Food Assistance in Ethiopia yesterday and today
By Fekadu W.
Tigrai Online, April 13, 2017
The Ministry of Agriculture on April 7, 2017 stated that it is striving to enhance agricultural productivity by two folds and enhance successful implementation of the 2nd Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-2). It said, while presenting a performance report to HPR members, currently, agricultural sector of the country is growing by eight percent and the Ministry has devised a strategy to properly support this effort.
The strategies formulated to enhance productivity in the budget year include fostering production, quality and diversity of export produce by model farmers, implementing market-led production system, and focusing on the timely supply of agricultural inputs and strengthening agricultural mechanization.
In a bid to further enhance food security, the nation is ready to start urban food security activities in this month. To this end, the nation has secured 450 million USD and the activity will start in seven towns selected to this purpose; Addis Ababa and Afar region are among the localities that are selected to start urban food security activities in mid-April.
Even though the activity had been belated due to various reasons, preparation has been finalized to start food security activities in the above mentioned localities. The activities selected to participate, beneficiaries include green development, urban sanitation and beautification, garbage collection and disposal and organized river side and basin development.
The first phase of urban food security activity would benefit over 190,000 individuals of whom 30,000 are old, seriously disabled and apparent infirm, orphans, street children and persons with mental problems. These individuals will obtain direct food assistance as they are incapable to participate in any kind of productivity.
As a committed nation to help citizens affected by persistent drought, nation is providing food, non-food items to human beings and fodder to animals living in drought-affected areas. Besides, nation has continued its effort to explore various alternatives that enable to cope with the effects of drought, including urban agriculture and widening the capacity of food security.
Seeing the exacerbated effect of recurrent of drought, the nation is strengthening its capability of coping with the effects of drought and provision of organized and timely assistance. Evidentialy, the current drought is being successfully fended off by the government due to its ability to earmark millions of birr to support drought-affected citizens, minimize the misery of animals and protect natural resources. Indubitably, the capacity of nation to offer assistance from its coffer has been growing with time.
As a result, the nation has won the commendation United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) for its commitment and capacity to prevent the ill-effects of drought; acclaimed efforts to resist drought and respond well to exigent need of millions of people. Ethiopia has been lauded for building robust disaster risk management system compared to the previous times. Surely, the nation is more robust and resilient now and it is better prepared to cope with the impacts of El Niño, compared to the drought times that occurred earlier.
Currently, East Africa has been hit by harsh drought and around 12.8 million people are facing severe food insecurity in the region. Hence, many governments are warily nagging reluctant donors to provide assistance to the region. Unilaterally, proactive Ethiopia has been doing its best to safeguard citizens by allocating huge amounts of money.
The effort of the government to support citizens at this time of drought (caused by nature) has been acclaimed by the international community, too. Indeed, unlike 1974 and 1984, no band aid was organized by Sir. Bob Geldof and other foreign singers and no song of ``we are the world`` was sung by famous singers. This time, the government has managed to ward off the danger imposed by drought, more of by its own.
Yesterday is not today. Ethiopia has been relatively transformed with time, bit by bit but surely. The relative peace and stability in the past two decades and the speedy and consecutive growth in the past 15 years has helped to register double-digit economic growth and boost national capacity to cope with drought. In turn, it enabled Ethiopia to establish a better disaster prevention mechanism, without sitting by and clamoring for excessive food aid to be supplied by the international community.
Despite the very fact that Ethiopia cannot currently curb the effect of drought once and for all by its own, it has travelled a long way since aforementioned famines. During those times, let alone establishing effective disaster risk management system and buying food using expenditure of the government, there were not enough road infrastructures to supply imported and donated food to various spots, where citizens were desperately waiting for food rationing.
The development of extensive road network has facilitated the timely distribution of assistance. Unlike the previous times( and demised regimes as well), the incumbent has constructed thousands of kilometers of asphalt, gravel and all weather roads that helps open up inaccessible areas and connect one corridor to the other. This in turn has enabled to transport commodities and relief assistances on time, supply relief aid in the vicinity of receivers and avert the misery and death of drought victims that may have been devastating otherwise.
Unlike two decades ago, the current Ethiopia has become the lead investor in its own survival. After strong economic growth, the government has been able to divert huge flows of domestic revenue into the drought response, about USD 800 million across 18 months (the country’s aid partners have contributed another $700 million). The result has been perhaps the largest drought-relief effort that the world has ever seen.
As a result of effective activities carried out to prevent the effects of drought, currently some organizations are instructing other African countries to glean valuable lessons from Ethiopia regarding building resilience against drought and coping up with its pressures. The government has for sure conducted exemplary activities and it has firmly continued doing its own assignment to its level best (but the international community has to contribute its own, until sometime Ethiopia becomes self-sufficient and independent of food assistance).
Currently, the nation has managed to cope with the effect of drought more of by its own, allocate additional budgets and protect citizens from the impacts of drought (though still wobbly to fully stand by its own). Perhaps, the capacity of the nation to allocate more budgets and insulate its citizens from the caustic effects of drought has made donors turn their faces to other countries that publicize more serious victimization. But it is too early to shun countries like Ethiopia and let them stand by their own. Ethiopia needs some more years to become self-sufficient and independent of donation.
Assistance being provided today is not the same as yesterday. Today Ethiopia has started investing on its own. Nation is working hard to minimize the impacts of drought and curb occurrence of further harm that may encounter human beings and animals in the areas known to have been affected with drought, including Borena, Somali region, Guji and South Omo zones. A breast of supply of relief, the government has set mechanism to control the transport, storage, supply and proper access of victims to the relief materials. To this end, it has established command post to monitor activities.
So far, it has allocated over two billion birr(from its own treasures) to prevent the effect of drought. This witnesses the government has attached prime significance to provision of assistance, sustainably rehabilitate citizens and decrease their chance of vulnerability, through sustainable development and safety-net programs designed to this purpose. Specially, the government is interested to undertake drought prevention activities in a manner that my not impinge on the implementation of the 2ndGrowth and Transformation Plan-II (GTP-II).
The government is prodding hard to achieve more encouraging results regarding food security. And insurmountable endeavor is being exerted non-stop, until reaching the level of food security and self-reliance on domestic productivity.
Ethiopia is in a very unique country today than it was earlier. Three decades ago Ethiopia was fragmented and unable to respond adequately. Today it has become a country that enjoyed two decades of stability and has registered a decade of strong economic growth; accumulates decades of successful experience in implementing a large-scale food security effort (the Productive Safety Net Program: PSNP).
Over all, the nation is recording dazzling development and it is rebranding its name for rapid and double-digit economic-growth due to implementation of pro-poor policies and strategies in the past ten years. Currently, parallel to taking palliative measures to alleviate the effects of drought, Ethiopia is undertaking development activities eyed at registering successful growth and providing lasting solutions to drought vulnerability.