Sweden supports drought-hit Sahel farmers and herders

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Rome, May 31 (IANS/AKI) Sweden will give $9.9 million to drought-stricken farmers and herders in the Sahel where over four million people in the region face growing hardship following drought that decimated farmers’ crops and livestock, the United Nations said Thursday.

The funds will be channelled through the Swedish International Development Cooperation department (SIDA) and come in response to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s appeal for the Sahel, FAO said, welcoming the extra funds.

“This contribution will bring livelihood support to families when they need it most. This is the time families’ granaries are emptying fast and herders are in a desperate search for fodder,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience Strategic Programme Leader.

Communities across six countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal – are struggling to cope following last year’s dry spells. Coupled with high food prices, conflict and market disruption, the drought has led to the worst lean season in the Sahel in four years and herders have been especially hard hit, as many grazing areas have dried up, leaving little or no food for their animals, FAO said.

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Sweden’s grant “will enable us to support vulnerable communities over the next two years so that they can get back on their feet and build their capacities to cope better with future shocks,” Burgeon said.

More than one million people are struggling to get enought to eat over the coming months in Burkina Faso and Mali – two of the six Sahel countries that have been hardest hit by the 2017 drought.

More than 4 million people, including 3 million herders and crop and livestock farmers in the six countries currently need urgent food assistance and this could rise to nearly 7 million people in

the next few weeks, FAO warned.

In Burkina Faso, the SIDA contribution will enable FAO to provide unconditional cash transfers, reaching around 60,000 people, to cover food and other urgent needs during the lean season (May-August), said FAO.

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In addition, over 24,000 people will receive cash transfers in exchange for work, rehabilitating

water points, degraded land and roads, the UN agency said.

All of the 84,000 people due to benefit from the Swedish aid will receive support to revive their livelihoods, FAO underlined.

This assistance includes seeds and tools to grow cereal and vegetables, and plant trees such as moringa and baobab that can help meet their nutritional requirements, the agency said.

Herders will receive fodder and animals (sheep, goats, poultry or pigs) to replenish their livestock amid fears that livestock mortality could quadruple from 2 to 8 per cent this year, the agency added.

In Mali, up to 24 000 people will benefit from the rehabilitation of small scale irrigation infrastructure for agriculture, recovery of pastures and bore-holes for livestock use and “cross-cutting nutrition education and social protection activities”, FAO stated.

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This year, FAO aims to support one million farmers and herders in the six countries by distributing fodder and livestock, rehabilitating water points, regenerating pastures, vaccinating livestock, providing cash for work schemes, supporting food production and engaging in cross-border dialogue to reduce conflicts, said the agency.

FAO said is also working to strengthen the long-term resilience of nearly half a million herders in the Sahel.

–IANS/AKI

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