Friday, February 26, 2016

Looming Ethiopia famine highlights vulnerability to climate change | Climate Home - climate change news

kkLooming Ethiopia famine highlights vulnerability to climate change | Climate Home - climate change news: "Aid agencies warn food could run out for millions as failed rains stoked by El Nino ruin crops in east Africa

Drought conditions have killed livestock in Ethiopia as the country enters a humanitarian crisis (Pic: Abiy Getahun/Oxfam)

By Alex Pashley

Food aid will run out for over 10 million Ethiopians by May, according to aid agencies, which fear a repeat of the horrendous famines of the 1970s and 80s.

Chronic drought has sapped vast tracts of the north, central and eastern highlands, hitting crops and livestock as rain patterns have shifted. More than eight in ten people depend on rain-fed agriculture, according to Oxfam.1

Intensified by El Nino, the dry spell brings into sharp relief the vulnerability of the continent to a changing climate. The UN climate science panel has marked its “low adaptive capacity” to heat waves and water scarcity if carbon emissions do not fall.

“It’s like watching a disaster take place in slow motion,” Wolfgang Jamann, the head of charity CARE International said on Tuesday.

“The impact has been devastating for vulnerable people in the South Pacific and across southern and Eastern Africa, but nowhere is the outlook more troubling than in Ethiopia right now.”

Zimbabwe: Lessons in how not to prepare for climate change

Countries in the Horn of Africa including Kenya and Somalia have suffered, while to the south Zimbabwe is battling food insecurity.

In Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, leading African academics gathered this week to ponder the continent’s resilience and adaptation to a warmer planet.

Over a hundred delegates pored over research on breeding tougher crops, restoring drylands and launching community forests at the three-day symposium.

Moving away from susceptible crops like maize and wheat to sturdier cassava and groundnuts is winning support.

Save the Children: Ethiopia drought a ‘wake-up call’ to futureproof crops

Alexandre Meybeck, who leads on climate change at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization told Climate Home that these were “important adaptation options”.

“Seed systems (plant breeders, multipliers, distributers) are needed to enable farmers to access to the seeds they need, with knowledge transfer and sharing mechanisms, such as farmer field schools.” Whole food chains may need to shift and communities learn new recipes, he added.

The 48 least developed countries, which includes Ethiopia, won more funding from rich countries for adaptation last year at UN climate talks. An estimated US$1 trillion is needed to carry out their climate plans for the next 15 years.

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Ethiopia's drought On the edge of disaster | The Economist

The government’s achievements appear increasingly precarious

A good system, but overwhelmed
“THE animals die first” is a common refrain from many Ethiopians living in Tigray and Afar, two northern states, as the country experiences its worst drought in decades. Crop production in these regions has dropped by 50% or more in some areas, and failed completely in others. Hundreds of thousands of domestic animals are reckoned to have perished.
The rapidly changing skylines of Ethiopia’s modernising cities notwithstanding, about 80% of its population still live off the land. Yet despite the drought there are not yet scenes reminiscent of the famine of 1983-84 when as many as 1m people died.

That reprieve may not last. Those working for NGOs, which are now scrabbling to raise funds for relief, point out that in previous dry spells, hunger intensified from April onwards because by then people have eaten through their last food stocks or what little was harvestable. “The present situation here keeps me awake at night,” says John Graham, the country director for Save the Children, a charity.
Unlike in 1983, when brutal government policies increased the number of deaths, Ethiopia’s present rulers have done much to mitigate the impact. Their Productive Safety Net Programme provides jobs for about 7m people who work on public-infrastructure projects in return for food or cash. There are also a national food reserve and early warning systems throughout the woredas, local-government districts. Ethiopia even managed to accelerate the building of a new railway line—the country’s only one—to bring food supplies from Djibouti on the coast of the Horn of Africa.
But the country’s ability to help itself may soon reach its limit. Estimates of the number of people affected by drought doubled between June and October in 2015 to 8.2m, and are now pushing beyond 10m (of a population of about 100m). The government faces criticism for not acknowledging sooner that it needs help.
Ethiopians—both official and lay—are sensitive about their ancient, diverse country’s persistent association with misery and pestilence, while equally proud of its economic turnaround. There is also a sense that the government has not been found wanting with this drought; rather that it has simply encountered events beyond its control. The El Niño phenomenon is causing unusually heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.
Herein lies a challenge for Ethiopia: it is competing for international funds with other grave humanitarian crises, such as the wars in Syria and Yemen, and the international migrant emergency. Moreover, the international system’s cogs started turning late, after the government initially tried to go it alone. Ethiopia may also be up against donor fatigue. The estimated $1.4 billion needed to combat the drought’s impact remains less than half funded. Further concerns stem from the possibility that El Niño will also affect Ethiopia’s next rainy season. The UN reckons such a situation could result in more than 15m Ethiopians suffering food shortages, acute malnutrition or worse by mid-2016.

Monday, February 22, 2016

El Nino-Linked Drought Is Ethiopia's Worst in 50 Years - NBC News

 El Nino Threatens Millions in Ethiopia, as NBC News' Gabe Joselow Reports 1:34
More than 10 million people are in need of food aid in Ethiopia amid a drought worse than the one that triggered the haunting 1984 famine, the U.N. has warned.
Crops have withered, animals have died and water sources have dried up in parts of northeastern Ethiopia following the failure of the last two rainy seasons.

Image: A malnourished baby in Dubti Woreda, Ethiopia

A malnourished baby rests on her mother’s lap at the Megenta Kebele clinic in Dubti Woreda, Ethiopia, on Jan. 26. Mulugeta Ayene / AP

More than 400,000 children are now at risk of acute malnutrition, according to the U.N.
"It is the worst drought as compared to the last 50 years," says Mikitu Kassa, the head of Ethiopia's National Disaster Prevention Committee.
In 1984, images of emaciated children were beamed around the world inspiring international donors to reach into their pockets as celebrity musicians trumpeted the call through Live Aid concerts and charity singles including "We Are the World" and "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
This year's crisis has been blamed on the massive El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean. The same pattern that has brought extreme wet weather and snowstorms to the United States has delivered blistering heat to much of Africa.
 What Is El Niño and Why Should We Care? 0:42
However, while the drought might be worse, the country itself is in better shape — this is not the Ethiopia of 1984.
Strong economic growth, spurned by development-minded leaders and an influx of foreign aid has better equipped the country to confront the crisis.
The government is providing $381 million of its own money, and has launched a safety net program to support 8 million people with food assistance in the long term.
"Everything is currently stable in all drought-affected areas because of the good response from government" Kassa said.

Image: Dead cow in Ethiopia in 1984

A dead cow during the drought that ravaged Ethiopia in 1984. Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

But the money only goes so far.
The U.N. says $1.4 billion is needed in total humanitarian assistance to support stressed populations in Ethiopia, and has received about half that amount.
Aid agencies warn that without emergency funding, existing food stocks could run out by the end of April.
"We're on a cliff's edge," says John Aylieff, Ethiopia country director for the U.N. World Food Program. "If we can't sustain the food supply during this critical lean season then we will be seeing a dramatic rise in acute malnutrition."
Some donors have responded; the U.S. is providing $97 million in emergency aid.
However, the migrant crisis in Europe and wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen are among other problems taking attention — and money — from Ethiopia.
 Flashback: Famine in Ethiopia 3:59
"It's a real struggle for donors to reach deeper in view of the fact that we have many large-scale humanitarian emergencies across the world,"Aylieff said.
Meantime, Ethiopia may just be the beginning of a larger food crisis across much of Africa.
In neighboring Somalia, which suffered its last famine in 2011, another 4.7 million people are in need of food aid.
Countries in southern Africa — including Zimbabwe, Malawi and parts of South Africa — have had their driest rainy season in the last 35 years, according to the U.N.
As crops fail and food prices soar, millions more could face hunger this year.

Image: Ethiopian women wait to collect water

Ethiopian women wait to collect water on Jan. 26. TIKSA NEGERI / Reuters

Friday, February 19, 2016

Can mountains of animal bones boost food security in Ethiopia? | Ensia

By turning a wasted resource into fertilizer, researchers aim to help a hungry nation replenish depleted soils
Photo by Bourcard Nesin and Milkiyas AhmedPhoto by Bourcard Nesin and Milkiyas Ahmed
As unemployed young men pick through trash heaps near Jimma University in southwestern Ethiopia to find treasures to sell, they search for one of the hottest resources in demand at the moment: discarded animal bones.
Animal bone is one of Ethiopia’s only sources of phosphorus and calcium, nutrients the country’s acidic, depleted soils have in shortest supply. Most of the country’s 80 million farmers, who comprise 80 percent of the population, cultivate small parcels of the ruddy soils. Despite the fact that Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, fertilizer often remains an out-of-reach expense. And if farmers are able to buy phosphorus fertilizer, they typically apply only a fraction of what is needed, which diminishes, if not eliminates, the intended effects of the fertilizer. As a result, hectares of stunted maize plants — made worse by the current devastating drought — are a common sight, and 10.1 million households in the sub-Saharan country will rely on food aid this year. In search of nondegraded land, farmers expand operations onto steep mountain sites, which are not ideal for agriculture, either.
In 2011, the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia spent US$15,000 to foster an agricultural research partnership between Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and Jimma University, located 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, as a way to both educate students and improve food production in the face of climate change. The partnership quickly seized on the phosphorus dilemma and the potential of the abundant, untapped source of the nutrient going to waste outside slaughterhouses or in garbage heaps across the cattle-rich country.
“There were piles of bones that nobody was using at the time,” says Cornell University soil scientist Dawit Solomon, a native of Ethiopia. Solomon and colleagues decided to turn the mountains of slaughtered cattle, sheep and goat carcasses into a local fertilizer source. In 2013 the researcher calculated that, if recycled, the 192,000 to 330,000 metric tons (212,000 to 364,000 tons) of bone waste each year from livestock could yield 28 to 58 percent of annual phosphorus supplies to the country — saving US$50 million to US$104 million annually were the same amount of fertilizer imported. They proposed setting up a system to collect bones and burn them at high temperatures, a process known as pyrolysis. Pyrolysis eliminates potentially harmful microbes and makes the phosphorus in the resulting bone powder more available to plants when added to the soil. (The team is working separately on trials to address nitrogen and potassium shortages in the soil, but the focus of the bone char research is to provide phosphorus.)
It wasn’t clear how, using Ethiopia’s existing technology, to fashion bone into the familiar, easy to spread, slow-release fertilizer pellets farmers would want. Cornell agricultural economist Garrick Blalock and students from Cornell and Jimma found themselves in uncharted territory — spraying sugar water onto powdered bone, cornstarch and molasses as a motorized spinning disk churned the mixture into sturdy peanut-sized pellets. They finally hit on a winning strategy and are now supporting development of low-cost machinery to produce the fertilizer anywhere in the country.
Photo by Bourcard Nesin and Milkiyas Ahmed

A farmer holds bags of Abyssinia Phosphorus, which researchers hope to market through a public-private partnership. Photo by Bourcard Nesin and Milkiyas Ahmed
Having raised US$200,000 in funding, the team produced the first bags of Abyssinia Phosphorus last fall. Preliminary trials demonstrated that fertilizers incorporating bone char to supply phosphorus needs more than doubled yields compared to unfertilized soils. And the bone-char option was up to 30 percent cheaper than commercial fertilizer. The research also indicates that the handful of farmers who have so far applied samples of the product are interested in using a bio-fertilizer. Furthermore, there appears to be no cultural aversion to it — something that wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the start of the project.
Phosphorus is the most crucial nutrient in shortest supply worldwide. Prices soared 800 percent in 2008, prompting fears of an imminent global phosphorus shortage. Only six countries control 90 percent of the global phosphate rock supply — with Morocco dwarfing all others with 50 million tons (45 million metric tons) of the world’s 69-million-ton total, and China coming in a distant second with 3.7 million tons (3.4 million metric tons). Conventional fertilizer costs in Africa are typically twice the international price, and transport costs are roughly seven times higher than in the U.S. Some scholars have predictedthat instability in northern Africa and the Middle East could lead to disruption in global distribution of phosphorus and threaten food security around the world.
The team of researchers faces one last hurdle: ensuring a steady supply of bones to be converted into fertilizer. “We know, in principle, there are enough animals slaughtered that if we are able to collect all, it would be a significant contribution to fertilizer availability,” says Johannes Lehmann, a soil fertility specialist at Cornell. “But where all these bones are located, if they can be collected efficiently and at what price are all equally up in the air.” For example, once the bone collectors scavenge the existing supply in city dumps, waterways, streets, butcher shops and restaurants, it will be important to find a cost-effective way to maintain fresh bone supply.
But early bone collection efforts, which started in January 2016, have proven so robust — 400 kilograms (900 pounds) per day — the team recently had to suspend collection until they can build additional storage. University researchers initially paid 2 Ethiopian birr per kilo (roughly 4.5 cents per pound) for the bone. They’ve since lowered the price to 1.25 birr per kilo (2.8 cents per pound). Still, the daily incomes of the bone-collecting men and women more than doubled.
“It’s beyond our expectation,” says Solomon. “We’re working to speed up the conversion of bones into fertilizer so we can quickly take care of stocks and make space for more.” The ultimate goal is to create a public-private partnership able to get bags of fertilizer on the market.
For the second most populous country in sub-Saharan Africa, bone char fertilizer is just one piece of a larger effort underway to help avert starvation as the population could triple to 300 million by 2050. Blalock calls it a win-win-win project. “It creates jobs for the landless poor, recycles a resource otherwise being wasted and improves the availability of fertilizer,” he says.
Learned Dees, the cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, calls the product “a potential breakthrough” for the country, and, potentially, for the continent, especially for other countries facing similar challenges.
“We need to think more creatively about how to put the waste streams we [humans] generate to good use,” says Lehmann. “Nothing should be off limit

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Is Ethiopia Facing Another Massive Drought? | Care2 Causes

Why Is Ethiopia Facing Another Massive Drought?

It sounds so familiar—drought in Ethiopia puts millions of people at risk of starvation. How could this be when in recent years Ethiopia was lauded as a country on the rise–one of the bright spots in Sub Saharan Africa? After all, Ethiopia has experienced economic growth of 10 percent in recent years. How can millions be at risk of starvation again and what can be done?
Those who are old enough to remember the Live Aid concert in 1985, which raised millions of dollars to provide food to starving Ethiopians, might be thinking we had solved the problem of famine, particularly in Ethiopia.
But this drought is different–experts say it is the worst Ethiopian drought since the 1960s. Its severity stems from this year’s El Niño, which is shifting rain patterns, causing massive drought in some areas and unusually heavy rains elsewhere.

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Despite Ethiopia’s  strong economic growth, 80 percent of its population subsists on rain-fed agriculture. French media report that crop production in regions such as Afar and Tigray has dropped by 50 to 90 percent in some parts and failed completely in others. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of livestock have already been lost.
In the 1980s, one million Ethiopians died of starvation from a drought that was exacerbated by political upheaval in the county’s northern region. Today, circumstances are different, but the outcome may not be. At the end of 2015, 8.2 million Ethiopians were in need of food assistance. Aid agencies predict that the number could almost double to 15 million in 2016.
Ethiopia’s current government amassed food stocks and created early warning systems to deal with drought. But the magnitude of this drought was unforeseen. Experts estimate that Ethiopia will need up to $1.4 billion to cope. Although the Ethiopian government has committed almost $200 million and the international community another $170 million, much more is needed.
With world attention focused on Syria, the Middle East and the Zika virus in the Americas, the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia has been largely overlooked.
The Ethiopian government as well as international aid organizations and local nonprofits on the ground in Ethiopia are scrambling to save lives. One organization, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation, an Aid for Africa member, is supporting a feeding program for children in need.
A Glimmer of Hope is targeting the 400,000 children who are malnourished as the result of the drought. Along with their Ethiopian partner organizations, they are funding emergency food efforts to provide life-sustaining grain through schools. The first $250,000 has already been spent. It is now working to double these efforts. Details about how you can help can be found here.
Finally, word is beginning to spread about the crisis in Ethiopia and what is needed. The mechanisms are in place to deal with it. Now all that is needed is the financial commitment.
Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africa’s grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation and wildlife protection in Africa.

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