From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Feb 26 2009 - 23:49:14 EST
Livestock in Ethiopian lowlands decimated by climate-change impacts
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies
Date: 26 Feb 2009
By Alex Wynter in Dhuko, Oromiya, Ethiopia
Dhuko, Oromiya, Ethiopia - The numbers of livestock held by southern
pastoralist families have fallen drastically over the past two decades
as animals die from disease induced by climate change and the severe
drought it brings, according to a new report by Ethiopian and
In one of three areas surveyed, Borena zone of Oromiya region, the
average numbers of livestock owned by pastoralist households were found
to have declined from 10 to 3 oxen, 35 to 7 cows, and 33 to 6 goats.
For families entirely dependent on their animals for income and as a
food source, losses on this scale would be disastrous.
Climate-change impacts increased poverty and food insecurity as
livestock possession fell, according to the report, Climate
Change-Induced Hazards, Impacts and Responses in Southern Ethiopia.
The research was carried out by the Ethiopian Forum for Social Studies
and the Netherlands group, Cordaid - a partner of the Red Cross Red
Crescent Climate Centre in The Hague, with experience of drought
management in the Horn of Africa.
Tick and skin diseases in camels, cattle, goats and sheep are common
anyway during severe droughts, the study said, while even camels and
goats - normally considered more resistant to drought and adopted as a
"coping strategy" by pastoralists in place of cattle - are affected by
newly prevalent diseases.
The distribution of diseases and pests has also changed in the study
area, according to senior researcher Aklilu Amsalu. "Existing diseases.
are expanding and new types are emerging," he said, while unidentified
new diseases were also causing the sudden death of camels and goats.
As their animals died, people became dependent on aid, while dry seasons
triggered local "resource conflicts" over water and pasture, the study
found. "About a quarter" of all households in Borena and Guji zones
suffered from cattle-raiding related to conflict in the period 2004-8.
Recent press reports in Ethiopia, meanwhile, said 50 per cent of people
in the country's Somali region will remain dependent on international
food-aid until at least the middle of the year. In Somali region
"humanitarian access and aid remains very erratic", said the Reporter
newspaper. The International Federation in December launched an appeal
for nearly US$ 100 million - one of its biggest ever for a "hidden
disaster"- and with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society is planning to carry
out food distributions shortly in mainly pastoralist areas.
However, donor response to date has been very limited. As things stand,
only one major distribution "hub" - out of a planned four in Ethiopia -
"I pray for rain"
"We're doing the very best we can with the donor backing we've had,"
says Roger Bracke, the Federation's Addis Ababa-based head of operations
for the Horn of Africa.
"Everyone was pleased the latest inter-agency assessment brought the
Ethiopian national total of people outside the government safety net
needing emergency food aid down to just under 5 million last month," he
adds. "But that's still a very large number."
Ute-Muda Garero knows all about rustling. He's one of the few
pastoralist herdsmen who have stayed behind in Dhuko village, Oromiya,
to sit out the dry season, fearful of getting mixed up in a local
conflict over water and pasture he says bedevils an area where hundreds
of other men from the village have temporarily migrated, seeking better
But his animals are suffering for it. They have already deteriorated to
the exact mid-point of the official yardstick of animal health: between
two and three on a four-point scale, four meaning near death. "I pray
for rain," he says.
"My cattle will be 'threes' even if the rains start on time," he
explains, referring to the main seasonal rains due next month. "If the
rains fail, they'll die for sure."
Apart from the women and children, only a handful of community leaders
and elders are left Dhuko.
It's there and in countless thousands of settlements like it that the
disaster in the Horn of Africa is hidden: difficult to see, even
standing in the middle of it.
Children who look half their age from malnutrition; unnecessarily high
infant-mortality statistics; "resource wars" fought between tribes who
might otherwise live in peace; the gradual erosion of an ancient
lifestyle -- pastoralism.
Earlier this month the World Food Programme (WFP), the Federation's main
UN partner in the Horn operation, reported a relief-funding shortfall of
just over US$ 400 million for 2009.
Reduced food rations have applied since July 2008, WFP said, adding that
households continue to engage in "negative coping strategies in order to
meet their basic food needs [including] selling a higher number of
productive assets than usual (44 per cent), reducing the number of
meals. (92 per cent), and borrowing food or money (69 per cent)."
In February WFP was distributing reduced rations for cereals and oil and
prioritizing blended food for beneficiaries "in hotspot areas only,
including Somali region".
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