Even as the government and aid agencies struggle to help the people of drought-struck Somali region, there is a growing realization that with climate change, certain ways of life in certain parts of the world are becoming much more difficult to sustain.

By Paul Schemm (The Washington Post) |

Zeinab Taher once roamed through Ethiopia’s arid Somali region tending a vast 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, either, and the livestock began to die. Now, wrapped in her orange shawl, the 60-year-old huddles in a makeshift, windblown camp along 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 realization that with climate change, certain ways of life in certain parts of the world are becoming much more difficult to sustain.

In Ethiopia, which unlike neighboring Somalia or South Sudan has a strong, 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 Program.

An estimated 450,000 people in the southeastern Somali region have abandoned their nomadic lifestyle and retreated to camps to receive food aid in recent months, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At one of the camps, an expanse of sand and thorny scrub dotted with hundreds of huts made out of plastic tarps and twigs, Taher worried that even with an end to the drought, she won’t be able to 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.”

It was just last year that a drought caused by the El Niño warming phenomenon in the Pacific baked Ethiopia’s fertile highlands in the north and center 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.

Continue reading this story at The Washington Post
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