AfDB’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Program in the Horn of Africa

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A team from the African Development Bank Group, led by Abdoulaye Dagamaissa, Manager, Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department (OSAN), and comprising Harouna Dosso, Senior Agronomist, OSAN/Ethiopia Field Office (ETFO); Hailemariam Hailemeskel, Agricultural Economist, OSAN/ETFO; and Paxina Chileshe-Toe, Natural Resources Management Specialist, OSAN, undertook a site visit from February 25-27 to Adaar, one of the six beneficiary woredas (administrative units) in the Afar region of Ethiopia, where the Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihoods Program (DRSLP) will be implemented. The team was assisted by a locally recruited cameraman and photographer.

The Afar Regional State is located in the northeastern part of Ethiopia and is populated with approximately 1.4 million people (CSA, 2008). Nearly 87 per cent of the population is rural, mainly dependent on pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihood systems. Afar is characterized by an arid and semi-arid climate with low and erratic rainfall. The temperature of the region varies from 25°C during the rainy season (September-March) to 48°C during the dry season (March-September). The average annual rainfall registered over 11 years at the Dubti station is 187.9 millimetres. The Afar pastoralists face several challenges that include recurrent drought and famine; flash floods; disease outbreaks; bush encroachment; loss of livestock; impoverishment; pastoral conflict; population growth, etc.

In discussions with the community members and leaders from the Adaar woreda, lack of water for both humans and livestock; lack of education and health infrastructure for the children and women; animal health issues; limited access to and development of markets; and lack of backyard irrigated agriculture options were some of the key challenges highlighted. The youth that spend most of their time herding livestock, walk for up to 15 kilometres in search of water and feed for their family flocks. The needs expressed by the community members were reaffirmed by the head and senior officers of the Afar Bureau of Pastoral and Agricultural Development.

One of the key challenges in the Adaar woreda, due to the climatic conditions and as emphasized during the discussions with communities and government agencies, is water supply. Pastoralists in Adaar travel long distances in search of water for their livestock and household consumption. One of the options, to resolve the lack of water issue, is digging holes along the river bed. In long dry spells the ponds constructed at strategic points, which are often shallow, also dry up. Pastoral communities in Adaar consider water as one of the most critical needs and they expressed their delight in noting that the DRSLP will address this issue as a priority intervention.

Most of the concerns raised by the community will be addressed through the main activities of the DRSLP that will be implemented in six woredas in Ethiopia, including the Adaar woreda. The activities include: developing water storage and other related infrastructures, conservation of water catchment areas; development of market infrastructure, animal health services, communication and information systems; optimizing potential value chains and strengthening regional trade, and enhancing community participation in the management of water, pasture and livestock marketing and promoting income generating activities for the women and youth.

The community members in Adaar are eagerly awaiting the launching of the program, which they are committed to fully participate in implementing. They asserted the DRSLP will lift most of their burdens and give them more meaningful and improved livelihoods.