Ethiopia: Struggling Drought Impacts Through Irrigation Projects

by Zelalem

Ethiopia has been implementing an extensive development of water resources, which includes constructing several dams and reservoirs. Reservoirs are also vital in the infrastructure and prerequisite in arid areas to secure adequate water services to a large range of sectors. They are used for the purpose of securing irrigation demand, drinking water supply, flood control and other services.

The national storage capacity has increased rapidly and this would potentially make the country more prepared and less vulnerable against drought, but this depends on where the reservoirs are located, how they are operated and for what they are used for.

Recognizing the overwhelming effects of drought on the lives and livelihoods of the population as well as on the national economy the government has been struggling to find a path way to end drought impacts. It is important to focus on water harvesting and watershed or pond activities to mitigate the effects of drought to sustain development.

Prevention and mitigation of disaster especially drought which affect both human and animals is given much attention and works were in progress to implement drought risk management system.

The government is taking various measures to mitigate the challenges of climate change in different regions mainly drought affected areas. It supplies drought affected citizens with food and non-food supports , infrastructure like watersheds, ponds and irrigation dams for agricultural development.

Somali regional state is providing support to grow their food and animal feed creating valuable food as well as cash income for pastoralists.

Drought is weather related natural hazard that can affect a particular region or entire country. It affects the lives of people, livestock and economic development of a given region or country. In Ethiopia it is becoming a recurrent phenomenon which usually is caused due to lack of precipitation for an extended period.

As majority of the food production in Ethiopia is dependent on rain-fed agriculture the impact is much worse. It often turns into famine and food crisis.

Ethiopian Somali region has accomplished an exemplary work of drought mitigation. More than 20 ponds were constructed by the state government in various zones and woredas to mitigate the impacts of drought and to create opportunity for pastoral communities to lead sedentary and secured life.

The pastoralists community suffer high level of household food insecurity , scarcity of cattle feed as well as loss of income.

“I raise three children. I am engaged in irrigation farming after the government organized us under an association of thirty youth . Previously we had no asset. We started developing irrigation with 15,000 birr initial capital. Now our capital has grown up to two million birr. Now, we are serving ourselves and family members using irrigation development producing various crops and animal feed.” said Mohammed Abdu, member of the association.

Korahi Zone Administrator Ferhan Yesuf says that in the past the community moved from place to place with their livestock to get water and feed for their animals and their life was full of hardship, insecure and boring.

It is known that 85% of the regions dwellers were pastoralist. The state government is working to change pastorals into semi pastoral farmers giving various supports to incorporate and settle them in one place to minimize hardships due to climate change, he stated.

Previously drought was affecting every year; many livestock’s are dead and the life of the community was not interesting, to change this situation government has taken various measures to change the life of the pastorals. It has built watersheds or ponds on selected agricultural practice favorable areas to settle pastorals to live permanent life and to mitigate drought problems.

He indicated that around 3,000 households are beneficiary from this project.

Awareness raising trainings were given for pastoral community to live in permanent place having water ponds and animal feed. Interested pastorals voluntarily came to live in these areas and sharing the lessons for other pastoralists the advantages of living in permanent place having various government supports until they incorporate themselves.

The life of the pastorals was miserable, there was no access of education, health and other social facilities.

He indicated that currently their life is changing as the government supplied the with various materials like seeds, modern agricultural tools like water pumps, modern ploughs and the like to encourage sedentary farming utilizing watersheds and ponds in their surroundings.

Disaster management efforts are underway to reduce the effect of drought using different mechanisms to mitigate and create guaranteed society.

The States I irrigation and Basin Development Bureau Head Sultan Mohammad said that the region has built four modern irrigation dams with more than 700 million birr last year.

According to him each dam contains main canals, primary canals, secondary canals and five water reservoirs. And each storage contains more than 22,500 Cubic Meters of water.

He stated that more than 5,000 hectares of land is developed under each project benefiting more than 9,500 households. Currently only 7,600 hectares of the land is being irrigated.

These projects are designed to serve pastoralists community and to shift miserable life of the community having permanent settlement and region as wide range of irrigation land.

The region has been working to change pastoralist community to semi-pastoral farmers supporting various types assist and changing the attitude of the pastoralists was very difficult.

However, after series of awareness creation trainings the attitude of the pastoralists is changing. And now they are coming voluntarily to live and engage in irrigation and sedentary farming, he stressed. Schools, health centers and farmers training centers are constructed by government which is new for them. The government provides irrigation land, seeds, generator, tractors, and assign agricultural professional to support them.

According to bureau head drought cannot affect the lives of the community and the livestock and they can mitigate simply due to the development of irrigation in various parts of the region if it occurs in the future.

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