Pastoralism is a livelihood system and a way of life for more than 10 million citizens accounting to 12-15% of the total population in Ethiopia. The pastoral groups reside in six National Regional States of Ethiopia (Oromia, Somali, Afar, SNNP, Gambella, and Benishangul Gumuz). They inhabit the entire lowlands of the country, which constitutes about 61 % of the country’s total landmass. These areas are prone to rainfall variability, extreme drought and flash floods. The people in the pastoral lowlands are mainly pastoralists and agro-pastoralists who have an immediate daily dependence on climate sensitive livelihoods and natural resources (pasture and water).
Arid and semi-arid grazing systems in East Africa are seen as highly vulnerable to a combination of climate change and socio-economic factors. More generally, it is assumed that pastoral areas not only face an increased risk of drought events, due to a growing variability of rainfall but also higher temperatures. In addition, many recent studies pointed out an increased frequency of meteorological drought episodes, unseasoned flash floods and outbreaks of diseases in the pastoral regions of Ethiopia.
In the past frequent and prolonged droughts have claimed the livelihoods of people, destroyed crops, and contributed to the death of many animals. Ethiopia’s response to climate change today will bear directly on the food security and livelihood prospects of pastoralists. So far, efforts in Ethiopia to respond to the problem of growing climate change-induced hazards in the pastoral areas have been promising and expanding through time. Despite this, the scale and intensity of climate change-induced hazards (particularly drought, unseasoned floods, disease outbreaks, expansion of invasive bush species) is growing fast and the magnitude of damages from such climatic and natural hazards continues to rise. This all demonstrates the urgency of addressing the climate problem through initiating effective and realistic adaptation plans (which primarily focus on utilizing and scaling up of locally available adaptation practices); and building institutional capacity in the hazard prone pastoral areas of the country.
The practical measure expected is to cope with the threat of climate change through the development of locally responsive and appropriate adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation to climatic variability may not be new for the pastoralists as there has always been variability in the weather patterns. The challenge, however, is to respond to both rapid and strong change in the current climate system. A diverse portfolio of location specific and sustainable adaptation as well as locally appropriate options is needed to be identified, documented and utilized. In addition, it is important to identify those, which at the same time are environmentally friendly and available to the poor, as the poverty is the key factor of vulnerability.
Despite the wide publicity given to climate change, there is still very limited effort made in systematically documenting the locally available adaptation options ready to use in pastoral areas. In addition, the policy response is not as strong as it should be because of a lack of sufficient data about the existing local adaptations practices. In order to support and strengthen the existing policy, it is necessary to generate adequate information and evidence for added value and practice of the prevailing local adaptation measures by conducting systematic studies, which can feed the policy environment. Moreover, intervention efforts of adaptation to climate change by both GO and NGO actors are not supported by well-organized and systematically documented facts. Hence, this project aims to bridge this gap by examining the pastoralists’ vulnerability to climate change, assessing local and institutional adaptation strategies and technologies, and documenting good practices and existing institutional arrangements for adapting to climate change.
The existing information and materials on climate change adaptation in pastoral areas are scattered, too general and rather exploring what pastoralists have and not have in terms of adapting and mitigating climate change effects. Therefore, the research will result in a comprehensive documentation of locally available technologies, strategies and good practices that can be exchanged across the pastoral regions. Practices, technologies available and institutional arrangements will be identified and analyzed and recommended to be implemented. Most of these practices are known but not studied to the level that they can be applied or scaled up in combination in pastoral areas. This various knowledge can be exploited and synergetic effects could be utilized. The information can be provided to the government and to pastoralists on the grass roots level, so that they could better adapt to the effects of climate change and thereby enhancing their resilience capacity.
The documentation will help to exchange experience among different groups of pastoralists as the local adaptations are very diverse among them; and to reinforce national and local level adaptation plans and programs.