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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
An opinion article by FAO-Director General José Graziano da Silva

Ethiopia: Protecting livestock can literally mean the difference between life and death for pastoral communities 

Having enough to eat should not be the result of where you are born. No parent should have to see their children go hungry because they cannot afford to buy or produce enough food.

Once only a dream, a world free of hunger is now within our reach. We produce enough food, we possess the technology, and we know what policies and actions work. However, in our efforts to achieve Zero Hunger for everyone, we face huge challenges driven by nature and man.

While some areas of Ethiopia have seen huge improvements in food security and sustainable development of rural areas, pastoral communities in southern and southeastern areas continue to face repeated crises. Between 2000 and 2017, six drought episodes have been registered, with the latest in 2016/17 devastating pastoral and agropastoral livelihoods. Herders’ continued reliance on natural, rain-fed pasture, in the face of a host of factors that are accelerating the scarcity of these resources, has meant their livelihoods are less and less able to cope with shocks like drought.

Largely linked to the ongoing drought and its impacts on pastoral livelihoods in particular, humanitarian needs have continued to rise in 2017. Today, 8.5 million Ethiopians require emergency food assistance.

Rapid and efficient response to an emergency saves lives, promotes recovery and reduces the gap between dependence on food assistance and self-reliance. It can also mitigate and avert the loss of lives resulting from food insecurity, malnutrition and loss of livelihoods. For livestock-dependent communities, protecting livestock can literally mean the difference between life and death, particularly for children under five. Livestock represent not just a family’s income, but also a crucial source of nutrition for children and lactating women.

For millions of Ethiopians, livestock is their major source of survival. As drought causes pasture and water shortages, leading to livestock deaths, pastoral livelihoods are eroded. Some 2.25 million households now need immediate livestock support in the form of animal feed, health services and restocking.

Building on the success of FAO’s interventions and scaled up response to El Niño-induced drought in 2016, the Organization aims to support the livelihoods of 1.1 million farming, agropastoral and pastoral households in Ethiopia during the second half of 2017.

The Government of Ethiopia deserves a commendation for leading efforts to respond to the drought and committing to recovery and building resilience. Their efforts so far show how political commitment can ensure smooth management of emergencies in the most effective way.

FAO, with its available expertise and resources, stands beside Ethiopia in its effort to address the drought challenges and build the resilience of vulnerable populations. We are working closely with the Government and with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme to strengthen our collaboration in protecting and building resilient rural livelihoods.

Now is the time for us to deepen this partnership. With our international development and resource partners, we are reaching millions of the most vulnerable people to help them survive this drought. By investing now in more-resilient livelihoods, and protecting the gains we have made so far, we may prevent these same families from repeated cycles of crisis in future.

 

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