Poverty poses a major obstacle for farmers in Ethiopia to adapt to climate change, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said. “The poor do not have the necessary technology and resources, in terms of money and so on, to be able to change and adapt,” Meles told a national climate change conference in Addis Ababa.
“The injustice of the whole issue of global warming and climate change lies in the fact that those who have contributed nothing to its genesis will suffer the most from its consequences because they have the least capacity to adapt to these changes,” he said last week.
“However unjust it might be we have to adapt or die. We can only succeed to adapt to climate change if we fight poverty effectively and generate the resources needed for the purpose,” he said. “Climate change is thus an additional reason why sustained and fast economic growth is a matter of life and death for our country.”
According to a recent study, more than a third of rural Ethiopian households in the Nile River Basin have not made any adjustments to their farming practices in the face of global warming.
The study was conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , the Center for Environmental Economics and Policy in Africa, the Ethiopian Development Research Institute, the Ethiopian Economics Association and the University of Hamburg in Germany.
“In the coming decades, climate change will have a major impact on the availability of water and food, particularly in rural areas of developing countries such as Ethiopia, where agricultural production is the major source of income and employment,” Claudia Ringler, IFPRI senior research fellow and project leader, said.
“African countries are particularly vulnerable because of their limited ability to adapt due to dependence on rain-fed agriculture, low levels of human and physical capital, poor infrastructure, and already high temperatures,” she added.
Afar, Somali, Oromiya and Tigray regions were more vulnerable compared with the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s State, which had greater access to technology and markets, larger irrigation potential and higher literacy rates.
“Increasing agricultural productivity by 25 percent would be much more effective in countering the negative consequences of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa – such as declines in food production – than doubling irrigated areas,” said Mark Rosegrant, director of IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division.
Ethiopian farmers identified shortages of land as the single biggest constraint to adapting to climate change. This was followed by lack of information and credit as well as lack of labour, inputs, water and poor soils.
“Nearly half of Ethiopia is mountainous,” Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, head of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, told the conference. “Ninety percent of us live on these mountains and since our presence changes the delicate components of the environment into vulnerability, our land has been degrading fast, and our lives with it.”
According to the government, more than six million Ethiopians require emergency food assistance because of drought and rising food prices.
In June 2008, the government and its humanitarian partners appealed for US$325.2 million to address food and non-food resource requirements.