“Why can’t they just eat their goats to survive?”

Posted by Jennifer Naidoo on Tuesday 7th February 2017

Some are still grappling with this question, and it’s not the first time we’ve heard it. So, we at Ethiopiaid thought we would address it head on in this week’s blog.

It’s true, a prolonged drought calls for desperate measures. One might argue that, instead of watching your goats die, you should use them for meat and provide nourishment for your family. While it is important to note that families do indeed use their livestock for meat when they are left without other options, holding this perspective alone ignores the gravity of what is at stake for those living in a crisis of drought. First, pastoralists (those who spend a lifetime raising animals, moving seasonally in search of green pastures and water) in Ethiopia rely on goats to provide their family with milk, butter and occasionally, meat. For centuries, their goat products have also been essential for trading goods like wheat or corn. In Afar, from August 2015 to July 2016 an estimated 560,000 animals died from the effects of drought and starvation. Families in the region who traditionally had herds of 100 goats and a few donkeys, saw their livestock dwindle down to just 10 animals or less. Without animals for food or to trade and barter with, families become entirely destitute and dependent on external aid.

Climate change, combined with a recent super El Nino effect, spurred a devastating drought in Afar, north-eastern Ethiopia. The country faced its worst crisis in 30 years, with 10.2 million people affected.[1] Thankfully, in August 2016 the Belg rains finally came. With sudden and heavy rainfall, however, waterborne diseases began to affect communities who live in close quarters with their animals. Afar pastoralists lack the resources required to deal with these sudden and serious changes in the environment. Acute Watery diarrhea (AWD) set in, and by the month of November it reached an epidemic scale. To address these ongoing challenges, humanitarian organizations work together with the Ethiopian government, to deliver emergency aid to affected communities.

During the drought, Ethiopiaid’s response was to support a relief effort by our partner the Afar Pastoralist Development Association, by providing $30,000, raised in just a few months from our committed donors. APDA sent trucks carrying 14,000 litres of water over distances of up to 180kms to the most remote and affected districts in Afar. Water supplies reached 200,000 people in the hardest hit areas. In places where malnutrition had reached 24% of households, APDA distributed 50kg bags of lentils and two goats to families in critical need. Ethiopiaid later sent an additional $33,000 to address the AWD epidemic.

What can we in Canada do to make a difference? The solutions are plentiful however in the interest of time, here are a couple. The first and most important action is to give. By donating you enable organizations like ours to respond swiftly to an emergency, which not only saves lives, but also gives families a chance at reclaiming their livelihoods (such as their herds). It also helps prevent drought related migration, where pastoralists are forced to abandon their lifestyle in search of alternative opportunities. An ambitious response like this requires money and commitment. Immediate and effective action sooner, reduces the need for aid later.

The other immediate action we can implement is to reduce our water consumption and energy use. In Canada, our water consumption is 243L/household per day, while in Ethiopia under a condition of drought families (often young girls) may walk 1-12 days in search of a water source or a distribution centre to obtain roughly 30 litres of water per day.[2][3] This is a stark contrast, and as climate change continues, communities both in Canada and internationally are at risk.

Drought remains a challenge in some regions of Ethiopia. Ethiopiaid raised a total of $67,000 last year, with an impact of reaching 15,000 people.

If it becomes necessary to be involved in another response effort, we will call on you, our supporters, for help. 

Thank you for reading. Please share this, sign up for our newsletter, donate and remain engaged.

[1] OCHA. (n.d.). Ethiopia: Drought - 2015-2017. Retrieved from http://reliefweb.int/disaster/dr-2015-000109-eth

[2] Statistics Canada. (2016). Section 3: The demand for water in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-201-x/2010000/part-partie3-eng.htm

[3] Oxfam International. (n.d.). El Niño strikes Ethiopia: "Without water we are no more.". Retrieved from https://www.oxfam.org/en/ethiopia-drought-ethiopia/el-nino-strikes-ethiopia-without-water-we-are-no-more

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