Spotlight on … Radio and the drought in Ethiopia

| May 23, 2016

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Melese Nigussie is a farmer in Abergele woreda in the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia. His last harvest was poor. First, there was no rain. Then pests came. The result is that he hasn’t been able to reap what he sowed on his one hectare of land.

Mr. Nigussie explains, “The rain was not adequate. It dropped only for [a] few days. Plus, dangerous pests occurred. We didn’t even get a fistful of grain.”

Lete-Mussie Zewolde faced the same challenges. She is a farmer in Kola Tembien woreda, north of Abergele. She says, “In the summer, it rained only for five or six days … I got only a quarter of a quintal [25 kilograms of harvest].”

Lete-Mussie Zewolde_Kolla_Tembien_Woreda

Photo: Lete-Mussie Zewolde Credit: Elias Wolde

Hintsa Meresa is a researcher with the Abiy Addi Agricultural Research Center. The centre’s seed multiplication site also suffered because of the drought. Mr. Meresa says: “Our seed multiplication site holds 10 hectares of land. We were able to harvest only four quintals [400 kilograms] of grain seed. Imagine! We practice a full package of inputs with serious follow-up by experts. This shows the extent of the drought.”

Tigray Region is feeling the effects of a severe El Niño. The government and humanitarian partners say that crop yields in Tigray are 56% lower than normal. It is estimated that more than 1.2 million people, or one-quarter of the region’s population, need food assistance. More than half of these also face acute water shortages. Officials say that 2.2 million livestock are suffering from a lack of food.

In response to the drought, Farm Radio International and its long-time broadcasting partner, Dimtsi Weyane Tigray, have been broadcasting a participatory radio program. The program aims to help farmers cope with and mitigate the impact of the drought, and adapt to the changing climate. It also promotes survival strategies recommended in the Ethiopian government’s “National Roadmap for El Niño-Related Disaster Emergency Response and Recovery.”

Gebrehiwot Tesfay is a journalist with Dimtsi Weyane Tigray. He explains: “The program began with the needs arising from farmers. After airing the program, the feedback from farmers is leading us to believe that we are providing information that is helpful to the farmers.”

Several listeners say they have used practices promoted on the radio program. Assefa Wolde-Gebriel is a farmer in Kola Tembien woreda. He says, “I heard the radio broadcasters talking about preparation of animal feed from failed crops. That was important for me because animal feed was not available even in the market.”

Mr. Nigussie says the radio program recommended de-silting drinking ponds for animals. He says, “After listening to the radio program, I started digging a shallow well to capture rainwater that drops sometimes. This eases my worries in getting drinking water for animals.”

Worknesh Belay is another farmer from Abergele woreda who tuned in to Dimtsi Weyane Tigray. She says the program helped support her emotionally through the tough times. She explains, “What I hear from the radio always encourages me. It gives me hope and strength when I hear [that] the government and other people are making efforts to help us.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Nigussie is preparing for the next farming season and hoping for improved weather. He remains an avid listener to the radio, seeking further assistance for recovering from the drought and for making preparations in case the dry conditions occur again. He says, “The problem has occurred once. We need the support of radio and experts to recover from it.”