The first ever gathering to discuss issues of drought on the African continent has opened in the namibian capital, Windhoek, with a call to put in place early actions to mitigate impacts.

The United Nations Resident Co-ordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Namibia, Kiki Gbeho, raised concern that countries do not invest enough in preparedness at the opening of the meeting Monday.

"Response aid is insufficient; a longer term approach is required in order to build the resilience of the most vulnerable," stressed Gbeho, who added that methods of addressing climate change would need to be integrated into national planning and policies in order to achieve this.

Furthermore, education and capacity on climate change would need to be improved and early warning systems would need to be strengthened, according to Gbeho.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative Babagana Ahmadu warned that the impact of the 2015/2016 El NiAo weather phenomenon had been one of the most intense and widespread in the past 100 years, with reduced rainfall and drought heavily affecting agriculture and food security in many African countries.

"In sum, the impacts of drought on agriculture cascade down to all economic sectors that rely on the outputs of agriculture for their input, such as agro-industry, exports, commerce, transportation, tax return, and national economies at large. For these reasons, agriculture should be the number-one priority sector to be considered for action in any drought management strategy. In fact, a drought management plan that does not fully integrate agriculture is doomed to fail," he warned.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Social Affairs and Rural Economy and Agriculture, Tumusiime Peace, highlighted that the face of Africa had for many decades been dictated by drought.

"Drought has become the fundamental stress to Africa's development. Africa must put in place drought mitigation strategies and polices with clear strategies for implementation," she noted.

The Programme Officer of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Daniel Tsegai, expressed the same sentiments, noting that Africa's rise out of poverty had been hampered by frequent droughts and floods.

"Nonetheless, solutions are at hand. The message today is simple: we have to prepare better to manage droughts."

The five-day conference will focus on identifying the specific needs of African countries in the area of effective drought mitigation, with the view of developing a strategic framework for enhancing resilience to drought events on the continent.