China and Africa Step Up Cooperation on Drought Risk Reduction

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

BEIJING, 26 September - Over 40 officials from China, Africa and the United Nations are taking part in a three-day “Sino-African High-Level Seminar on Drought Risk Reduction” which is calling for drought risk reduction to be on the agenda of the next year’s Sino-African Summit for Development Cooperation.

Opening the Beijing High-Level Seminar yesterday, China’s Minister of Civil Affairs, Li Liguo, said that in addition to China’s US$82 million of assistance to drought victims in the Horn of Africa, it is also willing to provide support to capacity building of African countries in drought risk reduction; develop joint scientific research; share data information as well as technology for drought monitoring; and provide technical support in drought management.

In the opening session, government ministers from China, Uganda and the South Darfur State of Sudan underlined that drought resilience was a very serious issue that deserved immediate attention and needed to be made a priority area.

Dr. Stephen Mallinga, the Ugandan Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, highlighted the human and economic impact of drought in both Uganda and Africa as a whole.

Abdirahim H. Abdi, the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, said parliamentarians could advocate for disaster risk reduction in general and drought risk reduction in particular to political communities.

Dr. Ibrahim El-Dukheri, Minister of Agriculture and Forests of South Darfur State in Sudan, stressed the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to address the complexity of drought risk reduction.

Head of Advocacy for the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction Office (UNISDR), Feng Min Kan, said the seminar was particularly timely given what was taking place in the Horn of Africa. “Drought relief is necessary and important but it is never sufficient to meet the needs - investing in drought risk reduction is the long-term solution for reducing the suffering of people and protecting their livelihoods,” she told the seminar.

Delegates at the seminar also included heads of national meteorological bodies, disaster managers, national DRR (disaster risk reduction) coordinators and academics and scientists, from China and 11 African countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Participants shared knowledge and scientific approaches and practical methods in drought monitoring, early warning and management of agricultural drought in four areas: national policy and existing mechanisms for drought management and risk reduction; national and regional early warning systems; and good practices in reducing the socio-economic impact of drought.

Other topics included good practices and lessons learnt in reducing the socio-economic impact of drought through early warning as well as water resource management and agriculture. Much attention was given to China’s drought-resilient agriculture techniques, especially ‘film mulching’ which reduces water evaporation in cultivated areas. The seminar agreed that quantifying and costing drought losses will help convince development planners and practitioners of the relevance of risk reduction, and ensure that early warning translates into “early action”.

The seminar, organised jointly by China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs and UNISDR, was in response to the Sharm-el-Sheikh Action Plan (2010-2012) set out in November 2009 in Egypt at the Fourth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

FOCAC held its first ministerial Conference in October 2000 and defined the direction to strengthen the friendly cooperation between China and Africa under new and changing global circumstances; to jointly meet the challenge of economic globalization and; to promote common development. Three other high level conferences have since been held in 2003, 2006 and 2009. FOCAC is comprised of China and 49 African States.

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