Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Since November 2020, conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has forced the displacement of more than 2 million people, as at 20 May 2021. The conflict, which coincided with the peak harvest period, is further exacerbating food insecurity in Ethiopia – a country already facing one of the worst food crises in the world. 

Over 80 percent of Tigray’s population, and Ethiopia’s in general, relies on agriculture and livestock as their primary sources of livelihood. An estimated 1.3 million ha of crops were damaged due to the destruction of land and plundering as a result of the crisis, according to the Tigray Agricultural Bureau. While farmers face challenges accessing agricultural land to cultivate, displacement and looting have led to pastoralists and agropastoralists losing their livestock. High mortalities due to endemic animal diseases such as peste des petits ruminants, sheep and goat pox and lumpy skin disease are also being reported. 

About 5.2 million people (91 percent of the region’s population) are in urgent need of support, as per the latest estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. While humanitarian needs continue to increase, access to humanitarian assistance and essential goods remains inadequate amidst continuing insecurity and significant disruptions to basic services in Tigray. 

There is also a risk that ongoing ethnic and intercommunal violence, as well as civil unrest, may intensify in Ethiopia’s other regions such as Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region. To date, restrictions have prevented the true magnitude and severity of the crisis from being fully assessed. 

There is an urgent need for increased access and resources to support conflict-affected farming and pastoral communities, particularly to ensure that agricultural assets (seeds, tools) are replaced and/or delivered in time for the Mehr season, which is the main planting period in June, and subsequent seasons. 

Desert locusts

In addition to the conflict, Ethiopia is also experiencing its worst desert locust outbreak in 25 years. Since 2019, the upsurge has significantly damaged and destroyed crops, pasture, rangelands and other forms of groundcover, aggravating an already alarming food security and nutrition situation. 

Although significant control operations have prevented a disastrous scenario, there remains a threat of a desert locust invasion and surveillance activities have continued. Locust swarms have matured and have laid eggs in a vast area extending from the northwest to the northeast. 

Hatching and band formations were detected in May in eastern Ethiopia, particularly in western Somali region. Both are expected to continue and there is a risk that immature swarms will form over the next few months, before travelling west to the Afar region in the summer to breed. 

Persisting food insecurity 

The compounding impacts of conflicts, desert locusts, the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, natural hazards, and the poor macroeconomic context continue to threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of Ethiopians, limiting their capacity to cope with future shocks and stressors.

An estimated 8.6 million people were facing high levels of acute food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC] 3 and above) between October and December 2020, with 1.4 million people in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), according to the latest analysis. Current projections suggest that this has risen to 12.9 million people in high acute food insecurity, including 2.6 million in Emergency, between January and June 2021. The IPC analysis did not examine the food security and livelihood implications of the Tigray crisis, with numbers likely to be higher as a result of the conflict. 

Significant macroeconomic challenges, including the Tigray crisis, currency depreciation, and high inflation, will continue to affect people’s access to food as prices increase and purchasing powers decline. Many of these challenges continue to be exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19, particularly on markets, employment and access to remittances. These will likely compound the effects of the lean season in Belg and Mehr-producing areas (March-May and June-September, respectively). 

FAO’s response 

Through its emergency programme, FAO aims to safeguard the livelihoods of conflict-affected communities in Tigray. FAO is providing 50 000 households with crop and vegetable seeds, training and extension support. Moreover, livestock (goats, sheep and cattle) are being treated and vaccinated against endemic transboundary diseases to benefit an additional 100 000 pastoral and agropastoral households. 

A soon-to-be-published appeal and response plan will further define FAO’s response interventions in Tigray for the medium- and long-term. The emergency interventions will be carried out under the framework of the Disaster Risk Management Agriculture Task Force – Agriculture Cluster, for which FAO is co-chair in Tigray. The Organization will continue to work with the regional government, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and other United Nations (UN) agencies to respond to immediate needs and safeguard the livelihoods of affected communities. 

FAO is working with the Government of Ethiopia, the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa and other partners to raise awareness, mobilize resources and monitor and respond to threats. FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives, analyses and disseminates data from locust-prone countries such as Ethiopia to inform the global community of locust developments. 

In 2021, FAO aims to assist 1.5 million vulnerable pastoral, agropastoral, and smallholder farming households across Ethiopia. To achieve this, FAO has prioritized livestock production support to save livelihoods, protect productive assets and enhance the resilience of affected communities. FAO is distributing survival feed for livestock and multinutrient blocks to improve animal body conditions and boost the resilience of livestock-producing cooperatives.

In addition to the Emergency animal health vaccination campaigns, FAO is providing the most vulnerable pastoral households with unconditional cash transfers, enabling them to purchase necessary goods and services. Seeking to diversify livelihoods, FAO is also providing women’s groups with training, cash grants and equipment for investment in their small-scale milk businesses.  

To enhance crop production, FAO is distributing crop and vegetable seeds to vulnerable farming households. FAO is also supporting the Government’s control of fall armyworm by training farmers and performing surveillance and monitoring activities to avoid massive crop losses.

FAO continues to monitor and respond to transboundary animal diseases, through the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) in Ethiopia and 34 other countries.

FAO also works with the Government to conduct regular IPC analyses with other UN agencies and NGOs to inform decision-making for humanitarian and development interventions in the country and to conduct seasonal assessments and develop preparedness and response plans, along with guidelines for emergency agricultural support. Moreover, as co-lead of the Agriculture Cluster, FAO supports the coordination of humanitarian action in the agriculture sector.

 

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