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University of Helsinki (2022)

The easy explanation - exploring the link between drought and food security in the East and Horn of Africa

Sandström, Sofie

Titre : The easy explanation - exploring the link between drought and food security in the East and Horn of Africa

Auteur : Sandström, Sofie

Université de soutenance : University of Helsinki,

Grade : Doctoral dissertation (article-based) / Doctoral Programme in Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences 2022

In this thesis, I explore the food security analytical basis of humanitarian responses and preparedness systems in the East and Horn of Africa, focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. The overall research question my work is centred on is whether the humanitarian response and preparedness system is based on a food availability approach or whether it has evolved to reflect a more complex food capability approach. To develop an understanding of the conceptualization of food security in the humanitarian sector in the region I focused on the main documents produced by the humanitarian assessment and appeal process, analyzing what causes were most prominently cited as driving food insecurity. The main finding of this research was that drought was by far the most common cause identified, and that there had been remarkably little change in this focus over the thirty-year period I reviewed. The next part of the research was largely driven by this finding. I conducted a document analysis of the main products of the drought early warning system in Kenya to identify the drivers of food security used as indicators in the system and found that the system is heavily reliant on indicators related to food production, specifically climate-related indicators. My in-depth analysis of the use of rainfall in the products of the drought Early Warning System in Kenya, focusing on the county of Turkana, which is one of the most food insecure counties in Kenya, revealed an inconsistency in the methodology followed to establish a “drought year”. For the final part, I used statistical methods on secondary data to explore the barriers to uptake of climate information in food production decisions at the household level, including the gender differences in uptake and use of climate information, focusing on the districts of Longido and Kiteto in Tanzania. The research revealed very low levels of use of climate information for decisions related to food production, with some correlation between use of such information and access to productive assets. In addition, the findings indicated that the design of climate services were based on assumptions of pastoralist livelihoods not based on assessment data, and that reinforce gender inequality in focusing mainly on provision of climate information for the productive sectors that men have most influence over.


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