Life is tough in Borana. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were over one million recipients of food aid between January and June 2012. Unicef received $6.5m from OCHA in order to supply this food. Borana is one of the administrative zones of the Oromia Region, in the southernmost part of Ethiopia. The region is a victim of climate change. Droughts have been increasing in frequency, and rainfall patterns have changed. Rains have been coming for shorter periods of time, but with more intensity. These changes have strained the ability of the local population to cope using traditional methods. A more resilient and diverse economy is a way to help the local population achieve long-term food security.
The changing rainfall patterns have led to increased land degradation and conflict over scarce resources. The Borana people are pastoralists, and cattle comprise their assets. Diversifying their livestock, and developing new methods of managing farmland and grazing land are vital for the region’s survival. Educating the local population about climate change is another important step. The Borana people have been adapting to the region’s shifting climatic patterns for centuries, but the pace of climate change is accelerating. This has amplified the effects of drought, and is forcing the region’s people to adapt at a quicker rate. New livelihood strategies must be adopted quickly.
Local people get water from a network of ancient wells called ‘tula’. Some of the wells are over 30m deep. The wells tap into the region’s groundwater, and they have traditionally continued to supply water during dry seasons and droughts. They are known as ‘singing wells’ because of the singing human chains which bring the water to the surface. But droughts over the past few years have caused some of the wells to run dry for the first time. Helping villages re-dig and reinforce traditional ‘tula’ wells is a short-term strategy, but in the long-term, a more diverse economy is seen as the key to the region’s food-security.
The United Nations has identified resilience-building projects as the key to establishing long-term food security in the region. Resilience projects are necessary in order to lessen the vulnerability of the region’s population to natural disasters and the chronic food shortages which accompany them. Resilience projects ensure that people and livestock maintain access to water during droughts. One strategy adopted by the Cafod/Sciaf/Trocaire Joint Ethiopia Office is helping villages clear silt from their water sources. But a longer-term strategy for building resilience is diversifying the local economy. By helping the pastoralist communities diversify their livelihoods and access markets and credit, family incomes will increase.
Diversifying livelihoods in the Borana region requires developing the economy’s value-chain. At the moment, cattle are sold at local markets to businesspeople who take them away for fattening. After the cattle are fattened in another part of Ethiopia, they are sold for consumption on either domestic or international markets. Teaching Borana herdsmen about the advantages of fattening their cattle locally and then selling them directly to exporters will help the local people to increase their incomes. The same process applies to the other two value-chains in the area: the milk value-chain and the non-timer forest products value chain. There is potential to diversify the Borana region’s economy by developing the skills of local people to produce goods which are further down the value-chain instead of simply supplying raw products to tertiary industries.
Diversifying the region’s economy and producing goods which are further down the value-chain requires access to capital. There are many Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisations (SACCOs) in the Borana region, but membership is low. SACCOs are a way to promote savings in the community. Savings can be used not only as a means to get through droughts, but also as a way to expand economic activities. Cafod/Sciaf/Trociare conducted two sensitisation sessions at SACCO offices to increase awareness of cooperative membership criteria and opportunities. Raised awareness will increase SACCO membership and provide access to credit for the local community. SACCOs support members to improve product processing, and increase product value. They also strengthen their market presence through organization and networking, and develop the skills necessary for developing businesses and planning for sustainability. Community access to appropriate rural financial services will boost small business growth and contribute to local economic development.
Three of CST-JEP’s local partners: Action for Development, SOS Sahel Ethiopia and Gayo Pastoral Development Initiative (GPDI) will contribute to the establishment of new SACCOs. GPDI will establish six new SACCOs and support three existing processing and marketing cooperatives (PMCs) focusing on livestock production and marketing. This effort will raise SACCO membership to more than 11 000 people, 83% of which will be female. Leaders from the newly established six SACCOs will be given training in organisation and leadership to enable them to fulfil their duties. GPDI will work with three existing processing and marketing cooperatives focusing on livestock, and will work with these groups on adding value to their livestock through fattening.
Resilience-building projects will allow the Borana region’s population to more effectively get through droughts. Diversifying the economy and producing goods higher up the value-chain will enable the people there to weather the harsh climatic challenges.