Ethiopia is responding to a drought emergency, triggered by one of the strongest El Niño events on record. Humanitarian needs have tripled since the beginning of 2015 as the drought continues to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists — causing successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths.
Food insecurity and malnutrition rates are alarming with some 10.2 million people in need of food assistance. One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis — 435 000 children are suffering severe acute malnutrition and 1.7 million children, pregnant and lactating women are experiencing moderate acute malnutrition.
More than 80 percent of people in Ethiopia rely on agriculture and livestock as their primary source of food and income, however the frequency of droughts over the years has left many communities particularly vulnerable. Significant production losses, by up to 50-90 percent in some areas, have severely diminished households’ food security and purchasing power, forcing many to sell their remaining agricultural assets and abandon their livelihoods.
Estimates in early 2016 by Ethiopia's Bureau of Agriculture indicate that some 7.5 million farmers and herders need immediate agricultural support to produce staple crops like maize, sorghum, teff, wheat, and root crops, and livestock feed to keep their animals healthy and resume production.
Hundreds of thousands of livestock have already died and the animals that remain are becoming weaker and thinner due to poor grazing resources, feed shortages and limited water availability, leading to sharp declines in milk and meat production.
FAO’s El Niño Response
The FAO Ethiopia El Niño Response Plan aims to assist 1.8 million vulnerable pastoralists, agropastoralists and smallholder farmers in 2016. To achieve this, FAO will prioritize agricultural production support in order to reduce the food gap, livestock interventions to protect the livelihood assets of pastoralists and agropastoralists, and activities to enhance the resilience of affected communities through coordinated response.
As part of the emergency response, FAO has been providing planting materials to help seed- and food-insecure households in the worst-affected regions plant in the belg and meher seasons. In an effort to preserve livestock, FAO has been distributing multi-nutrient blocks in pastoral and agropastoral areas to strengthen livestock and bolster the resilience of the cooperatives that produce them. Survival animal feed is also being provided to help farmers produce fodder and improve access to water for livestock. Herds across the country have also benefited from vaccination and treatment campaigns to address their increasing vulnerability as a result of drought.
In Ethiopia's Somali Region, FAO is enhancing the financial stability of drought-affected households through the purchase of weak sheep and goats for immediate, local slaughter - and providing the meat - rich in protein - to nutritionally vulnerable drought-affected families. The intervention will help reduce stress on available feed, enable households to focus their resources on their remaining productive animals, and invest in productive assets.
In addition, FAO is closely working with the government to conduct seasonal assessments and develop preparedness and response plans, along with guidelines for emergency agriculture support.