Subsistence farmers across Africa could face severe drought | WBEZ
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Subsistence farmers across Africa could face severe drought

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Workers excavate earth at a residential area in southern Nairobi on October 6, 2015, to create larger drainage channels. Heavy floods and drought expected around East Africa, sparked by the El Nino weather phenomenon in coming weeks, could put thousands of lives at risk, the United Nations warned. (Tony Karumba/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Oxfam is warning that this year's strong El Nino could bring drought to parts of Africa that are already struggling with food shortages. The international humanitarian group says some 10 million people worldwide could face food shortages if El Nino brings fierce rains to some areas and drought to others.

These false-color images provided by NASA satellites compare warm Pacific Ocean water temperatures from the strong El Nino that brought North America large amounts of rainfall in 1997, left, and the current El Nino as of Aug. 5, 2015, right. Warmer ocean water that normally stays in the western Pacific, shown as lighter orange, red and white areas, moves east along the equator toward the Americas. Forecasters say this El Nino is already the second strongest on record for this time of year and could be one of the most potent weather changers in 65 years. (NASA via AP)

This could cause problems for subsistence farmers in Africa.

"They essentially rely on steady rainfall and predictable rainfall patterns to determine when they plant their crops when they harvest," said Heather Coleman, the climate change manager for Oxfam America.

And those food margins are very slim. Small farmers in Africa and elsewhere are dependent on regular precipitation patterns, and they frequently eat only what they grow.

"If they don't grow enough to feed their families, then they plunge into this hunger season which is this profound period of deprivation," said Roger Thurow, a senior fellow on Global Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "Their number of meals shrink from three a day to two to one to none on some days."

via Marketplace

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