El Niño to Contribute to Food Shortages in Timor-Leste - UN World Food Program Featured

By The INDEPENDENTE November 08, 2023 452

DILI: The El Niño weather pattern that can trigger drought in Timor-Leste is increasingly likely to return until early 2024, hitting production of key foods such as rice, vegetables and fruits.

El Nino -the Spanish word for boy – is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years.

A strong El Nino can wither crops in Southeast Asia, India, Africa and Australia when other parts of the globe such as the U.S Midwest and Brazil are drenched in rains.

Last week, the Government of Timor-Leste in collaboration with the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued an “urgent Food Security Alert.”

The security alert mapped an increased risks of food shortages exacerbated against the backdrop of Timor-Leste’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture

“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” said Alba Cecilia Garzon Olivares, Country Director at WFP.

The spectre of El Nino has already driven signs of drought in twelve out fourteen municipalities, with Oecusse, Viqueque and Liquiça currently assessed as at the highest risk level.

The last El Niño drought impacted more than a third of all households, with three in ten people in the country suffering food shortages between 2015-2016, the statement said.

The government’s Civil Protection Authority and FAO have launched their drought response plan delivering early warning drought messages to farmers.

Training for farmers to mitigate drought conditions will take place in the coming months, the statement said.

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