By George Okore:
The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) East and Southern Africa in partnership with COMESA has unveiled an initiative to bring accelerated development to pastoralist communities living in the dry lands of six regional countries.
The project will be carried in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Sudan while talks with Eritrea are ongoing. Under the Drylands Initiative, historically neglected pastoralists will benefit from animal production, infrastructure, health, education, and business.
The launch took place at the end of a two-day meeting on the initiative, with the participation of African and international government and UN officials, experts, scientists, and civil society representatives. The meeting was attended by Ugandan First Lady of and Minister for Karamoja, Mrs. Janet Museveni.
The Drylands Initiative was first unveiled in January 2010, at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between The MDG Centre and COMESA. Since then, different sites have been identified in participating countries and the project is about to move to the implementation phase. In northern Kenya, such field work has been ongoing in Dertu Millennium Village since 2006. Based on the promising progress recorded there, the project is being scaled up to the district and other sites have been selected too.
‘Poverty levels are extraordinarily high in the drylands of East Africa, and the people who endure that poverty lack access to the most basic services: education, primary health care, safe water and sanitation, veterinary care for their livestock, and security from the ravages of drought and other environmental shocks. Climate change threatens to make the situation even more dire, unless active efforts are made to promote development and community resiliency,’ said, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals.
COMESA Secretary General, Mr. Sindiso Ngwenya, said: ‘We are happy to partner with The MDG Centre in this endeavor. Accordingly, our specialized agency, the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (ACTESA), will work very closely with the Centre to ensure that there are improvements in the livelihoods of communities living in the drylands.’
With the right approaches, such as mobile technology and access to markets, we hope that pastoralist communities will be able to integrate into the mainstream economy and record progress on the Millennium Development Goals,’ said the director of The MDG Centre, Dr. Belay Begashaw