Cli­mate change de­stroys pas­toral­ist way of life

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - WASHINGTON POST

NARDO CAMP: Zeinab Ta­her once roamed through Ethiopia’s arid So­mali re­gion tend­ing a herd of 350 sheep, goats and cat­tle with her nine chil­dren.

Then the au­tumn rains failed and the grass that fed her an­i­mals didn’t grow. No rain came this spring, and then the live­stock be­gan to die. Now, the 60-year-old woman hud­dles in a makeshift wind­blown camp with sev­eral thou­sand oth­ers, de­pend­ing on food and wa­ter from in­ter­na­tional agen­cies.

Another drought has seized the Horn of Africa, dev­as­tat­ing the live­stock herders in th­ese al­ready dry lands.

Even as the govern­ment and aid agen­cies strug­gle to help them, there is a grow­ing re­al­i­sa­tion that with cli­mate change, cer­tain ways of life in cer­tain parts of the world are be­com­ing dif­fi­cult to sus­tain.

In Ethiopia, which un­like neigh­bour­ing So­ma­lia or South Su­dan has a func­tion­ing govern­ment, the emer­gency ef­fort has kept peo­ple alive.

Au­thor­i­ties and aid agen­cies are try­ing to get be­yond the im­me­di­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse and en­cour­age a shift to liveli­hoods less vul­ner­a­ble to drought and cli­mate shocks.

“In many pas­toral lands, pas­toral liveli­hoods are no longer vi­able,” said Samir Wan­mali, the deputy coun­try director for the World Food Pro­gramme.

An es­ti­mated 450 000 peo­ple in the south-east­ern So­mali re­gion have aban­doned their no­madic life­style and re­treated to camps to re­ceive food aid in re­cent months, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

At one of the camps, an ex­panse of sand and thorny scrub dot­ted with hun­dreds of huts made out of plas­tic tar­pau­lins and twigs, Ta­her wor­ried that even when the drought ended, she couldn’t sim­ply re­sume her tra­di­tional way of life.

“Even if it rained, we have no an­i­mals,” she said. “I can’t think of go­ing back to herd­ing.”

Last year a drought caused by the El Niño warm­ing phe­nom­e­non in the Pa­cific baked Ethiopia’s fer­tile high­lands in the north and cen­tre of the coun­try and left more than 10 mil­lion peo­ple need­ing food aid.

This year, tem­per­a­ture changes in the In­dian Ocean have caused a drought in the south and east of the coun­try, a much more arid re­gion pop­u­lated by shep­herds and their flocks.

There are an es­ti­mated 5 mil­lion peo­ple in Ethiopia’s So­mali re­gion, of whom about 40% are pas­toral­ists en­gaged in rais­ing an­i­mals, ac­cord­ing to the last cen­sus.

Last year, the Ethiopian govern­ment scraped to­gether $700 mil­lion to­gether with nearly $1 bil­lion in in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance to fight the drought.

For this year’s cri­sis, nowhere near the same fund­ing is avail­able as in­ter­na­tional donors grap­ple with se­vere hunger crises in two neigh­bour­ing war-torn na­tions – So­ma­lia and South Su­dan.

How­ever, the lat­est hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sess­ment in­di­cates that 7.8 mil­lion peo­ple in Ethiopia need food aid.


A teenager walks through Nardo Camp for the dis­placed in Ethiopia’s So­mali re­gion, where drought has left mil­lions need­ing food aid.

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