By Eric J. Lyman ROME, (Xinhua)
-- Years of warming
temperatures, extremist violence, and outdated farming
methods are putting large parts of four countries
surrounding Africa’s Lake Chad on the edge of famine,
head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
“The area is
facing a humanitarian and environmental crisis that will
grow even more desperate if action is not taken almost
immediately,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da
Silva, who has just returned from a three-day trip to
the Lake Chad area.
provides drinking water for villages and livestock,
helps irrigate agricultural lands, and supports fishing
resources for parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and
main planting season set to start in May and June,
getting seed packs to impoverished farmers in time was a
key way to improve food security in the region, the FAO
chief told reporters.
But so far,
money promised by donor nations to help pay for seed
packs and other programs in the region has been slow in
arriving. Of the 62 million U.S. dollars promised last
year, only 10 million has so far been made available,
according to Graziano da Silva.
fund, as many as 50,000 people in the Lake Chad region
could face famine, he said.
pastoral people,” Graziano da Silva said, “without
agriculture, without their animals, they are at risk of
reduction in the amount of water in Lake Chad is one of
the main factors in the diminishing prospects for local
Lake Chad covered 22,000 square km of territory and was
the sixth-largest freshwater body in the world. Now, it
covers only 300 square km, only 13.6 percent of its size
57 years ago.
Silva said the main factors behind the drying up of the
lake are a changing climate and the inefficient use of
water for local agriculture.
situation is exacerbated by activities of Boko Haram, a
Nigeria-based extremist group with ties to the Islamic
State. The presence of Boko Haram can make it difficult
for aid to reach many parts of the impacted regions.
region is more stable,” Graziano da Silva said. “The
extremists have less influence and the impact of El Nino
has finally subsided. The time to take action is now.”
that problems like the one surrounding Lake Chad would
become more common with time.
He said the
use of modern drip irrigation is one of the main reforms
that will help reduce stress on Lake Chad.
director-general also said it is important to help
compensate farmers for livestock loss, provide a wider
variety of resilient seeds and train farmers.
respond to problems in crisis mode, the problems will
never be solved,” he said. “Of course the first goal is
to bring food to starving population. But after that, we
have to follow through with ways to make food production
more sustainable, more autonomous, and more resilient.”