Assisting Ethiopian pastoralists to cope with recurrent drought

Assisting Ethiopian pastoralists to cope with recurrent drought

20/02/2018

As a result of protracted drought, food insecurity has increased and malnutrition rates are staggering in pastoral areas of southern and southeastern Ethiopia. Livestock production was extremely low in 2017, and herd sizes diminished significantly due to widespread livestock deaths. Thousands of pastoralist families with few or no remaining animals settled close to villages in makeshift camps.

In response, FAO supported de-stocking by purchasing cattle, sheep and goats that were unlikely to survive and reproduce for a fair price. This quickly boosted pastoralists’ income, and reduced pressure on limited resources – with the weak animals sold off, the limited feed remaining could be prioritized to save a family’s core breeding stock. With livestock too weak to make the trek to markets in bigger towns, FAO brought the market to their doorstep.

After an animal health inspection, the purchased animals became available for immediate local slaughter. The meat was distributed to vulnerable families, including displaced people. Families headed by women, the elderly and people with disabilities were prioritized. For many, this was the first time they had access to animal protein in months. Some of the meat was eaten immediately, and the rest processed or stored for future consumption.

While many livestock sellers noted they would spend the cash received on food, several reported they would invest in productive assets such as animal feed or donkeys, which are critical for transporting water across long distances and reduce the burden on women to carry out this task.