10 June 2003,
Rome/Addis Ababa --
Drought-hit Ethiopian farmers have
received emergency agricultural assistance to help them prepare
land for the next planting season after months of devastating
crop failure, FAO said today.
acute drought in several regions of the country, especially the
south, have withered crops and left farming households destitute
and unable to feed themselves.
conditions are now reported in parts of the East African
country, and large numbers of children are suffering from
Animals are dying due to
lack of water and feed after repeated failed harvests.
"Traditionally these people cope
with drought either by growing crops which can be harvested
sooner or by migrating," FAO's Yon Fernandez de
situation is now so grave, all means of dealing with drought
have been exhausted. The already malnourished people are simply
eating even less or relying on food aid," he said.
An estimated 12.6 million Ethiopians are
now in need of food aid. FAO's emergency agricultural
projects, worth some $4.3 million, aim to help farmers cope with
the crisis now and manage better in the future.
These projects include supplying seeds, feed,
equipment, animal health services, farming expertise and
training in water management to boost the agriculture sector,
which accounts for 45 percent of the Ethiopian economy, and
improve access to food. Droughts,
constantly battered by extremes of weather, by cycles of drought
and floods. For the rural populations who depend on agriculture
for their survival, farming is highly precarious.
The country's recent border conflict with
neighbouring Eritrea, a growing population, fractured road
infrastructure and poor land management practices exacerbate
difficult climatic conditions, leaving the country at constant
risk of slipping into crisis each time the rains fail.
Over 11 million hectares of land are farmed
in Ethiopia but less than 200 000 hectares are irrigated.
In 2002, the failure of the two rainy
seasons - the Belg and the Mehr seasons which arrive around
February and June respectively - withered over 70 percent of the
maize and sorghum crops, decimating grain production.
In 2002 alone, Ethiopia produced 25 percent
less cereals and pulses than the previous year.
Farming families depend upon livestock to till the
soil and collect the harvest, while pastoralists derive most of
their livelihoods from animal production.
Large numbers of animals have died due to lack of
water and pastureland and there have been outbreaks of livestock
diseases as animals migrate in search of water and fodder.
Some areas in the southern lowlands are experiencing
what is known as a "green famine" where recent
rains have created a lush landscape which masks severe hunger.
People who have already been weakened by
years of drought and crop failure are now going hungry as they
wait for newly-planted crops to grow.
April and May this year the river of Wabe Shebele in the
southeastern region of Somalia burst its banks and flooding
forced an estimated 100 000 people to flee, abandoning land and
These internally displaced
people are now especially at risk of not being able to access
FAO projects, which reach 2.3 million
vulnerable Ethiopians, a total of 450 000 households, include:
- local seeds for farmers to plant ahead of
the next harvest;
- basic farming tools
including fertilizers and hoes;
management training so farmers can cope with
- expert support to improve seeds to
ensure seed reserves;
- fodder banks, forage
distribution and animal health assistance.
One of FAO's largest emergency projects, with
support from the Government of the Netherlands, is distributing
4 000 tonnes of cereal seeds, 24 million sweet potato cuttings,
as well as vegetable seeds and animal drugs to treat livestock.
The project will benefit 134 000 families
in the northern region of Tigray, the central region of Oromiya
and the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples region
Financial support has also been
provided by the governments of Canada and the United States of
America and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570