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Cordaid Humanitarian Aid

Blog: The Green Hunger

Finally, it is raining, in some places heavily. The expected rains of March and April came late, but this time they seem more widespread than normally. Ethiopia has several ecological zones, with different rainy seasons. Now it looks like one combined season.

This blog is written by Ton Haverkort, Cordaid’s Country Director in Ethiopia. He writes about his work and life in Addis Ababa.

Climate change and El Niño are causing extreme weather events and seem to upset the normal patterns the farmers and herders are used to. As a result, we see longer dry seasons, more frequently developing into a drought. The past year or so has seen an extraordinary drought as rains failed over several consecutive seasons.

Now that it rains, we need to reconsider our response strategy.

The Ethiopian Government and humanitarian and development partners are trying what they can to provide emergency relief in the form of water and food distribution while food supplements are given to children and weak adults who suffer from malnutrition.

Emergency supplies to 70.000 people

Cordaid, with its partner organization APDA, are providing emergency supplies to 70,000 people in the hard hit Afar Region in Northeast Ethiopia, with financial support from the Netherlands Government through the Dutch Relief Alliance (DRA).

This response comes to an end in May. But anticipating that continued support is required, the Alliance has decided to forward an additional proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Problems are not over. Far from it!

Now that it rains, we need to reconsider our response strategy. The water tanks that were constructed over the years and used to deliver water during the drought are now filled with rain water. Distributing water by truck (water trucking) is no longer required for the moment. Soon we will see the rangelands turning green. Hopefully, farmers will be able to plant seeds and grow some crops. But make no mistake, the current rains do not at all mean that problems are over. Far from it!

Food production has not started yet, even though the landscape is getting greener. This is what we call the green hunger.

It will take time for rangelands to recover sufficiently and for crops to mature. It will also take time for weakened animals and herds to recover, reproduce again and provide milk.

Meanwhile heavy rains cause damages and flooding, resulting in other problems. When weak animals are exposed to heavy rains for a while, they may even die as a result of hypothermia. Water may become contaminated and expose children and adults to water-borne diseases and diarrhoea. And food production has not started yet, even though the landscape is getting greener. This is what we call the green hunger.

What needs to be done?

The least we have to do now is to continue to provide food and treat malnutrition. In addition, we need to support longer-term recovery activities. Farmers and households need to be provided with seeds again, animals need to be strengthened with supplementary fodder and medication, weakened herds need to be restocked, eroded range- and farmlands need to recover and damaged infrastructures need to be repaired.

It will take time to fully recover. It will take time for communities and their government to be prepared sufficiently again for a next period of stress, which will come, sooner or later.

So let’s continue to do what needs to be done and invest in resilience. The last thing we should do is rest on our laurels now that the rains have come. There is a green hunger to be stilled.