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Ethiopia: “The weather has changed completely”

07 Dec 2009

Since stories of the current drought in Ethiopia and its impact have started filtering through in the media, comparisons have been made with the events that inspired Live Aid almost 25 years ago.

This time, however, the focus and apparent cause of increasing and longer droughts is climate change. This is particularly noticeable in the run up to the climate change conference in Copenhagen, as the development world is awash with climate change policy, campaigns and petitions.

At HelpAge we are concerned with three issues:

  • older people should not be excluded from the climate change debate

  • older people are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change

  • older people have a unique role to play in imparting their knowledge and experience on how to deal with climate change.

HelpAge is working in several sites around Ethiopia with a local partner, Action for Development, on water and sanitation implementation projects. Speaking to older people through this work, we have found that they are extremely aware of the changing climate and are finding that it brings with it many hardships and problems.

"The rain has decreased year on year"

Alke, 55, lives in a mud house with his five children and his wife. Two of his children look after the animals, two stay at home and one goes to school. When asked about the drought and reasons for the lack of pasture said; "Over the last ten years the rain has decreased year on year."

He continued: "It's hard to give advice to our children when life is so difficult. My father told me that when a drought strikes we have to move to better pasture, there is nothing else we can do."

"The weather has changed completely"

Another man, we spoke to, Abdulla, who is 99 and works as a mechanic, said "The weather has changed completely. There used to be a lot more rain previously but now it is dry. The weather started changing about 30 years ago."

Wako, 96, spoke to us about his cattle that died in a previous drought. He went on to say, "The droughts have been getting worse over the last 20 years. When it doesn't rain, our animals die and we cannot grow crops. The climate is unpredictable, and there is less food. We didn't need support before but now we do."

"We can't grow anything"

Teso is 64. She cares for her five children, grandchild and another infant whose parents had died.

She told us about her daily routine: "Every day I fetch water and go to the bush to collect firewood. Sometimes I am able to sell some wood at the market. When the animals have gone to feed I collect bush roots that I can sell or use to make plates and to decorate pots. The most difficult chores are fetching water and collecting firewood."

When talking about the climate, she said: "There is less rain now, and we can't grow anything. Some years we were able to grow sorghum, maize and haricot beans, but not for many years."

Read more about HelpAge work in Ethiopia and on climate change.  

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Author profile

Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.