ADDIS ABABA, 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 Development
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 explained.
"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
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.