Kahsay Beyen: “This is the worst drought I have seen in my life”

November 26th, 2008 | by addis portal |

Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
Kahsay Beyen lost all the crops he had planted in May

WUKRO (TIGRAY REGION), 25 November 2008 (IRIN) – Like many areas in the Horn of Africa, northern and northeastern Ethiopia are experiencing severe drought caused by the failure of the short (Belg) and long rains (Meher), resulting in low crop yields or even total crop failure in some areas.

Kahsay Beyen, 63, a farmer in Afenjiwo village, Ruba Feleg peasant association in Atsbi Womberta woreda in the eastern zone of Tigray, lost all the crops he had planted in May. He spoke to IRIN on 23 November:

“I had planted wheat, beans and linseed but, as you can see, I am not expecting any harvest because the drought has been severe.

“In 2007, I harvested only three quintals [300kg] of the crops instead of the usual four; this year I am not expecting even one.

“I have two cows and one ox which, in July, I had to send to relatives in another woreda where the drought is less severe because I could not feed them; but even then, my relatives now want me to go and collect them because they are also feeling the pinch. I am thinking of selling a cow and the ox.

“But even this won’t help much because, in the past, when you sold one ox, you were able to buy many sacks of cereals but nowadays, food prices are high. I may be able to sell my ox for anything between 600 and 800 Birr [US$60-80] but a sack of Teff [which is used to make “injera” – a staple food] is now going for 1,200 Birr [$120] so even the ox is not enough.

“I have 10 sheep – three males and seven females; they had seven lambs but all died because of the drought. Sooner or later I might have to sell them too because we have to survive somehow.

“This is the worst drought I have seen in my life; now with the high food prices and the low prices livestock fetch, I am at the mercy of the government and relief agencies. My family will have to survive on relief food; the government has done a lot to help us but the drought comes from God. With the government’s help we have done our best to conserve the environment but we cannot control the drought.

“For now, all my five children are in school but I don’t know what will happen to them in three months; I may not be able to feed them.

“Last year, we were able to provide three meals but this year we have had to do away with lunch because of the drought.

“Perhaps I will have to withdraw some of the children from school in the near future and send them to work in other areas so they can send the money home.

“It is difficult to cope with this drought, especially when you are no longer so young; the youth can migrate to other areas of the country but I cannot, I have to stay here and await my fate.”

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