Ethiopia, June 12, 2003 (ENS): Ethiopian farmers
have received emergency agricultural assistance to help
them prepare land for the next planting season after
months of devastating crop failure due to cycles of
drought and floods, the United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) said Tuesday.
Ethiopia is constantly battered by extremes of weather,
both droughts and floods. The country's recent border
conflict with neighboring Eritrea, a growing population,
fractured road infrastructure and poor land management
practices make difficult climatic conditions worse,
leaving the country at constant risk of slipping into
crisis each time the rains fail.
Some areas in the southern lowlands are experiencing
what is known as a "green famine," the FAO
says, where recent rains have created a lush landscape
which masks severe hunger.
One of FAO's largest emergency projects, with support
from the government of the Netherlands, is distributing
4,000 metric tons of cereal seeds, 24 million sweet
potato cuttings, as well as vegetable seeds and animal
drugs to treat livestock.
The project will benefit 134,000 families in the northern
region of Tigray, the central region of Oromiya and
the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples region
Financial support has also been provided by the governments
of Canada and the United States and the United Nations
Years of acute drought in several regions of the country,
especially the south, have withered crops and left farming
households destitute and unable to feed themselves,
the FAO said.
Pre-famine conditions are now reported in parts of
the East African country, and many children are malnourished.
Animals are dying due to lack of water and feed after
repeated failed harvests.
"Traditionally these people cope with drought
either by growing crops which can be harvested sooner
or by migrating," the FAO's Yon Fernandez de Larrinoa
"But the situation is now so grave, all means
of dealing with drought have been exhausted. The already
malnourished people are simply eating even less or relying
on food aid," he said.
An estimated 12.6 million Ethiopians are now in need
of food aid. FAO's emergency agricultural projects,
worth some US$4.3 million, aim to help farmers cope
with the crisis now and manage better in the future.
These projects include supplying seeds, feed, equipment,
animal health services, farming expertise and training
in water management to boost the agriculture sector,
which accounts for 45 percent of the Ethiopian economy,
and improve access to food.