Rapid interventions safeguard livestock in Ethiopia - Mahabo's story

Rapid interventions safeguard livestock in Ethiopia - Mahabo's story


At the end of 2016, Mahabo Hassen, a livestock owner from the outskirts of Warder, was particularly vulnerable to the deepening drought in Ethiopia’s Somali Region.

“We were pure herders. We used to follow the water and grass”, said Mahabo outside her hut, known locally as an aqal-Somali (Somali house). In Ethiopia’s southeast region, livestock are essential for survival. The animals provide families with milk to drink and to make butter and yoghurt. Male camels and donkeys are also used to fetch water and transport grain. Sheep or goat hides, or rope made from camel skins generates income.

However, Mahabo’s livelihood faced serious risk due to the unforgiving dry conditions. “The drought was gradual. When the impact was at its greatest, the animal diseases came. Animals became malnourished and died from common illnesses. They had no immunity,” said Mahabo. After the short rains failed – which were her last hope for some relief -Mahabo decided to seek alternative ways to protect her animals.

Together with her husband, seven children and their dwindling herd, Mahabo walked for four days to reach the camp where they now live. They embarked on this arduous journey after hearing that support and provisions were being distributed by aid agencies and the Government of Ethiopia. Upon arrival at the camp, Mahabo got help through FAO’s Early Warning – Early Action (EWEA) programme.

FAO provided Mahabo and her family with sufficient animal feed for their 35 goats for two months. The goats and the family’s camels were also treated for illnesses and parasites. These two complementary interventions allowed the animals to get their health back. Once they were fit and strong enough, Mahabo sold 20 goats to buy food and other necessities for her family.  “If there was no FAO support, more animals, and maybe even people, would have died,” she said.

While drought continues in Ethiopia, Mahabo’s story highlights the importance of acting early to protect livelihoods against shocks. This builds resilience and reduces both disaster losses and the costs of emergency response.