Ethiopia: Pastoralists look to adapt to drought (IRIN)

| June 20, 2016

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A camel sits on the parched ground, loaded with sacks of grain and pulses, yellow jerry cans, bottles of cooking oil, and bits of fabric. After a final check of the ropes, a woman makes a loud purring sound and gestures upwards. The camel stands up jerkily. Leading it by a rope, the family rejoins the group of pastoralists trekking through the Awdal Region, near Somaliland’s northwestern border with Ethiopia.

The herders traveled from the Somali Region of Ethiopia after hearing rumours of rains and good pasture on the coast of Somaliland. But after reaching Awdal Region, they realized there wasn’t enough rain or pasture for all of them. Now, many are trying to return to Ethiopia.

Only one of Abdulahi Amir’s three camels survived, and it is sickly. Mr. Amir says, “We’re stuck here. My sick camel can’t carry anything.” The 70-year-old and four members of his family are trying to return to Sitti, in the Somali Region.

A change of lifestyle may be unavoidable for pastoralists. Climate change and the increasingly frequent droughts are threatening their livelihoods.

The current drought in Ethiopia is the worst in 50 years. Crop production in the northern Tigray and Afar regions has dropped by 50 to 90 per cent in some areas, and failed completely in others.

Osman Kaire lives in the village of Gad, in the Sitti Zone of Ethiopia’s Somali Region. The 50-year-old pastoralist waits with a group of men for a delivery of animal feed from the government. He says: “If we get a restocking program from the government, we might have a chance…. The other option is for a government resettlement program in more reliable areas where we can be agro-pastoralists. We are ready to consider.”

John Graham is the Ethiopia country director for Save the Children, a US NGO. He says that lifestyles and businesses will need to change to help pastoralists cope with future droughts.

He explains: “In areas affected by climate change, with decreasing rains, you just can’t have the same numbers of people surviving in those conditions—it’s beyond the control of the people or the government.”

The arrival of the April rains should have been good news, but the rains were unusually heavy. They caused flash floods and blocked roads. Many livestock died.

Somaliland has been similarly affected. When the Ethiopian pastoralists left Awdal with the first spring rains, they left behind piles of dead goats that had succumbed to the wet and the cold. The dead animals joined the thousands of goats, sheep, cows, and camels who died during the drought, and been buried in mass graves.

To read the full article on which this story is based, Ethiopia survives its great drought, but its way of life may not, go to: