DILI, 09 november 2023 (TATOLI) – The World Food Program (WFP) recommends anticipatory actions to be taken by the government and relevant parties to mitigate El Niño Associated Risks and Impacts in Timor-Leste.
Food Security Alert Special Bulletin Timor-Leste revealed that El Niño is here creating hotter, drier conditions with less rainfall than normal bringing risks to crops, livestock, and livelihoods across the country, that could intensify over the coming months.
The Bulletin highlights the urgent food security challenges that the nation faces as a result of the current El Nino event.
“Current levels of food insecurity in Timor-Leste already impact 22 per cent of the population, affecting 300,000 people. This, compounded by successive years of flooding, the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating food prices both domestically and globally, means that the anticipated impacts of El Niño could plunge the population deeper into the throes of hunger. The time to act and mitigate the impacts of El Niño is now,” said Alba Cecilia Garzon Olivares, WFP Representative and Country Director.
In order to mitigate El Niño-Associated Risks, WFP recommends the following actions to be taken as soon as possible:
- Declare a drought situation in the country.
- Ensure coordination structures with government and humanitarian partners are well established and operationalized, including a framework for response and enhanced joint food security monitoring and early warning systems.
- Ensure effective supply chain and the adoption of good practices in planning and distribution management, including distribution site management and logistics.
- Take anticipatory humanitarian action to mitigate and prevent the forecast impacts and protect the population of Timor-Leste, including agricultural and water interventions to support farming ommunities with better outcomes during the drought. No-regrets actions should be taken to meet forecast upcoming needs and support longer term resilience to drought.
- Ensure preparedness and operational readiness including procurement at scale for rice and/or alternative cereal and Specialized Nutritious Foods (SNFs), at best possible price, guaranteeing quality control including food safety and quality (FSQ), lab testing, fumigation and loss management, and adherence to ISO standards.
- Ensure adequate safe storage capacities in key municipalities and preposition food and non-food items for ease of response.
- Further augment national stocks to mitigate the impacts of drought on the agriculture and food supply in the country, and create buffers against fluctuations in food production and prices.
- Conduct local market retailer assessments to map out the availability and affordability of rice and other key food items in the country.
- Support assessments, registration/targeting of vulnerable population, monitoring, and supply chain capacities and distribution channels to enable informed decisions on resource allocation and emergency measures.
WFP also recommends actions to be taken in the medium and long term:
- Strengthen food systems, improving the integration of smallholder farmers and small and medium agribusinesses into local value chains to maintain and increase the value of local products and reduce the country’s reliance on external imports.
- Increase the introduction of Climate Change adaptation in critical sectors such as water enhancement programs to support food systems strengthening.
- Explore alternative drought-resistant crops such as sorghum, to enhance the country’s agricultural resilience, offering a broader range of food options. This contributes to sustainable food production and reduces the impact of climate-related disruptions.
- Scale the anticipatory action approach to protect communities at risk of drought in the future.
- Review the ease of doing business for food suppliers to help mitigate potential scarcity issues arising from climatic adversities.
The last El Niño event in Timor-Leste was in 2015/16 and resulted in 78 percent of households (roughly 709,601 people) being affected by drought in Timor-Leste and 40.6 percent of households experiencing food shortages and falling into severe food insecurity (an estimated 363,759 people).
Based on the results of the Rapid Drought Impact Assessment carried out by MALFF after the last severe El Niño event (2015/16), insufficient rains led to drought, affecting 78 percent of households (about 122,345 families or 709,601 people9) across the country. The assessment also estimated that, at national level, from December 2015 to February/March 2016, 40.6 percent of households (some 62,717 families or about 363,759 people10) were experiencing food shortages and fell into severe food insecurity due to drought impacts.
The prevalence was significantly greater in the municipalities of Viqueque (53%) and Lautem (51%), and even more so in the off-grid areas of Dili (70%). The severity of food insecurity was found very different across sucos, with some having the totality of the population facing food insecurity (map 4). 11 The 2015/16 drought impacts on food security are particularly worrying, as the population had not yet reached the high levels of food insecurity recorded today.
The 2015/16 drought impacts on food security are particularly worrying, as the population had not yet reached the high levels of food insecurity recorded today.
Journalist: José Belarmino De Sá
Editor: Filomeno Martins