WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa at COP27

By Courtney Bennett, Food Systems Process Manager

With the launch of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly referred to as the Conference of Parties (COP27) in Egypt, world leaders, UN Agencies, and other key stakeholders, including community-based organisations, have begun to arrive in Sharm El-Sheikh. Under the presidency of the Egyptian Government, this year’s event will last 13 days, and follow dedicated thematic days covering the likes of Climate Finance, Decarbonisation, Climate Change Adaptation, and Gender.

Touted as the ‘African COP’, the continent has been positioned as the context for many of the scheduled discussions, and for good reason. Though Africa accounts for approximately two to three percent of global greenhouse emissions, it continues to suffer disproportionately from it, posing systemic risk to its economies and livelihoods, investments to infrastructure, food systems — including agricultural sectors, and ecosystem degradation. The list is truly exhaustive.

In the eastern Africa region, an estimated 82 million people are acutely food insecure (IPC 3+), representing 1/3 of the global total in only 10 countries under the WFP Regional Bureau Nairobi (RBN, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda). This number of food insecure is up from 51 million in June 2021, a staggering increase of 61 percent. While there are several contributing factors to these figures, the humanitarian-development actors are realizing the catastrophic impact climate change is having a primary driver to increased food insecurity, degraded ecosystems, and diminished livelihoods.

According to a recent World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report, four out of five African countries are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030, ‘Africa’s climate has warned more that the global average since pre-industrial time,’ warned WMN Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, noting that the sea level rise along African coastlines is faster than the global mean. ‘Changes in continental water bodies have major impacts on the agriculture sector, ecosystems, biodiversity,’ said the WMO chief.

At the same time, drought in the East Africa region has worsened, as many countries are in midst of their fifth consecutive failed rainfall season, an unprecedented occurrence, even in the Horn of Africa that is prone to droughts.

Tume Gerbole, 72, lives in Borena, Oromia region of Ethiopia. Borena is a pastoral zone located in the southern part of Ethiopia boarding Somali region. It is one of the 18 zones in Oromia regional state located in the arid and semi-arid southern lowlands. When Tume lost more than 20 of her cattle due to back-to-back drought, she received support under WFP safety-net program. Livestock represent not only a vital food and income source but also have strong cultural ties to a population of some 1.2 million residing in Borena.

In eastern Africa, WFP has been engaging in a number of innovative programmes and activities with the core objective of continued functionality of sustainable food systems, strengthening resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stressors from climate-related disasters, economic crises, and conflicts.

One of WFP’s innovative programmes to manage and/avert climate-related risks is its Anticipatory Action (AA) for climate shocks programme. The AA programme is an innovative approach that enables the implementation and financing of actions before an extreme weather event occurs, such as flooding or drought. This type of programme allows WFP to inform and assist governments, communities, and families to act weeks and sometimes even months in advance, often off-setting the brunt of climate shocks and protecting their food security, lives, and livelihoods.

WFP works with a consortium of actors, including government ministries, meteorological services, NGOs, and academia, to build early-warning systems for anticipatory action against gradual and rapid-onset climate events. In 2022, to date, WFP has assisted 114, 400 people with cash transfers, early warning information and fodder production to reduce drought impacts on food security and livelihoods before another fifth failed rainfall season fully manifests.

Linked to WFP’s climate action work, is its Climate Risk Insurance programme. Smallholder farmers, agro- and pastoralists, and other livelihoods actors across the region are highly vulnerable to climate-related risks, such as drought and floods. They also have very limited access to the risk financing tools and services, such as commercial insurance, to provide protection from the loss of livelihoods.

In the eastern Africa region, WFP implements two climate insurance programs, targeting smallholder farmers and pastoralists who are vulnerable to drought shocks. Satellite Index Insurance for Pastoralist in Ethiopia (SIIPE) which provides food insecure pastoralists with pasture-based index coverage for their livestock. The insurance payout is triggered when satellite data shows that drought is affecting the availability of vegetation. In exchange for this insurance cover, the beneficiaries engage in asset creation activities. The insurance payout allows beneficiaries to purchase feed and water for their livestock to minimize herd losses during a severe drought. Additionally, SIIPE provides support services for pastoralists, such as veterinary pharmacies, livestock vaccination programmes and access to fodder production. It also aims to promote a savings culture, creating savings and loans associations, and increasing financial literacy.

Since 2018, WFP has been supporting some 28,000 pastoral households. To date, over USD 2 million has been triggered as insurance payouts due to sever drought. The largest regional payout, USD 1.7 million, occurred during 2021 as a result of the short rainy season.

The second program is the Rural Resilience Initiative for smallholder farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia (R4). In partnership with Oxfam America, WFP launched the R4 in 2011 strengthen vulnerable rural families resilience by managing climate-related risks and increasing their food and income security. This integrated climate risk management approach allows the poorest farmers to access financial services by participating in risk reduction activities. When a climate shock occurs, compensation prevents smallholders from adopting negative coping methods such as selling productive assets, e.g., cattle. Through R4, farmers are protected through bad seasons and allows them to invest in agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer.

In addition to strengthening resiliency to climate shocks and stressors, R4 has also shown positive effects on gender equality. In Kenya, 87 percent of insured households were headed by women and 43 percent of households surveyed after payout distribution were headed by women.

· In Kenya, during 2021/2022 insurance cycle, more than 11,000 households were insured by WFP. Insurance payout worth USD 509,000 were triggered due to the failed long rain season of 2022.

· In Ethiopia, the 2021/2022 insurance cycle saw 49, 500 households insured in the Amhara region of the country. No payout has yet been triggered.

The positive example of Rwanda’s determined investment in both the scale and adequacy of its universal school feeding programme is encouraging. Supported by WFP and the Regional Bureau’s Climate Action unit, in collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) and the University of Loughborough, the Government of Rwanda carried out a study to increase the fuel-efficiency of school feeding — through a combination of ‘fuel efficient menus and fuel-efficient cooking behaviours, such as pre-soaking beans.

Women play a vital role in the global food systems, representing almost half of the total agricultural workforce in the WFP Eastern Africa region. However, persistent gender inequalities within food systems are widely documented. Women have fewer options to acquire food production assets, own less land, and are less connected to food value chains, either for staple or cash crops. They are less involved in decision-making or local food system governance. Where they are involved in food supply chains, their time poverty often increases, due to the need to balance unpaid care work. Many women-owned enterprises remain in the informal sector, further limiting access to capital or business expansion.

WFP is increasingly implementing programmes to foster equitable food systems in the region. To this end, it is paying attention to innovative approaches to enhancing women’s economic empowerment through expanded livelihood opportunities as well as women’s access to leadership spaces. This means applying gender transformative approaches such as the Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) methodology that is potentially effective in achieving equitable food systems since it is highly participatory in nature, fosters dialogue across the levels of households/communities and government institutions, and reveals the structural barriers that define gender relations, as well as the individuals within them, to generate systematic and lasting change.

WFP is expanding its support to farmers through the promotion of agroecology-based food systems, which are adaptive to the changing climate and environment, and readily available. In semi-arid and arid areas, the promotion of apiculture for example, increases tree conservation, biodiversity, and income. The apiculture sector has many products such as honey, beeswax, hive construction and bee colony with great potential for new job creation and livelihood diversification opportunities for farmers, while improving the pollination and supporting the growth of indigenous trees and shrubs. Also in arid and semi-arid areas, root crops (such as cassava yam) will be promoted, with potato promoted in midlands and highland areas. Finally, animal husbandry for meat and eggs in arid and semi-arid areas, and dairy in the midlands and highlands will be promoted as an additional contribution to the prevention of malnutrition.

In response to the global food crisis, WFP is encouraging Country Offices to broaden the scope of value chains it targets, and the range of its postharvest interventions, by understanding the different issues across the value chain nodes of commodities of importance for different communities (men, women, youth, and marginalized groups) as well as for different agro-ecologies. Identification of critical loss points of key commodities will be prioritized and addressed through effective partnership and sustainable business models. In addition to WFP’s traditional approaches, the region has also emphasized attention to the use of indigenous forms of post-harvest preservation.

To achieve these objectives, WFP’s Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa (RBN) has increased its engagement with non-donor food system stakeholders, in particular those that offer capital important to food systems transformation, such as human, intellectual, relational, and social. This approach has resulted in WFP identifying a number of opportunities to expand existing programming to reach further and deeper than before. In the past two years, WFP RBN has engaged with several academic institutions, specialised service providers, and UN Agencies to increase internal awareness and strengthen joint programming and activities, with the objective of better positioning WFP RBN in its ‘saving lives, changing lives’ agenda.

Follow WFP Regional Bureau for Eastern Africa’s COP27 updates on Twitter

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