Recurrent droughts and unpredictable rainfall patterns are characteristic features of the arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) that comprise the Horn of Africa (HOA), where the 8 Member countries of IGAD (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda) are located. The droughts have been increasing in severity and frequency over the years and their impacts are exacerbated by advancing desertification, land degradation, global warming and climate change phenomena. These harsh and worsening ecological circumstances have created conditions of chronic vulnerability in the HOA, with persistent food insecurity, widespread economic hardships and untold human suffering, affecting the pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities that inhabit the ASALs.


Indicative information on the IGAD Region

  • The IGAD region has a land area of about 5.2 millon km2 & a population of 200 million people
  • 30% of the human population in the IGAD region located is the ASALs
  • ASALs (areas that receive less than 600mm in annual rainfall) form 60 – 70% of the IGAD region area
  • More than 90% of the agriculture undertaken in the IGAD region is rain-fed
  • 80% of the livestock found in the IGAD region are kept in the ASALs
  • The region is characterized by the close linkage between drought, poverty and food insecurity
  • The IGAD region is the most food-insecure part of the world


The Horn of Africa Region

The predominant livelihood system in the ASALs is based on pastoral and agro-pastoral production; it is constantly challenged by the scarcity of pasture and freshwater, with increasing human and social vulnerability to environmental hazards and economic shocks, which are aggravated by droughts and resource-based conflicts.


The 2010 – 2011 Drought:

  • Was severe and devastating: it affected 13 million people, causing loss of lives and livelihoods
  • Exacerbated the region’s chronic food insecurity to famine levels in many areas
  • Hit news headlines, formed the topic of agendas and extensive debates in numerous discussions and conferences
  • Was a wakeup call to governments in the region and the international community for urgent and focused attention on the problem of recurrent droughts and their related emergencies in the Horn of Africa.
  • Became a rallying point that brought to the fore the catastrophic impact of recurrent droughts and their dire humanitarian, environmental and productivity consequences
  • Inspired the call for a paradigm shift in the management of drought events


Pertinent observations

  • While drought is an unavoidable natural phenomenon, it need not and should not lead to famine, death and other emergencies.
  • Long- term under-investment in the foundations of development in drought-prone areas has led to increased vulnerability to shocks.
  • The investment in development interventions in the ASALs will build resilience to drought impacts
  • With climate change, drought will become more severe and frequent and climate resilient livelihood options will need to be supported.
  • There is need for social safety nets for vulnerable populations and programs aimed at ensuring that sustainable livelihood options are developed for affected communities.


The Decision to do things differently

Concerned by the severity and frequency of drought disaster emergencies in the region; and seeking to urgently address this problem in a sustainable manner, the Heads of State and Government of IGAD and EAC member states and international development partners convened a Summit in Nairobi in September 2011 to discuss the drought crisis. In a decision founded in a spirit of political commitment and collective responsibility, the Nairobi Summit:

  • Called for a collective expeditious action, dedicated to the objective of ending drought emergencies
  • Decried the ineffectiveness of past drought response approaches and acknowledged the need to find more enduring solutions
  • Recognized the need to do things differently: employing preventive (rather than reactive or emergency); regional (rather than individual member state); twin-track (relief and development rather than humanitarian operations alone); holistic and multi-sectoral (rather than silos) approaches.
  • Resolved to embark on a Drought Resilience and Sustainability Initiative
  • Urged the affected countries to develop policies and strategies and facilitate investments that support programmes aimed at building resilience to future climatic and economic shocks, including building human capital and sustainable livelihoods
  • Urged countries to act nationally, but to think and work together as a region
  • Agreed to enhance partnerships and strengthen coordination
  • Mandated the IGAD Secretariat to lead and coordinate the implementation of the drought resilience Initiative.


Actions that followed the Nairobi Summit Decision

Following the Nairobi Summit Decision to embark on the initiative to end drought emergences in the Horn of Africa:

  • IGAD member states and their development partners were urged to put in place coordinated long-term policies, programmes and interventions aimed at addressing food security and building drought resilience on a sustainable basis.
  • The IGAD Secretariat convened a series of consultative meetings that culminated in a consensus on the formation of an IGAD Regional Drought Resilience and Sustainability Platform as the most effective mechanism to coordinate the implementation of the initiative. The Platform brings together the partners and stakeholders including Member States, the IGAD Secretariat, Development Partners and implementing Partners, including UN agencies, Civil Society and specialized research and training institutions. The Platform comprises a General Assembly of participating stakeholders, a Platform Steering Committee and a Platform Coordinating Unit. The Platform Coordination Unit is hosted by the IGAD Secretariat and serves the function of leading and coordinating the implementation of the drought resilience initiative
  • The coordination mechanisms, at national and regional levels, required for the implementation of the drought resilience initiative were discussed and guidelines on effective coordination mechanisms were agreed.
  • The African Development Bank, working with IGAD Member States and the IGAD Secretariat developed a programme for which US$300million was pledged to support activities the drought resilience initiative
  • Appreciating the critical role to be played by the IGAD Secretariat in leading and coordinating the implementation of the drought resilience initiative, a number of partners (notably BMZ/GIZ; USAID; JFA; UNDP; FAO and AfDB) made arrangements to support the process of building the capacity of the IGAD Secretariat to enable it fulfill the obligations of its coordination role Summit
  • The IGAD Secretariat led a consultative, participatory process involving member states, development partners and non-state actors to prepare the IGAD Drought Disaster Resilience and Sustainability (IDDRSI) Strategy. Informed by the IDDRSI Strategy, IGAD Member States developed their Country Programming Papers (CPPs) for interventions to be undertaken at the national level and the Regional Programming Paper (RPP) for identified activities to be undertaken at the regional level.