By Andualem Sisay
To fill its empty food reserve warehouse, the Ethiopian government announced today (August 25, 2011) that it is going to purchase 300,000 tons of wheat from abroad.
This is indicated by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who spoke a pledging conference organized by the African Union Commission (AUC) to mobilize resources to feed over the 12.4 million drought and famine affected people in the horn of Africa including Ethiopia.
“…The Ethiopian government has decided to buy and import 300,000 tons of wheat to replenish the strategic reserve of the country and to ensure that there is adequate food in the pipeline,” he said.
“Although many of our people had lost their lives due to recurrent drought and famine in the past, this time around we have been able to save the lives of the drought affected population. This undoubtedly demonstrates the effectiveness of the drought risk management capability that we have developed over the years,” said Meles indicating that food insecurity challenge of the region is shifting from the settled farmer communities to pastoralist areas.
Reports indicate that out of the total population of Ethiopia, which is around 85 million at the moment, about 10 million are pastoralists. As a result of the current drought, it is estimated that in pastoral areas such as Borena of Oromia region, pastoralists have lost around 40 percent of their livestock on whom their livelihood is dependent.
No More Pastoralism as a Way of Life
According to the Premier, pastoralism should not be allowed to continue as a way of life to save the lives of pastoralists and their livestock from the recurrent drought that is getting worse by climate change.
“Clearly pastoralism as a way of life is fast becoming unviable and addressing the root causes of the problem have to start from such realization. We need to do a lot more in water storage, management and irrigation to provide alternative livelihoods to the pastoralist communities and to adapt to the inevitable climate change,” Meles said.
Contrary to the Prime Minister’s idea many experts and non-governmental organizations argue that pastoralist life style has its own unique characteristics and has been systematically protecting the environment and natural resources for centuries using the principle of mobility.
There are initiatives at pilot level by the government to introduce pastoralist communities with farming to shift them to agro-pastoralist livelihoods and finally making them settled farmers.
By doing so, Ethiopian government believes that the pastoralists will have easy access to basic services such as health and agricultural extension programs, among others. Meanwhile, government critics argue that it is better to design a unique and mobile strategy of providing these services to pastoralist communities instead of attempting to make them farmers.
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