The Horn of Africa’s Last Famine?

With more than 13 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa, the international community must do much more to meet the immediate needs of this famine’s victims. But we should also be thinking about long-term solutions to prevent food crises on this scale from happening in the first place.

SEATTLE – The recent pledge of $350 million by African leaders and the international community to help the more than 13 million people facing starvation in the Horn of Africa underscores the need for continued attention and funding to prevent this tragedy from claiming and scarring even more lives. But, while much more needs to be done to meet the immediate needs of this famine’s victims, we should also be thinking now about long-term solutions to preclude food crises on this scale from happening in the first place.

Many people see famines as forces of nature, completely beyond our control. But famines are triggered by more than the weather. They are complicated events rooted in governance, security, markets, education, and infrastructure – all of which can be influenced.

We have the tools to prevent food crises by making smart, long-term investments in agriculture. Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people get their food and income from farming small plots of land, and most of these smallholder farmers are women. They have no margin for error, so they need to increase their chances of producing a crop. When farmers can produce more and earn more income, they become more resilient to shocks like severe weather and can put themselves and their families on a path to self-sufficiency.

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