Rainfall this year has been scarce and inconsistent and the possibility of drought is once again, hovering on our continent. The consecutive, short rainy seasons (Belg and Meher) had forbidden their generosity to the thirsty land contrary to metrological forecasts. Dependence on relief food assistance is on the increase in the worst affected areas of Eastern and Southern Oromia, Afar, Ogaden and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR).
What were previously known as surplus producing areas in Oromia, such as Arsi zone, are now in need of food assistance. The number of Weredas that need emergency nutrition intervention has doubled from 49 in February to 97 in May of 2015. According to the UN, 4.5 million Ethiopians are in need of food aid and 230 million USD is urgently needed to address the crisis.
For a country like Ethiopia whose economy remains heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, the Meher rains are very essential. “A failed Belg followed by a poor Kiremt season means that challenges could continue into the next year,” said John Aylieff, Country Director of the World Food Program (WFP) Ethiopia.
However, we cannot just curse our misfortune, and blame bad weather for this situation. Rain shortages are not the only recipe for what could be a catastrophic food crisis. Shortages of water and grazing land for livestock were reported earlier, resulting in deteriorated livestock production and productivity, deepening food insecurity and rising malnutrition. Metrological institutions must be strengthened in order to give timely and accurate weather forecasts. While government institutions must be prepared to communicate and coordinate with concerned institutions to withstand the lashes of such events.
Our population’s need for food assistance had doubled since the rain shortages hit, which is unsurprising given the size of population dependent on subsistence agriculture. The ability for the agriculture sector to provide for the consumption needs of Ethiopia’s exploding population, has become impossible. The need to integrate modern technology in the practice of agriculture has become more compelling than ever. Technology may hold the key to liberating farmers from unpredictable natural phenomena.
Ethiopia’s five year, Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) aims to foster sustainable, broad based development. Despite changes and progress, there remain several issues that threaten the country’s future. The government’s efforts to alleviate impending catastrophe is commendable, but not enough. Plans have to made well before events and preparation must be concluded before danger unfolds, to resist calamities. For prevention is better than cure, responsible actors must have started the preparations earlier.
“The Belg rains were far shorter than the national metrological agency had predicted at the beginning of the year,” recalled David Del Conte, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Acting Head. Metrological forecasts should be available and reliable to save many from being caught in the vortex of natural disasters.
Ethiopia’s history of drought and famine should not be repeated. We cannot afford to face another humiliation before we are able to exorcize the stereotypes we are identified with to this day. We, as citizens, as government, as concerned organization must strive to prevent awful incidents of hunger and suffering from happening, again. To prevent it from blackening our future, again.