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Is thwarting El Nino’s negative effects beyond Ethiopian capacity?

By Mulugeta Tesfay
Ethiopian News, Tigrai Online, November 12, 2015

Thwarting El Nino’s negative effects Inflicting on some of our poor farmers is not beyond Ethiopian capacity

El Nino is ocean warming, with an irregular occurrence affecting the Equatorial Pacific region that disrupts global weather patterns. Scientists believe that greenhouse gases and subsequent global warming are intensifying its effects. It is a recurrent weather phenomenon that takes place every two to seven years and its occurrence may last up to eighteen months.


Currently, many countries around the world are affected by El Nino. It is a global phenomenon. To mention some: Us, Australia, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Africa, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria including our country Ethiopia and many more are hit by drought and excessive rain. Countries that are hit by drought conditions are particularly adversely affected. Those countries with meager economic status are more worried about how long their communities might have to cope with El Nino effects.

The worst case scenario of El Nino was the 1997/8. The current El Nino is predicted to excel the 1997/8, intensifying further and becoming the most intense event ever seen.  Indeed, the shocks are felt everywhere. Communities are feeling food shortages as a result of crop destruction. Livestock are dying because of water scarcity and lack of graze able land.  And likewise, in some parts of Ethiopia farmers are bracing for an El Nino related drought. If it is not checked in time, the consequence will be dyer and out of proportion. In fact, the Federal Government in concert with the Federal States is doing a remarkable job in tackling the current drought. The question is should this crisis be left only to the Government? Are there not strong Ethiopian actors who have the means and the ability?  The answer is definitely yes, there are.

In the last forty years Ethiopia has been hit by El Nino periodically. The scale and magnitude vary through time with periodical recurrence. The EPRDF lead Government has been able to contain the last El Nino drought occurrence without heavy losses of human lives reaching timely to the affected areas. The Ethiopian National Early Warning System is an efficient and credible system praised by International donors and governments.

Let me come back to the question I raised and why I answered “Yes” confidently. Forty years then and now Ethiopia is in different perspectives. Ethiopia has changed forever. The Ethiopian economy has grown enormously. The enormity of the economy is manifested by its ability to create many Ethiopian millionaires if not billionaires as a result of the growth.  Those business entrepreneurs are the back bones of the country and the people, equally good partners of the government as well. Areas that are source of their wealth among others are: private banks and insurance companies, transport, construction, education sectors, hotel establishments, agriculture and horticulture industries, mining, textile and tannery industries etc.

As mentioned above, the drought situation in Ethiopia should not be left to the government alone.  Considerate Ethiopian individuals and stake holders should be involved in mitigating the situation. It is a matter of coordination, I suppose. For example, the government can take the lead by one of its branch office, Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Office, in establishing a National Ad hoc Committee, which comprise prominent public figures from within the ruling party, opposition parties, civic societies, religious groups and renowned individuals. The country has a good track record in forming such an ad hoc committee. One example to sight is the Millennium National Committee formed for the anniversary a decade ago. The purpose of this committee is to subscribe pledges from within Ethiopia and Ethiopian Diaspora in the name of the drought stricken areas.

The current drought situation in Ethiopia should be addressed in timely fashion, in an orderly manner and in a concerted effort. There is an Ethiopian proverb which fits to the point in discussion and it goes “50 lemons are a load to an individual but a fragrant odor to fifty individuals.”  If we are to save the lives of the millions who are at the brink of drought disaster, we must pull our efforts, wealth, energy, and time together to defeat the evil enemy El Nino, the monster.

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