El Nino’s Effects on Food Security in the Horn of Africa

Original content provided by Henock Yilma

 Courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Courtesy of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The Players

El Nino- This weather cycle, which increases global temperatures and interferes with normal patterns is the strongest on record threatening to increase hunger and disease for millions of people in the year of 2016.

Ethiopian government- The current ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has achieved significant macroeconomic growth helping to remove past negative stigmatism given from the famines of the past. In an effort to maintain this image, the government aimed at tackling food insecurity on its own, but have now asked for help from the international community.

Donors- After a somewhat delayed response, the international community has now stepped in. According to the United Nations, 400,000 Ethiopian children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and more than 10 million people need food aid. The international NGO Save the Children has even stated the drought is a bigger threat to children’s lives than the war in Syria. The USAID Feed the Future Program has an established mission in Ethiopia set to three categories of development. 

 
 Courtesy of the United Nations Environmental Programme

Courtesy of the United Nations Environmental Programme

 

The Background

The former Ethiopian socialist regime (DERG) under Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam identified many central types of development strategies in which the agriculture sector was seen as a crucial component of Ethiopian growth. Hailemariam’s regime focused on the improvement of food security believing agricultural productivity to be the key component. However, these objectives were vague and theoretical ideas written on paper never being practically implemented. Nearly a decade after the humiliating famines under previous Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign, Ethiopia’s dark history of food insecurity reappeared in horrible form. From 1984-1985, drought in the Northern regions contributed to famine that killed over a million Ethiopians. The dire situation was ascribed to drought, but an analysis of DERG policies and responses to the crisis proved to possibly have created and exacerbate the famine.   

 
 Courtesy of Progressio

Courtesy of Progressio

 

The Story 

      Enter 2016 and the northern regions of Tigray and Afar are facing drought worse than that of 1984. Since then, much has changed in the Ethiopian socio-political context. The northern province of Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia. That same year, the socialist regime of Mengistu Hailemariam was replaced with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The new regime has played a significant role in helping to transform the economic and agricultural narrative. In 2010, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi helped implement the Growth and Tranformation Plan (GTP), an amibitious five-year plan dedicated to a practical plan to reduce poverty. The GTP is concretely outlined in a poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP) prepared by authorities of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in additional consultation with the World Bank and IMF. In their PRSP, they emphasize their focus on agriculture as a major source of economic growth. 

“The Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization Strategy emphasizes that small holder farmers and pastoralists need to use efficiently available modern agricultural technologies that increase productivity and production. In addition, the private sector will be encouraged to increase its share of investment in agriculture.”

The government has set aside $192m aside to deal with current emergency, but its sufficiency is being tested through the effects of El Nino. With Ethiopia’s having one of the fastest growing economies in the world, this threat from nature leaves many fearful that past demons will reemerge.