Ethiopia had been associated with war and drought for many years. Because of this, its name was highly tarnished, often mentioned in the western media as an impoverished nation which could not live without foreign aid.
However, after the ruling party (EPRDF) came to power toppling the military junta in 1991, remarkable economic growth has been registered. Regional and international financial institutions and development partners have witnessed the fast economic growth being registered over the last two decades. Though questions are being raised on its across the board wealth distribution and inclusiveness,there is no denying the fact that millions of Ethiopians have been lifted out of abject poverty.
What is more important is, the double digit economic growth has enhanced the nation’s capability of resisting droughts and other man-made and natural disasters. Since the agriculture based Ethiopian economy is highly reliant on rainfall, it has been affected severely due to lack of rain. As a result, widespread hunger, huge economic losses and environmental damage used to surface. Consequently, human and animal lives were lost. Also millions were displaced from their homeland.
As clearly put above, Ethiopia has been facing frequent drought incidents. But the 2016 El Nino-induced drought was the worst in 50 years. According to National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC), more than 20 million Ethiopians had been affected by the severe drought that broke out in the aforementioned fiscal year. The situation had put to acid test Ethiopia’s capability of overcoming such tribulations using its own resources. Thus, the nation cushioned the impact through providing food, shelter, medicine and basic things for those affected and displaced due to the devastating drought. In this regard, NDRMC Commissioner, Mitiku Kassa told The Ethiopian Herald that despite some supports from WFP and FAO, Ethiopia has provided every necessary logistics for its people without requesting emergency aid.
‘‘Ethiopia’s self-reliance is growing at a fabulous pace. The country is able to feed its own people and this has showcased the country’s capability of tackling droughts and other disasters. We have got the difficult time behind our back and we are always to combat any danger with our own capability,’’ he said. Since Ethiopia is found in drought prone zone, 7.8 million people need aid this fiscal year. Out of this number, 6.8 are drought affected. Commissioner Kassa underlined that to alleviate drought once and for all, Ethiopia has designed a policy which could ensure sustainable development.
‘‘To combat drought in a sustainable manner, various activities have been accomplished. Ensuring potable water, implementing water and soil conservation tasks, expanding irrigation projects, and undertaking reforestation activities are among the mechanisms being applied to fight drought and climate change catastrophes.’’
He added that these activities have been implemented based on the 2002 Rural Development Policy and Strategy designed by the Ethiopian government.
Another very important issue would be utilizing surface and ground water properly. As the nation is rich in water resources, government and non-governmental organizations should work together for wise and mechanized exploitation of water. This would help for tackling droughts caused due to lack of rain. Taking this into consideration, Ethiopia has portrayed encouraging results. Many rivers were diverted to irrigate farmlands and several rural livelihoods have experienced a turnaround .
‘‘Small scale irrigation has brought tremendous changes in the livelihoods of low-income farmers in Tigray State. In addition to this, the state has been awarded globally for its water and soil conservation and environmental restoration activities,’’ he said, adding, ‘‘the same is true for Somali state. The resettlement activities being undertaken in Gode should be scaled up. It has to ripple to other places. The people in Gode has been diverting Wabi Shebele River for irrigation endeavors.’’
Furthermore, irrigation works are underway in Dubti, Afar State, to combat drought. The Awash River is contributing a lot in the state. Pastoralist societies have started permanent life style engaging in various agriculture activities. Besides, the use of modern fertilizers and hybrid-drought-resistant crops is increasing from time to time.
To sum up, the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) policy is being implemented successfully. The nation’s drought vulnerability is decreasing dramatically. However, still many tasks remain to sustain the changes being maintained. Water and social conversation, environmental restoration, small scale irrigation and empowerment of rural livelihoods should be the mechanisms which are fundamental for combating drought once and for all.
BY TSEGAY HAGOS