Livestock are central to the livelihoods of the millions of pastoralists and agropastoralists living in southern and southeastern areas of Ethiopia, who now face the serious effects of a long dry spell following the failure of the October–December rains. Protecting livestock-based livelihoods is FAO’s number one priority in affected areas of Somali, Oromia and SNNP regions.
“The scale of the drought impact is massive. Thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) are concentrated in temporary shelters, livestock carcasses are everywhere and the remaining weak animals are highly concentrated around diminishing water ponds”, said Mr Amadou Allahoury, FAO Representative in Ethiopia, following his recent visit to affected communities in Somali Region.
Most of the IDPs are women and children who need immediate support. The drought has particularly hit the most vulnerable population groups, and cattle. Cattle are the first to die in a drought situation, whereas camels and goats are more resistant to water and feed shortages. “The scale of the drought is already considerable and the situation will definitely deteriorate in the coming months”, added Mr Allahoury.
Livestock rearing is the main means of survival for pastoral communities in the drought-affected areas. For pastoralists, “livestock and livelihoods are the same”, said Mr Allahoury. “When they talk about saving livestock, it is about saving their livelihoods. The IDPs kept asking us to help with saving their core-breeding animals”. Protecting remaining core-breeding animals provides herders with the means to recover and rebuild their livestock assets and therefore their livelihoods beyond the drought.
Saving livestock-based livelihoods
Saving the livelihood base of the affected community is FAO’s priority. “In particular, providing fodder and supplementary feeding for core-breeding animals is critical now”, remarked Mr Allahoury. As water is very scarce, by rehabilitating and developing ground water facilities for animal use, FAO will further contribute to saving the core breeding animals.
One short-term intervention currently being implemented by FAO is animal destocking, which enables families to use their scarce resources to saving core breeding animals, while also providing them with an income. Vulnerable populations benefit from improved access to food as the meat from de-stocked animals is divided among the most at-risk community members.
Building pastoral resilience
“However, in the long run, we have to create conditions to build the resilience of these populations through changing the current way of doing livestock rearing and promoting animal fodder production by making water available through catchments and developing ground water resources”, noted Mr Allahoury. In 2017, FAO Ethiopia aims to support one million households in southern and southeastern pastoral areas with livestock feed supplementation, animal health provision, animal destocking and cash-for-work schemes to rehabilitate water points.