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Updated Jan 26, 2020

Aid agencies throughout southern Africa are forcing themselves to adapt to rapidly changing conditions caused by climate change in an effort to prepare the drought-prone region for increased food demands. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported on January 16 that forty-five million people in Zimbabwe struggle to sufficiently feed themselves due to flooding, repeated droughts, lost harvests, and an ongoing economic crisis.

Humanitarian organizations are incorporating new technologies such as drones for mapping purposes and using limited resources more efficiently. Atmospheric scientists at the WFP use meteorological data to compile weather patterns up to six months in advance, which is then used by governments, donors, and farmers to take proactive steps in mitigating climate change’s impact on agriculture instead of expending more resources to play catch-up. Zambia is working with the United Nations Development Programme on a seven-year project to safeguard farmers’ incomes. The program uses community radio broadcasts in local languages to alert farmers to erratic weather patterns and provide tips on “climate-smart” agriculture.

Drones are a cheaper and more efficient manner of gathering vital data, such as mapping vulnerable parts of Madagascar and Mozambique ahead of the cyclone season. In the event of weather-related disasters, the data collected by drones will let rescuers know where people are and the most effective ways to get to them. Drones are also being used to deliver medicines to remote communities, and supplies to areas hit by earthquakes and flooding.

During the lean season—the period between planting and harvesting in southern Africa—aid agencies prepare themselves for a difficult few months. New technological innovations and initiatives are being tested to best promote climate resiliency over the coming years, while also safeguarding the dignity of African people by ensuring farmers have effective links to markets to sell their crops and by promoting social welfare programs that dispense cash transfers for women-headed households to ease economic and social burdens.

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