The arid regions of the Horn of Africa are some of the most at-risk and vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change (WFP, 2017). In October 2015, a study published by the University of Arizona reported that “the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any other time in the past 2,000 years” with devastating impacts for people and livestock. 

Since 2015, the frequency and intensity of droughts in the unrecognised state of Somaliland has increased, contributing to the expansion of desert regions as forests and grasslands die. Although accustomed to harsh conditions, people in the region find they cannot cope after years of below-average rainfall. According to a recent article, an astonishing 70 percent of the region’s livestock has fallen victim to drought. Consequently, customary pastoral livelihoods have been decimated and tens of thousands of families have had to flee their homes:

“Depopulation of rural areas is already happening. Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, has as many as 10 temporary camps with 150,000 families that have fled drought-stricken rural areas after their livestock died.”

In October 2015, a study published by the University of Arizona reported that “the region dried faster in the 20th century than at any other time in the past 2,000 years” with devastating impacts for people and livestock. 

EU agencies estimate that 13m people across the region are suffering from food shortages, and “according to the UN, 4.2m people in Somaliland and neighbouring Somalia will require food assistance in 2019.”

That is why it is imperative that people in developing nations, those most vulnerable to climate change, are supported to protect themselves against the effects of drought and desertification.

Here at Excellent, we help vulnerable people to do just this. By supporting communities to construct sand dams, they are able to access water year-round, even through severe droughts.

A sand dam is a reinforced stone wall built across a seasonal sandy river. They can capture up to 40 million litres of water every rainy season which is stored safe from disease and evaporation within the sand, and one sand dam can provide enough clean water year-round for over 1,000 people.

Another way that Excellent supports communities in arid regions is by supporting farmers with sustainable agriculture including planting drought-tolerant crops. This means that farmers are able to maintain food sources for their families and communities despite infrequent and unreliable rains. This is vitally important, as crop yields in the Horn of Africa are expected to fall dramatically as global temperatures rise.

By terracing the surrounding land, they ensure that water is absorbed into the soil during rainy seasons, retaining valuable topsoil rather than allowing it to be washed into the ocean. As a result, farmers are able to plant and farm income-generating crops such as mango and papaya on a more regular basis.

We are committed to helping communities in drylands to combat the effects of climate change, but we cannot do it without your support.

Written by Alex Perham-Marchant , Excellent Development volunteer

Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa

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