Ethiopia: Spring Brings Hope from Summer Rain

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Dagim Terefe
October 31, 2016

Many Ethiopians rely on rainfall to grow crops, feed their animals, and maintain their livelihoods.
Many Ethiopians rely on rainfall to grow crops, feed their animals, and maintain their livelihoods.

For the last several decades, Ethiopia has been hit by persistent drought that damaged agricultural production and resulted in malnutrition, especially among the most vulnerable members of the population, who live in north eastern and eastern parts of the country.

Last year also, the country was hit by one of the worst droughts in over 50 years. Due to the El Nino and the resulting drought, some 14 million people were at risk and more than 10 million were in need of emergency food aid. However, in an effort to save the lives of Ethiopians, mostly the government, and humanitarian agencies have spent more than one billion USD and are still striving to curb the effects of the El Nino.

According to recent USAID assessment report, in the agro-pastoral and pastoral areas of Afar, a regional state which is highly affected, the drought has caused the death of approximately 105,000 cattle, more than 440,000 goats and sheep, 15,000 camels, and an estimated 4,500 donkeys. The assessment report also revealed that food security and reduction in access to safe drinking water across the region increased reliance on relief food assistance.

As part of the response to tackle the risk of communicable diseases in drought affected areas due to delayed and incomplete food assistance distributions, as well as limited access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services, the government and its humanitarian partners have pushed to vaccine 25 million children to prevent the occurrence of disease against measles in more than 500 drought affected Woredas (districts), reports have shown.

While the delegation team led by state minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Wondirad Mandefro visited farming sites during harvesting at Siltie and Guraghe zones in South Nation’s Nationalities and People’s Region on 27 August 2016, Wondirad discussed with farmers how they were conducting their farming and whether they were using fertilizers and modern agricultural technologies such as urea, dap, special seeds, pest sides or not. The state minister stated that the awareness of farmers needs to be raised in order to achieve their farming process successfully. He, also, underlined that farmers should use alternative water sources by making local river water diversions.

Responding to question about the farming condition, Wondrad also noted the some 11.3-million-hectare of farmland has been already covered by seeds excluding chickpea and vetch from the total plan of 13-million-hectare farmland. He added that since there has been adequate rainfall, it is expected to harvest high crop production at the end of this year, which may compensate last year’s low level of production as a consequence of the Eli Nino. Currently, there is hope due to normal climate pattern during harvesting in summer and post harvesting (October-January 2016/17). The farmers are preparing themselves to collect good agricultural productions.

Ethiopia experiences highly variable climate patterns and is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Ethiopia experiences highly variable climate patterns and is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

According to National Metrological Agency of Ethiopia report, the onset of the ‘Kiremt’ (summer) rain was normal over most ‘Kiremt’ rain benefiting areas of the nation. No pro-longed dry spell observed over northern half, central and eastern parts of the nation. The rain has continued in September over Kiremt rain benefiting areas. Moreover, in ‘Bega’( October-January 2016/17) northeast, central and eastern Ethiopia are highly likely to receive normal with the possibility of below normal rainfall at some places of the country will create favorable condition for general agricultural activities and availability of pasture and water, according to National Metrological Agency of Ethiopia report.

The Ethiopian Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy which was launched at Durban during climate change conference (COP17) clearly set that the country experiences highly variable climate patterns and is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The recent drought is a good scenario in this regard. To counter these effects, Ethiopia aims to build a strong and diversified economy which is ‘climate resilient’.

As a country, largely reliant on rain-fed agriculture and in the process of diversifying its economy, climate dependency should not stand in a way of Ethiopia to achieving middle income status by 2025. However, on the other hand, conducive biological, social and economic conditions are being observed in Ethiopia to achieve climate resilient green growth, according to researchers.

As Ethiopia is rain dependent, and has largely backward farming practices, agriculture is seriously challenged by successive rain shortages. Hence, according to environmentalists, engaging in integrated water shade management at large scale and sustainably utilizing both underground and surface water for farming, sanitation and hygiene services are highly recommended to alleviate the ongoing problems.

The Government of Ethiopia is continuing to work with the aim to mitigating the vulnerability of climate change by giving emphasis in developing and expanding renewable energy sources and technologies. The government is becoming aware of safe drinking water and healthy sanitation to agriculture, water is essential for life.

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