The Africa Union’s Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) recently convened a two-day consultation of experts working to address the challenges to development of the arid and semi-arid lands of the Horn of Africa. This expert consultation on ‘Interventions for sustainable livestock systems in the Horn of Africa,’ was held 2–3 Sep 2011 at the International Livestock Research Institute’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya. The AU meeting was preceded by a news briefing and learning event convened by the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. CGIAR CEO Lloyd Le Page participated in both the Consortium and AU drought-related meetings.
Both meetings helped to identify opportunities for sustaining food production in this sub-region, which continues to suffer from the catastrophic impacts of a severe drought, and helped to develop an initial framework for making better use of those agricultural opportunities in future.
The more than 40 experts gathered at the AU meeting developed a joint statement to better inform long-term development of this region’s drylands. This statement, which follows in full, will be used at upcoming high-level meetings on topics related to food security.
Expert Consultation to inform long-term development of arid and semi-arid lands in the Greater Horn of Africa.
2–3 September 2011
A Joint Statement
The current food security crisis in the Greater Horn of Africa is a stark reminder that insufficient attention has been given to addressing the root causes of vulnerability in the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) of this region. It is also apparent that it is not drought but rather vulnerability during drought in the ASALs that has thrown the region into repeated food crises. Yet in contrast to this vulnerability is the fact that the ASALs produce most of the livestock traded in the region, contributing up to 50% of agricultural GDP to the national economies, in addition to playing wider economic roles. African leaders at the country, regional and continental levels, along with global leaders and the development community, are now confronted with, and attempting to address, the questions: why do we continue to regard what is so clearly an asset as a liability; and what would an appropriate long-term development program look like that could sustainably harness the productive potential of the ASALs and reduce repeated crises?
In the next several months, numerous technical and political consultations are planned to discuss short, medium and long-term development in the ASALs. Against this backdrop, and the urgency of tackling this challenge head on, the African Union (AU) through its Inter-african Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) convened an expert consultation 2–3 September 2011 in Nairobi, which was hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a center of the CGIAR Consortium.
The consultation brought together over 50 development practitioners, researchers, and policy makers (from non-governmental organizations, government, regional organizations, international research institutes, and development agencies) from the Greater Horn of Africa and globally that are or have been engaged in addressing the challenges to the development of the ASALs.
This statement is a summary of key trends identified and recommendations of the experts. It also provides a summary of outcomes, illustrative interventions and issues for consideration.
Context and Trends
Strategic Actions and Recommendations
The immediate challenges being faced in the Greater Horn of Africa serve as a call to action that is being heard and responded to by many countries, agencies, and interest groups. The immediate attention to saving lives and protecting livelihoods is indeed critical. However, much of this response, especially the efforts focused on long-term development, could make better use of existing systems, evidence and best practices to inform investment. They are too often partial solutions because no single country or agency has the ability to mobilize the resources or political will to operate at the scale needed to systemically tackle the issues. Recognizing the need for coordinated action, two recommendations are summarized below to advance a more effective mobilization of domestic resources and foreign development assistance in support of a long-term development effort.
1. The African Union should establish a task force to assist countries and regional economic communities (RECs) to design and mobilize support for long-term development of the ASALs in the Greater Horn of Africa. The fundamental task is to translate national strategies and investment plans for agriculture and food security that now exist into concrete activities and services. This will require:
2. The international community and bilateral development agencies should mobilize a consortium of technical organizations, e.g. CGIAR, FAO, WFP and NGO partners (e.g. REGLAP) to work with and support the AU task force in close consultation with the concerned countries to identify best practice, develop programs, provide technical services and conduct relevant research to support long term development of the ASALs.
Illustrative Outcomes and Interventions for Long-Term Development of ASALs
The expert consultation identified key challenges that a long-term development effort in the ASALs will face, considered major outcomes that will need to be pursued, and began to examine best practices that have been developed and are being applied, typically on a small-scale basis, that could be helpful in the long-term development of the ASALs. The expert consultation considered possible outcomes and actions for long-term agenda from the lens of: a) increasing the contribution of the ASALs to agricultural growth and national development goals and targets; and b) diversifying livelihoods and improving resilience amongst vulnerable households in ASAL areas of the Greater Horn of Africa.
Six major outcome areas and related illustrative interventions are considered as key in advancing the long-term development of the ASALs. They include the following.
Make national and regional pastoral policy frameworks operational
Sustainable ecosystem management
Secure regional trade
Institutionalized disaster-risk management and response
Empowered pastoralist communities
Improved and alternative incomes
Next Steps for Catalyzing Action
Recognizing the urgency of the situation, it is proposed that the African Union convenes a broadly based task force immediately, drawing on the rich expertise available within the region, continent and globally.
At the same time this joint statement should be distributed to other stakeholders, including the donor community, engaged in technical and political consultations over the next few weeks and months, with a view to mobilizing a coordinated effort to shape and implement a long-term development program to tackle the underlying causes of vulnerability in the ASALs of the Greater Horn of Africa.
 Newly approved CGIAR Research Programs, in partnership with national research institutes and other stakeholders, have the capacity to identify information and knowledge gaps, and provide research and innovation fundamental to the ASALs finding lasting and viable solutions, and to provide improved food security, reduced poverty, enhance nutrition and health, and more sustainable use of natural resources for the Greater Horn of Africa region.
Read more about these meetings on the AU-IBAR website and on the ILRI News Blog