Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ethiopia’s harsh climate

Patrick Nicholson in ReliefWeb: "There used to be droughts every ten years," said Suliman Aden, a herder in Ethiopia's Eastern Shinile zone. "Now they're every year or every two years." He lost 11 of his 15 cattle in a drought earlier this year. He works with a vetinirary clinic supported by the Haraghe Catholic Secretariat, a diocescan member of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat (the national Caritas in Ethiopia). The clinic tries to spot diseased animals and treat them.

"We don't have any solutions for drought though," he said. "Cattle need water and grass, and if there are neither, they will die." Learning to cope with the region's harsh climate is a way of life for the nomadic Somali communities who live here. Only 500 to 700 mm of rain fall annually and extreme heat topping 40 C can kill man and beast. They have developed strategies to survive the hostile climate. But those strategies are failing to deal with the increasing frequency of drought.

"The resilence of the community is very poor," said Yusuf Ahmed, a local teacher in Harrawa, a small town of 100 percent food aid, mud huts and poverty that clings to the side of the Dire Dawa-Dijibouti rail line. "People have been worn down by drought. They cannot cope any longer."

Drought is nothing new to Ethiopia. But according to the UNDP Climate Change Profile of Ethiopia, the mean average temperature has increased 1.3 C between 1960 and 2006.

Recent analysis of rainfall and food security indicators suggest that Southern and Eastern Ethiopia have been experiencing recent reductions in rainfall since 1996. This means there will be increasing requirements for food aid above the 7.5 million already who depend on the Government's Safety-Net programme (plus an additional 4.9 million who required food assistance last year)….

A view of the Semien Mountains in Ethiopia, shot by Martino's doodles, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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