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Archive for March 22nd, 2009

World Food Security

Posted by feww on March 22, 2009

Africa: Food Security Alert

East Africa

Dry conditions will continue to persist, affecting pasture and water availability and animal body conditions until the March-May season begins. This season will be critical for pastoral livelihoods. A delay or below-normal performance of the March to May rains could cause a worsening of the current high/extreme food insecurity, particularly in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.

Due to the combined affects of recurrent below-normal rainfall and varied country-specific factors such as, insecurity and civil conflict, high fuel and food prices, inappropriate policy actions (such as export trade bans) about 17 million people remain highly to extremely food insecure in the region.

WEST AFRICA Food Security Alert

Above-average prices threaten food security in West Africa

The 2008/09 growing season in West Africa resulted in above-average harvests sufficient to meet regional demand. Cereal prices, however, did not decrease as much, or for as long, as would be expected following such a harvest. As prices in the region were already above the five-year average for the period prior to the harvest, early post-harvest price increases could lead to moderate, high, or extreme food insecurity for net consumers by the start of the June-September hunger season.

Most Likely Food Security Scenario for West Africa, April – June 2009. Source: FEWS NET


Somalia Food Security Alert
Resources urgently required to address extreme food insecurity

At least 3.2 million Somalis in urban centers, rural areas, and IDP camps will require humanitarian assistance through June 2009. While overall conditions in Somalia are not expected to improve over the next six months, delivery of humanitarian aid has become increasingly difficult as a result of increased targeting of humanitarian workers, deteriorating civil security, political tensions, and renewed armed conflict.

Current estimated food security conditions (January-June 2009)

Recent short rains (October to December) were largely inadequate in most parts of the country leading to an extended dry period – a lean season for pastoralists – which affected crop development, pasture growth, and water availability. As a result, rangeland resources are dwindling in many key grazing areas and the deyr harvest is 46 percent below the five‐year average and 48 percent below the post war (1995‐2007) crop production average. Although sorghum belt regions of Bay and Bakool had a near‐normal harvest, the ‘bread basket’ areas of Juba and Shabelle valleys, where the bulk of annual cereal production occurs, experienced an almost complete short‐rains crop failure.


The food security status of an estimated 2.5 million pastoralists, agropastoralists and marginal agricultural farm households has deteriorated to critical levels, following the failure of the short-rains season in December 2008, compounded by adverse impacts of high food prices, conflict and livestock disease. An additional 850,000 school children(1) are to be included in the expanded School Feeding Program; 150,000 persons displaced by the post-election crisis and at least 4.1 million urban dwellers are extremely food insecure and are having difficulty meeting their food needs on a predictable basis. The GoK has estimated that an additional 1.9 million persons are food insecure due to adverse impacts of HIV/AIDs.


Ethiopia continues to face high levels of food insecurity, with an estimated 12.4 million people considered currently food insecure. A total of 7.5 million people will be covered under the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), whilst 4.9 million people require emergency food assistance from January to June 2009.

Food security in the belg crop producing parts of the country is threatened by a delayed and erratic start of the belg rains. If the rains remain poor, a second consecutive below average harvest will occur in these already chronically food insecure parts of the country. Close monitoring of the seasonal rains through the end of the season is required.

The national inflation rate in February 2009 was 46.1 percent, with food inflation at 61.1 percent and a non food inflation rate of 24.2 percent. The price of maize, the food most widely consumed by the poor, is 130 percent higher than the 2004 2008 average and 47 percent higher than that of February 2008. The food security of households that spend a significant proportion of their income on food will continue to be negatively affected due to the high and rising staple food prices. FEWS. Full report


High prices create critical food access problems in Southern Malawi

The availability of affordable maize has been a critical problem in southern Malawi this year, and low and middle‐income households are struggling to access enough maize to meet their consumption needs. Last season’s poor production in the south, particularly in Mwanza, Zomba, Machinga, Mulanje, Phalombe, Balaka, and Blantyre districts, has made a larger proportion of households dependent on market purchases than normal, while retail prices of maize and cassava have been rising to abnormally high levels throughout the marketing year (April‐March).


In the worst-case scenario, the majority of the country will be highly to severely food insecure. The triggers for this situation include a resumption of military conflict in the east, poor implementation of programs to control prices by the government, and shortages of fodder, animal feed, and drinking water.

Other areas


A third of the country’s population is food insecure, with the highest concentrations in areas where current harvests have been below‐normal, and where damage from last season’s storms was most intense (e.g., Gonaives and Belle Anse). Despite the below‐normal rainfall forecast for the coming season, a sustained decline in international food prices should mitigate food insecurity over the next few months. However, the extended forecast for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which begins in June, suggests above‐normal hurricane activity this year. In combination with the effects of the U.S. economic recession, severe storms could undermine food security and lead to increased assistance needs.


In the worst-case scenario, international wheat prices will increase due to a reduced 2009 global wheat harvest. Kazakhstan may elect to not sell cereals to Afghanistan. The government of Pakistan could also prevent the transshipment of 250,000 MT of Indian-donated wheat through Pakistan.


Food availability in the north, which was recently affected by Tropical Depression 16, is about to improve with the coming harvest, although the maize crop could be hampered by plagues and diseases. The government is currently evaluating the damage in those areas.

Nominal prices for the basic food basket continue to rise, making food access difficult for landless rural and urban populations.

Source: FEWS NET Executive Overview of Food Security

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Hunga Ha’apai Volcano Update

Posted by feww on March 22, 2009

Another reminder that volcanic eruptions can destroy everything around them

Hunga Ha’apai eruption “has destroyed rich birdlife and vegetation, leaving a wasteland of black ash and tree stumps,” eyewitness reports say.

Groups of  people who have traveled to the volcanic site described frequent explosions that ejected rocks and ash and spewed smoke hundreds of meters into the air, AFP reported.

Ash rises several hundred meters into the air from Hunga Ha’apai, 62km north-northwest of the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa. [Undated photo, possibly taken on Mar 20 or 21, 2009.] Photograph: AFP. Image may be subject to copyright.

The volcano, which is located on the small islet of  Hunga Ha’apai, about 62km km north- northwest of the Tongan capital Island of Nuku’alofa, began erupting on March 16, 2009, and  continued to ash, volcanic gasses and rocks into the air.

A journalist visiting the Island said: “The island itself is totally destroyed …  there is no living thing left there, it’s all covered in black ash.”

“There are only black stumps where the coconut trees were,” he added. “We saw dead birds and fish in the water.”

According to Tonga’s chief geologist, Kelepi Mafi, who reportedly inspected the area on Thursday, the volcanic debris ejected from the volcano filled the 100 m gap between the offshore vent and  the main vent on Hunga Ha’apai, adding hundreds of square meters to the islet’s land mass.

Mafi reiterated that the government has warned sightseers to stay away from the area, which is very dangerous.

“It’s very interesting, but it’s very risky also,” he said, adding that he expected the eruption to continue for another couple of days.

However, given the renewed seismic activity in the area, and other factors not discussed here, FEWW believes one or more of the following scenarios may likely occur:

1. Eruption could continue for many days (up to several weeks).
2. Hunga Ha’apai’s activity could become sporadic, with extended ‘off’ and ‘on’ periods, lasting for several months (up to a year or so).
3. One or more of volcanoes in the region’s volcanic cluster could erupt.

Related Links:

An earthquake forecast for California will be published here by Tuesday March 24, 2009.

Posted in Metis Shoal, NUKUALOFA, Rumble III, seismic activity, volcanism | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »