Observers can hardly come to terms with glaring contradictions in Ethiopia’s policies that allow it to export food while its people go hungry. The country has suffered numerous harsh droughts and famines in recent decades and reportedly needs to increase its agricultural output by 70 percent in order to feed its population, yet it is busy selling off its prime arable land to foreign countries.
To escape their own climate change challenges, rich countries like Saudi Arabia faced with water shortages, have acquired swathes of choice agricultural land in Ethiopia to grow crops which at harvest time are flown back to their respective countries.
Melaku Tadesse, National Coordinator of the Climate Change Unit at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, said the policy is not a land grab but preferred to use the term land commercialisation. He said there is enough arable land to go round. However, Prof. Karanja Njoroge of Green Belt Movement denounced the system, saying Africans have no business growing food for others when Africa imports food to feed itself.
Tadesse says Ethiopia is on the path to building a climate-resilient green economy. With rain not coming on time anymore, partnerships have included assistance to small-scale farmers and pastoralists in adopting a variety of mitigation mechanisms. In a growing number of communities, farmers are shifting to more drought tolerant crops and varieties, improved forest management practices, diversified energy sources, and alternative means of income from off-farm activities. Similarly, pastoralists have also divided pasture into wet and dry season grazing areas to better manage risk, while others have changed the composition of their herds from cattle to camels and goats, which can better tolerate dry, hot weather.
Almost 30 years after the popular Live Aid Concert was staged to save famine victims in Ethiopia, the country is leaning on emerging economies to avert future environmental catastrophes, especially those posed by climate change.
Red flags have been flying for many years about the increasing poverty and vulnerability in Ethiopia caused by variability in climate with small-scale farmers and pastoralists bearing the brunt of water scarcity and food insecurity. But preferring to see its cup as half-full, Ethiopia has said it is winning the battle with the help of emerging countries in combating climate risks especially in forestry-agriculture through South-South cooperation.
South-South cooperation is a term employed by policymakers and academics to describe the exchange of resources, technology and knowledge between developing countries. It is credited some significant successes that have been achieved in reducing dependence on aid programs of developed countries and even more significantly, in creating a shift in the international balance of power.