration in condition and deaths of many livestock, water shortages and record-low vegetation conditions are just some of the results of this devastating drought, which is leading to mass hunger, disease outbreaks, acutely malnourished children, displacement and diverse economic shocks such as rising fuel and fertilizer prices, currency depreciation and inflation.

While help has arrived through humanitarian assistance to mitigate some food shortages, assistance is outpaced by the scale and severity of the situation. What's more, although certain regions were able to plant some crops between September 2022 and February 2023, it was a significantly below-average harvest. Farmers are likely to exhaust their food stocks atypically early and continue to face immense difficulty accessing food.

Compounding issues

In a region that has already endured flooding in early 2020, a desert locust invasion, the COVID-19 pandemic, protracted conflict in northern Ethiopia and now a rocketing inflation rate, the current drought poses severe threats to weakened farming communities who call this region home.

Staple food prices remain atypically high, driven by below-average production across the region and rising food and fuel prices on international markets. High food prices are reducing household purchasing power and limiting household food access.

Dr Diana Onyango, Head of Technical Team at Farm Africa, said: “The communities that are facing the worst of these climate extremes are still recovering from severe challenges such as conflict and the pandemic.”

“Once again, we see those who have made the smallest contribution to climate change bear the greatest burden.”

The region is also feeling the impact of the Russia Ukraine conflict through a spike in agricultural commodity prices.

Together, the Russian Federation and Ukraine produce 53 per cent of sunflower oil and seeds, and 27 per cent of wheat traded globally.[i] Countries in eastern Africa are particularly dependent on the import of food security foods: Kenya sources more than 40% of its wheat from the Russian Federation and Ukraine, while in Uganda the figure is more than 50% and in Tanzania it is over 60%.[ii]

Action is needed to avert threats to food security across eastern Africa.

How Farm Africa is helping

In the Borena zone in the Oromia National Regional State of Ethiopia, where the drought has dried up pasture and livestock are suffering from acute shortages of water and land, Farm Africa and SOS Sahel Ethiopia delivered emergency supplies of animal forage, thanks to funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ethiopia, in the hope to save livestock.

But we need your help to do more.

Climate-smart agriculture

Climate-smart agriculture

Farm Africa’s experience across eastern Africa shows how Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can reverse the drop in farming production when a drought occurs by helping farmers to manage their resources in ways that protect ecosystems, reduce agriculture’s contribution to climate change and help to alleviate poverty.

We use CSA approaches in our projects to promote good agricultural practices, crop diversification and the growth of cash crops, which are both profitable and environmentally friendly, to help build resilient, sustainable livelihoods for rural communities for generations to come.

Access to finance

Access to finance

Access to finance is also a crucial lifeline for households struggling with weather extremes. Millions of farming families in rural Africa face falling into poverty when their harvests fail, just because they do not have a financial buffer.

Building resilience to climate change must ensure farmers have access to finance so they can afford necessities like food and education, and can invest in the improved seeds and fertilizers needed for a healthy harvest of drought-tolerant crops and a good profit.

Farm Africa helps to provide financial access by establishing community saving schemes such as village savings and loan associations for millions of rural farmers. These schemes offer financial support, particularly for women who provide the bulk of the agricultural labor, and ensure they have stability when dangerous weather events strike.

What you can do to help

A donation from you could help to reduce poverty and hunger for farmers across eastern Africa in the face of the changing climate.

Help build a climate resilient future, so no farmer has to face a drought like this alone.


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