Food insecurity in Ethiopia

Food insecurity in Ethiopia


While Ethiopia is in the process of recovering from the El Niño-induced drought which affected large areas of the country in 2015 and 2016, a new drought in 2017 has put 8.5 million people in urgent need of emergency food aid. The drought, which has predominantly affected the south and south eastern pastoral regions of Somali, Oromiya and SNNP Regions, has led to widespread livestock deaths and extreme emaciation among dwindling herds. This has resulted in increasing rates of malnutrition amongst the local population.

“Pastoral communities are almost entirely dependent on livestock for their food and income,” RedR’s Kara Jenkinson explained from her base in Addis Ababa. “And this drought is predominantly affecting the livestock, which have limited pastures and water. In some localized areas of Ethiopia’s Somali Region more than half of some herds have died.”

“The severe drought in the southeast has led to widespread food insecurity in many of the pastoral communities in these regions,” Kara said. “In addition, drought is again affecting some areas hit by last year’s drought, in places where people had already planted seeds.”

A program and reporting specialist, Kara Jenkinson has deployed to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is focused on food security. FAO’s Ethiopia country office is at the forefront of tackling threats facing agriculture, which supports the livelihoods of up to 85% of the population.

“Last year after the El Niño drought decimated food and seed stocks, FAO was involved in the largest emergency seed distribution in the country’s history,” she said. “This year FAO is focused on livestock response, including livestock destocking – this involves purchasing weak stock at a reasonable price so the remaining stock would have improved water and feed access. There would therefore be a reduced burden on pastoral lands,” stated Kara.

Kara is tasked with gathering and collating key information about FAO’s impact in this humanitarian response. “Reporting is important for many reasons. Donors give money and trust FAO with that money. We have to be transparent and we have an obligation to report on how we spent the funds, including how many people we helped, what the benefits were and the challenges faced along the way, and how we addressed those challenges.”

She explained, “For example it is important to gather information on why particular seeds work or don’t work as this information can inform future programs and activities not only in Ethiopia, but also other countries where FAO is active.” Donor reporting is a critical part of any response and can help ensure access to additional funding when a crisis worsens. “The amount of poverty can seem overwhelming. Australia has to be helping these countries a lot more.  If we want to help the most vulnerable then the most vulnerable are here in Africa,” she said.

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