NAIROBI, KENYA (12 SEPTEMBER 2011) Restoring and preserving dryland forests and planting more trees to provide food, fodder and fertilizer on small farms are critical steps toward preventing the recurrence of the famine now threatening millions of people in the Horn of Africa, according to forestry experts from the CGIAR Consortium.
Across the Horn, drought-induced famine has claimed tens of thousands of lives and swelled refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia and elsewhere, with millions of starving people many of them children. Bearing the brunt of the crisis is Somalia, which not coincidentally is also a country that has lost a significant amount of its forests.
Experts say forest destruction and other forms of human-caused land degradation have done far more than the drought to turn vast areas of once grazeable and farmable land into a lunar-like landscape.
"Forests and trees frequently form the basis of livelihood diversification, risk-minimization and coping strategies, especially for the most vulnerable households such as those led by women," said Frances Seymour, director general of the CGIAR's Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
"However, deforestation and land degradation have hindered capacities to cope with disasters and adapt to climate variability and change in the long-term."
New research by CIFOR carried out in 25 countries worldwide has shown that forests serve as a crucial defense against poverty, providing about a quarter of household income for the people living in or near them. Forests in perennially parched areas of the Horn are critical to retaining moisture and nutrients in the soil, while offering a bulwark against wind erosion. They also provide sources of food and fuel, particularly in tough times.
"There is a mistaken view that because these are dry areas, they are destined to provide little in the way of food and are simply destined to endure frequent famines,"
|Contact: Paul Stapleton|
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)