This report highlights lessons from the 2015–16 drought in Ethiopia, including how and why different communities were impacted, effective approaches to resilience-building and challenges faced.
• The timing and spatial distribution of rainfall, beyond total deficits, impacted livelihood activities such as agriculture and pastoralism during the 2015–16 drought in Ethiopia.
• Early response costs less and results in better outcomes. Mechanisms that trigger early funding based on pre-agreed indicators are critical to overcome some of the political, institutional and media effects that have kept the humanitarian system in a state of crisis response.
• Flexible funding and adaptive programming is needed for humanitarian and development organisations implementing projects. This will pivot funds, depending on need, and help stimulate more timely action.
• There is increasing evidence that financial services such as index-based insurance are an important part of building resilience. These services need to be accessible to the most vulnerable people.
A drought crisis in Ethiopia, triggered by erratic and severely depressed rainfall in early 2015, has affected 9.7 million Ethiopians. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and international humanitarian community have mobilised to meet emergency needs, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), food and nutrition. This has taken place through a $1.62 billion appeal, which has only been partially met to date (2016 Ethiopia HRD). In response to the current drought, the GoE has allocated more than $700 million of its own resources mainly to address needs not included in the appeal, including by reprogramming infrastructure programmes (UNOCHA).
The BRACED Knowledge Manager’s (KM) Reality of Resilience initiative has been monitoring rainfall deficits in Ethiopia since April 2015 when the first rainy season failed. The delay of the subsequent June to September rains prompted the BRACED KM to examine the extreme event and contact thematic experts and organisations implementing resilience interventions aimed towards understanding the effects of the drought and the impact of interventions.
This report is intended to provide snapshots of the Ethiopia drought from the ground through a series of case studies. It begins with an overview of the climatic variables that contributed to the drought. This is followed by case studies from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), humanitarian organisations and thematic experts, centering on what they have learned about building resilience to climate shocks and stresses through their work during the 2015–16 drought. Five case studies were written independently, using methodologies such as surveys, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and Value for Money (VfM) analysis to inform conclusions.
The case studies are brought together in this report to illustrate different points of view and lessons across Ethiopia during the drought, including from pastoralist and farming communities and from the household level up to the humanitarian system.
Incorporated are two case studies highlighting how households were impacted during the drought, including reasons for increased debt and lessons from the adaptation decisions some farmers are now taking. This is followed by two case studies highlighting the benefits and lessons learned from initiatives that integrated climate and weather information to prompt early action for pastoralists and also absorb drought impacts on farmers through index-based insurance.
Finally, we emphasise the role of the humanitarian system through a case study that illustrates the cost savings from an appropriately timed response to the drought crisis. Through these case studies, this report provides lessons for climate and development practitioners on how and why different households were impacted by the drought, initiatives that worked to reduce this and recommendations for strengthening resilience ahead of future extreme events. While this report uses the drought in Ethiopia to draw lessons, many of the recommendations are applicable to other areas facing climate extremes and disasters.
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