Johannesburg – Almost $4 billion is needed to meet the humanitarian demands of countries facing food shortages because of an El Nino-induced drought, the United Nations said.

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The drought is ravaging agriculture across southern Africa. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko. Credit: REUTERS

About 60 million people, including 40 million in eastern and southern Africa, face a lack of food because of El Nino, which has scorched crops, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation said in a statement on its website on Wednesday. With scientists forecasting an increasing likelihood of the opposite rain- and flood-inducing La Nina taking place, the number of those affected by the combined impacts of the events may reach 100 million, it said.

The El Nino-induced drought damaged crops from palm oil, rice and sugar in Asia to grains in southern Africa and robusta coffee in South America. Storms spurred by the phenomenon have wiped out harvests in Fiji and some of its neighbouring island states, the FAO said.

The agency, together with the UN’s World Food Programme and International Fund for Agricultural Development, is “redoubling efforts to mitigate the negative impacts and capitalise on the opportunities of a likely La Nina phenomenon in the coming months”, it said. “Acting now will ensure that farmers have sufficient levels of agricultural inputs for upcoming planting seasons.”

Window of opportunity

There is a three-month window before the start of southern Africa’s corn-planting season in which interventions such as distributing agricultural inputs “are urgently needed to avoid the dependence of millions of rural families on humanitarian assistance programs well into 2018”, the FAO said.

The organisation is on standby to provide emergency seeds and tools in Vietnam, where drought and saltwater intrusion are threatening farmers’ livelihoods, where IFAD is also supporting growers. More than 7.6 million people have received food assistance from the WFP in Ethiopia and a further 260,000 have been helped in Papua New Guinea.

The organisation is on standby to provide emergency seeds and tools in Vietnam, where drought and saltwater intrusion are threatening farmers’ livelihoods, where IFAD is also supporting growers. More than 7.6 million people have received food assistance from the WFP in Ethiopia and a further 260 000 have been helped in Papua New Guinea.

Agri Northern Cape

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