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Changing rainfall boosts number of Ethiopians in need of food aid
By Pawlos Belete
ADDIS ABABA (AlertNet) – Millions of Ethiopians face severe food shortages as a result of the failure of crucial seasonal rains, a problem increasingly linked to climate change.
The Ethiopian government announced last month that 3.7 million of its citizens will require humanitarian assistance between August and December of this year, up from 3.2 million in January. The 16 percent increase follows the failure of the Belg rains, which normally fall between February and May and are essential to the country’s secondary harvest.
The lack of rainfall is being blamed on climate change, with experts saying it is leading to erratic rain patterns and disruption to normal seasonal changes.
Mohamed Ahmed, a farmer in his early 40s, is one of the millions dealing with the consequences of the rainfall changes. He feeds his family of seven by farming a one-hectare (2.5 acre) plot inherited from his father in the village of Doba in the east of the country, 325 km (203 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.
But Ahmed’s land has declined in productivity over the past two decades, even as the size of his family has grown.
“Last season (Belg) I (could) barely sow,” the farmer said grimly. “The rain came almost a month later than the usual time. It is sometimes heavy and sometimes light. The yield is not impressive at all.”
Agriculture is the backbone of the Ethiopian economy, employing 62 million people (about three-quarters of the population), ensuring more than 85 percent of the country’s export earnings and contributing 43 percent of GDP, official figures show.
Most parts of Ethiopia have two rainy seasons and one dry period. Long heavy rains from mid-June to mid-September, known as kiremt, enable the main crop growing season, Mehir, which leads to a harvest from October to January.
The shorter and more moderate Belg rains are important for short-cycle crops such as wheat, barley, teff, and pulses, which are harvested in June or July, and for long-cycle cereals such as corn, sorghum and millet.
FARMING MORE LAND
Faced with deepening food insecurity and poverty as a consequence of changing weather conditions, the government has responded by trying to boost agricultural production.
Ethiopia harvested more than 218 million quintals of crops in the most recent Mehir season, surpassing the previous season’s production by 13 million quintals and beating government targets by 3 million quintals, according to the government’s Central Statistical Authority. Produce from smallholder farms grew by 7.4 percent compared to the same season last year.
The increases are due to additional land being put under cultivation, following large-scale resettlement programmes by the government, aimed at relocating farmers to more productive land. The government has not yet produced an official tally of number of people resettled, but unofficial figures give the total as more than 1.5 million over the past five years.
More than 12.8 million hectares (31.6 million acres) of land are now under cultivation in Ethiopia, almost one million hectares (2.5 million acres) or 8 percent more than in the last Mehir season.
Despite the increased yields, production is still less than 90 percent of the amount required to provide sufficient nutrition to all the population, according to a report issued last year by the Ethiopian Economic Association, a nongovernmental organisation.
Throughout the country, prices for staple foods remain relatively high, and with inflation hovering around 20 percent in July, they are not expected to decrease before the next harvest enters the market, experts say.
The failure of the Belg crop is raising fears of a humanitarian crisis among organisations working to provide drought relief in the country.
In July, the World Food Programme (WHP) forecast a significant drop in long-cycle Mehir crops such as maize and sorghum in many lowland and mid-altitude areas of Ethiopia during the next harvest season, following below-average Belg rainfall. The majority of crops produced in Ethiopia are categorized as long-cycle crops, needing at least six months to grow.
In a speech last month, Abdou Dieng, the WFP’s humanitarian food coordinator in Ethiopia, said that the lateness and weakness of the Belg rains had taken a toll on agricultural production in areas of the central highlands, particularly in the regional states of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region, central Oromiya, and eastern Amhara.
Pastoralist areas also have been hard hit and “vulnerability remains high due to the lingering impact of last year’s drought emergency,” Dieng said.
Somali and Oromiya are the regional states most affected by food shortages, together accounting for two-thirds of those seeking relief assistance.
While the Belg harvest accounts for no more than 10 percent of the country’s total annual grain production, it may provide up to 50 percent of the yearly food supply in some highland areas, such as Wollo and Shewa regions, experts say.
The Belg rains are also the main annual rains for the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of southern and south-eastern Ethiopia, where they supply critical pasture and water for livestock. Even in regions where the rains do not irrigate an extra harvest, they are still crucial for seed-bed preparation for Mehir crops.
The failure of the Belg crop ironically comes at a time of strong economic growth for Ethiopia. Speaking at a national workshop for disaster reduction last year, the state minister of agriculture, Sileshi Getahun, cautioned that the country’s growth rate of 11 percent for the past seven years was vulnerable to changes in the climate.
“While we are proud of this achievement and realize the benefits, we are also aware of how much natural disasters can hinder growth,” Getahun said. “These disasters are becoming more regular and pronounced in terms of frequency, intensity, and coverage due to climate change.”
Pawlos Belete is a journalist based in Addis Ababa.
How can a country with a double-digit annual growth rate has 3.7 millions of its own citizens in danger of starvation at the same time? Am I missing something here?
This is a question that needs to be addressed by the TPLF junta.
Welcome to beggerisem . Now, that rat is rotten to ground and what he left behind is a bunch of beggars chiggarams whose profession is begging the world for food. How on earth do they beg for food? How on earth these chiggarams keep on begging despite their claim on 11%GDP and development. Ist n’t our obligation to manage hunger? Do not they even ashamed to one their chiggaram mouth and beg the White for food, These Kimmalams, are destroying Ethiopians images and those parasites charities are now stepping their devil strategy to turn Ethiopia once again to their begging list .
“Bezu tebazu medrinim muluwate…….”
What is the ruling class doing to control population ? In the story above the farmer who is in his early 40 has a family of 7… The government has so many layers of ministers in unwanted agencies. For population control, it is a division under ministry of health. During the time of the EPRDF the population growth is alarming.
Reports show that : 3-5 million people …Acute food shortage
8-11million people…Chronic food scarcity
20% of the pop….. it can’t feed itself
40% under poverty level
Food security can only be achieved if they start to control the population growth now.
If at all, there was economic development growth, which the ruling class claims, 11% -14%, is generally attributed by official development assistance from donor countries. It was rather artificial, not self resilient.
Shameless to make an excuse of rainfall when a country is flooded with water all year round. The country with land that foreigners (indians) call it GREEN GOLD! The country that sell fertile lands to highest bidder, go hungry? For how long?
The truth is Ethiopia’s land if used properly and if the human power got a chance to work for development, the country can feed not only itself, but all the neighbours.
Neighbours like South Sudan and Somalia are drier than Ethiopia but never heared them beg for decades like Ethiopia does. What a useless country!
Not only 11% of GDP .By the way did
not the State Departement and USAID
take as an exampleraty the results scored by the CM government on eradicating Famine .These guys are laughing on the poor Ethiopian Farmers .A naked fact that it’s not with their fake statistics that
they could feed peoples .In a country where 99% of the peoples are starving we could not talk of an economic grow but “MISERY” !!!!
By the way ,their supporters shall
argue that even in USA and EU countries there are also beggars and in China that all the peoples are not enjoying from the economic boom .Ignoring that peoples in these countries can enjoy social services ,which have never existed in Ethiopia . It’s not just because a minority Ethno Mafia group members with their relatives are enjoying a comfortable life that
there’s an economic grow in the country .Beyond the rain problem famine in Ethiopia is also the result from the evil socio economical politics followed by the
Agazi regime .Land leasing is also the other case even the main reason, that the way deplaced peoples in the rural areas are exposed to Famine !!!!
A news like this drives away staunch ethinc supporters back to under the rock! The TPLF dog’s don’t like it when the necked truth is out in open! They are allergic of the truth!
Why do we have the problem of famina and threatening starvation? The West wants us to be depedent on their aid. But we should be able to self-sufficient for food.
The problem as I see it is that the government is not making it it’s priority number. We hear they have build 30 universities, but I belive may 15 good sized universities could have been enough. They say they are exporting energy to Sudan and Kenya and Djoubiti. But the money spend on such infrastructures could have been used to farming.
They say they have the most expensive plane, but our people are still begging for food and are insecure.
We hear 50 000 young girls are being exported to Saudi Arabia to work as maids (practically) slaves. But our people need these girls. They could have worked in the fields or gone to school to teach or had become nurses and better worked in Europe, Canda or in Arab countries.
The problem is TPLF-EPRDF. They do not have a pro-Ethiopia policy. They only work or paln to stay in power. TPLF-EPRDF do not have self-esteem and do not understand the value of each one of us
If we had a good government, each one of us living in foreign countries would have contributed 2% of our annual income to our hme country, which is legal. The problem, TPLF-EPRDF, do not work with diaspora ethiopians. TPLF-EPRDF rather divides the diaspora on ethnic lines. The want to control the diaspora with people from their ethnic groups.
We should end the rule of TPLF-EPRDF and star a new chapter in our history by bringing the ethiopian people as the centre of our policies.
Ethiopia needs to have larger population. Population control is not a solution. We should encourage our citizens to marry and have children. We should keep the family as our core value. Getting children without parents is a problem for children and society. Remeber each child is unique and should get all attention necessary to grow. We could loose geniuses, heros and heroines if we apply population control.
The land should be owned by ethiopians. No foreigners should participate in farming. The land we have in Ethiopia our asset that could help us shape the future of the world. Please do not give farm lands to foreigners. Give the lands to our farmers, who would kee and farm the land properly. Foreign investment shpould more on industry.
Stop sarving Ethiopians !
Farm as much land as if you are going to feed 3 times the need of the country.
It is sad to see shameless usual one-sided comments in this issue from many commentators. The country farming community over-dependence in the rain-fed agriculture cannot be changed by simple talk of politics rather it needs the change the mind set up our farming community inherited from centuries. This does not mean to move totally from rain-fed to other sources of water. It does not right approach to rely surface or groundwater fully since the wise water resources utilization needs effective use of all water resources in the way supporting sustainable development. If commentators are the Ethiopian Citizens or friends of the Ethiopian people, everyone has responsibility to play as citizens if the existing trends of water resources use and farming practices to change. The slogan or talk to sleep to die whereas there is no food to eat our people or grass for their cattle is extreme ignorance and inhuman behaviors. Ethiopian does not have a culture of dependence on the begging unless thing goes worsen to cost their life. If commentators living in the west, there are millions of people depends government welfare for life time including the so called many ‘Diaspora’ Ethiopian. This is modernized dependence on the government for food, shelter and all their needs. The number in Ethiopia depends on food assistance due to climate change may not by any measure beyond the figure when they are compared modern west welfare dependant society in one single European country. If you want see the figure Google and compare it for your understanding. What interesting are Ethiopian poor farmers never rely on food assistance- ‘bagging’ as it was named by many writers in this website. The dependence is only seasonal problems. The opposite is true many modern welfare dependant society. They collect few dollars or pound or any form western money weekly basis for their life time. They do not want to go work even there are ample opportunity to work. They live in the accommodation that is given by the government. There are no wrong poor farmers to depend on government or any aid when there is rain problem affects their agriculture. I am not saying government did effective effort to change the way of society dependence on erratic rain water. I am not also saying access to land is well addressed issue in this day in Ethiopia. Let everyone work to change our farmers’ full-dependence on unreliable rain water. We cannot blame someone to bring change in this practices.
One of the main reason for all these problems are: Ethiopia has lots of talkers but not enough doers, also,it may be your parents made no contribution to lift this nation to be self sufficient in many areas. You and me are the beggars in foreign countries,out of touch assume not responsible but the always blaming others. Y’all sound the same, day after day bla bla bla…think..
I fully respect your imformative report about the current short fall of rain in the region which causes lots of economic creises throughout the country. But at the end you concluded with no solution.
Pin pointing problems, is in a way essential, however, one has to come up with a solution. What should be done? How could we fight this on going problem? We do not want a free hand out from the Government. The Government does not have power and resources to fix every problem. We,you have to be part of solutions,problem solvers, quick fixers. Pour out our resources to help those poor farmers by forming farmers unions, in their regions.
Talk is cheap. Blaming for the right cause is acceptable, however,most of you guys seem waiting for miracles to come. But even miracles do require strong submission,faith in our Almighty God.
How can we help? Are you willing to be productive to our society?
Only “Wogenaw"and"Kebede” ’s comments makes sense.
The delima with dectator! If you let the press free then when you do bad the press exposs you. Then either you correct the mistake as soon as possible or you loose the your leading roll. Meless couldnt correct his mistake because tplf’s goal is ‘first’ tigray. To impower tigrians economically, politicaly and miltarly all over Ethiopia.
If you silent the free press, then nobody can talk about the missmanagment, the transparency problem etc. The tplf press is bussy telling the world how Ethiopia progress since 1991. Anybody who listend the propagnda of the government mass media in the 1990s, he or she couldnt blieve what is happning now.
But ther is one fact remains clear. The majority of tigray people as a nation or as indidual have done well both individual wealth or infrastructure, health care, agriculture, edu etc in tigray. Meless died for this. And all tigre know this.
What is new?
It is a culture thing. It is in there’s Genom. It is in bone marrow. It is in the blood. It is inside there’s deep brain stem. No matter how!! u can’t change TEGRES from begging. “THEY LOVE FREE SHIT".
The master beggar is now gone. Woyanes are scrambling to replace him with another beggar. They are saying that it will not be easy to find a professional beggar like the late Meles. By the way ETV was telling us two weeks ago (during the mourning period) that Ethiopia, thanks to the GREAT LEADER, has become food self-sufficient.
For all the drum beating about the “great leader” , the supporters can’t even come up with one excuse as to why the nation has not always been able to feed its citizens.
The impressive growth rate and the amazing dream about the change that was said to have been occured under the late TPLF prime minister have yet to be translated in to improving the lives of the entire populace, not only the selected few from the North.
Showing growth numbers is one thing but registering actual concrete improvement on the hunger and famine stricken nation and its people is another.
The Stockholm syndrome that has gripped the guillibles should not be construed as a sign of real support for a minority junta that vies to stay in power for eternity at any cost to the country.
When real democracy trimphs in a nation as polarized and divided by ethenicity and religion as ours, the real lossers will be none other than the ones that are now adovocating for such an intrinsically flawed and one sidedly skewed system. TPLF watch out !!
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