Blessed And Cursed




by Joakim Larsen

December 2015



Ethiopia is at the same time a blessed and a cursed country. Blessed by beautiful, fertile lands and loving-kind people. Cursed because of it's inescapable dependency on a rainfall, that is only too unreliable and often fails to materialize.


Right now the country is subject to a severe drought. The worst in 30 years, it is said. According to the Ethiopian government some 8 million people are in immediate danger of a humanitarian catastrophe. And more will be affected when local food reserves run out in early 2016. The UN estimates that the number of children in danger of malnutrition and hunger will be 11 million.


In the Northern, Eastern and South-Eastern regions Spring and Summer rains have failed. Meanwhile the West and the South-West areas of the country are experiencing heavy off-seasonal rains, also endangering the harvest.


In some villages the most exposed children are dying from hunger and mal-nutrition. Water levels are alarmingly low, and cattle succumb. Especially the harvest of the water requiring crops like maize, millet, and wheat are failing. Furthermore animal prices are dropping; around Alamata the price of sheep have gone from ETB 1.500 (approx. $75) to around 600 ($35), further worsening the conditions of the farmers.


In recent years Ethiopia has successfully been implementing their GTP1 (Growth and Transformation Plan 1). This Plan that is enabling farmers to secure a higher yield from their crops, is at the same time seeking to make the country more drought resilient. The Plans also aims at decentralizing the government, allowing regional governments to be more agile and responsive.


Although the GTP1 has proved successful and Ethiopia is currently experiencing an economic boost, some regions still remain especially vulnerable when the rains are failing.


The Ethiopian government has called upon the international community for help. But aid is needed fast, as food supplies are running out…




A strong and well-nourished tri-colour bull outside Mekelle. But further North and East, the cattle succumb to the drought...







This is the border land between the Tigray Region in the highlands and the hot and dry Afar Region in the lowlands to the East. The land is alarmingly dry and it is turning into desert.



Presently the prospects here are not looking good at all. The harvest has failed. And soon there is a real danger, that inhabitants will be lacking both food and water.



The land is strikingly beautiful. But behind the pretty facade a humanitarian catastrophe is quickly emerging. One single water post provides water for all the people and all the animals in the entire village, water for both drinking and for other house hold needs. And the water is running only for an hour a day, between 4 and 5 pm... No wonder that the people have a serious and concerned expression in their dark and sunburned faces.



Life can be tough in this country. The girls are walking far to collect fire wood in the burning hot midday sun. It is not for the faint-hearted...



And in the midst of the harshness, beauty lives...



The facial expression of the farmer of this compound quickly changed and he looked down, when I asked him how the harvest had been. He was clearly concerned over the lack of rain and this years' small harvest...



This farmer was happy. With the failing Spring rains, he wisely chose to plant tiff instead of maize, millet, and wheat. Tiff is a local crop, much less water demanding. His harvest has been good. Out of a single load he will get 25 kg tiff.


Sharing is happiness...