Ethiopia gets a lot of sun, but has not had much rain this year. In fact, some areas have not seen rain for two years.

By Kim Pozniak |

Like farmers everywhere, farmers in eastern Ethiopia’s Oromia Region look to the sky for the two elements they need most: sun and water. Ethiopia gets a lot of sun, but has not had much rain this year. In fact, some areas have not seen rain for two years.

And, since 85% of Ethiopians depend on rain-fed agriculture, rain is everything—the key to life. A poor harvest locks farmers into a vicious cycle. Without crops—one of two main sources of income—there is no food on the table.

“The biggest problem is the lack of rain,” says Isike Abdukerim, who farms a small plot of land and used to have a small herd of livestock.

Animals are the other most valuable asset for families here. If sold in good condition, they can yield enough money to feed a family for some time.

“Because of this drought, we don’t have any feed for our cattle so I had to sell the animals,” says Isike.

Historic drought

Vast grazing areas look deceptively fertile with a soft green veil stretched over the land. But the grass yields no nutrition, too short for emaciated animals to grip. Instead, their hooves kick up red dust plumes with every step they take.

Ethiopia is in the midst of the worst drought in half a century. Two failed rainy seasons in 2015, and poor rains in early 2016, have led to severely reduced harvests. The cause: a combination of climate change and an El Nino current in the Pacific Ocean. The result: food is running dangerously short.

“This drought makes it difficult [to respond] because the entire country is experiencing it,” says Haileyesus Lemlan, who coordinates Catholic Relief Services programs in Oromia. “People are able to cope differently from area to area, but everyone’s affected to a certain degree. You can find the truth of drought inside people’s homes.”

Continue reading this story on Catholic Relief Services (CRC)
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