Starvation in Ethiopia can be made history !!! By Tedla Asfaw
Ethiopia needs emergency food aid until the end of this year according to UN. The hope is that if the rain comes we will be OK !! for 2012. The Horn of Africa estimated 10 million people are starving, dying live on TV as we followed it on BBC, in refugees camp in Kenya, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia. The victims are mainly children, women and elderly . Such seen is not new, world communities watched dying children on their mother arms in Ethiopia in 1974 and 1984.. Ethiopia is recognized as a beggar nation, “We are the World”. Ethiopia is equated with hunger, destitution and starvation.
The 1984 hunger under the watchful eye of Derg was mainly blamed on communist Mengistu. The current rulers who were then rebels took advantage of the situation in Tigray, armed themselves to teeth get the support of the west and succeed in overthrowing Derg in 1991. Since then Ethiopia faced hunger in Eastern and South of Ethiopia in 2008. Thanks to the international community help disaster was averted.
At present the hunger has come again, the call for food aid by humanitarian organizations has been going for a couple of weeks. International medias led by BBC are broadcasting from the shelter in Kenya where many are coming from Ethiopia Ogaden and from South Somalia under the control of Al Shabab. Al Shabab promised not to interfere with aid agencies and hope they will honor that commitment to save lives. Will the Ethiopian regime opens Ogaden for donor nations ? We are watching that !!!!
It is indeed tragic to see the Horn of Africa with its agricultural potential again asking for food aid. The UN emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos in Addis Ababa after visiting Ogaden which is hugely affected by the drought told the world that Ethiopia has to do more not to suffer the recurring drought every few year.
Drought is both man made and natural. Ethiopia’s forests are now totally destroyed. Deforestation can only be tackled by mobilizing the farmers who are more than eighty percent of the population. The current regime is spending too much time in concrete. It is proud of showing visitors the highways and high rises but the desertification of the country has accelerated in the last two decades.
In fact it encourages more deforestation by giving large areas of land for foreign land grabbers in the Western part of Ethiopia, the few remaining forests of Ethiopia. I am pleased to hear from visiting South Koren President Lee that environmentally friendly agriculture supported by forestation is what South Korea supports in Ethiopia. What we have been hearing from the regime high officials is bulldozing our lands by foreigners to produce crop for foreigners. Land grabbers care less for our people, land and water.
Valeire Amos, UN emergency relief coordinator talked about establishing water points in the Ogaden and other drought affected areas. The regime is mostly concentrated on how to kick out the nomads to secure land for oil exploration. The government priority and the well being of our people are in direct collision. As long as the West gives aid without any precondition this will go on forever. Ethiopia will not feed itself. Similar call for food aid in the coming decade is certain.
The failed agricultural policy that discourages subsistence agriculture is the root cause of our starvation. In Ethiopia Ogaden there are rivers, voluntary settlements should be encouraged. Ground water potential is plenty. Waiting for rain always for human and cattle is unacceptable. If we encourage our farmers to produce more there is always will be plenty to feed other parts of Ethiopia during emergency.
Substituting our subsistence agriculture to large scale foreign owned farms will surely guarantee our people to call for more food aid every other year. International community should make it illegal to farm in poor and starving nations like Ethiopia to feed other people. The 398 million food aid asked by Ethiopia could have made huge difference if we had invested such money on our subsistence agriculture years ago. Yes we need that aid now to save lives what I argue is that to stop calling for hundreds millions of dollars every few year we need to make smart investment.
Farming in Ethiopia is as old as the country itself. Our highlands which are the products of fertile soils from volcanic activities are exhausted due to farming and erosion. To stabilize our soil, huge forestation program by the farmers is a must. An incentive for farmers who take care of forests in cash and other means is crucial. Students should be encouraged to participate in such program early in their school years.
Ethiopia is blessed with good climate, land and water. World wide climatological change even if it has impact on crop failure it should not make us beg every few year. We have seen three regimes, Haile Selassie the drought of 1974. Mengistu Hailemariam in 1984 and under Meles Zenawi in 2008 and in 2011. What all they have in common is unaccountability.
Dictatorial regimes care for their power. If this power syndrome is supported by Western countries like we have now, tackling our hunger from its root cause will be difficult. If the West cares only for the Land of Horn of Africa, starvation will continue side by side with the exploitation of the land and the water by foreign countries. What is new these days is the West armed the regimes in the Horn while the Arabs and the Asians are using these protection to feed their own people under our expense..
We can not beat starvation without fighting the human factor. Empowering our farmers and workers is a must. It is only educated farmers and workers working with their representatives can make hunger history in Ethiopia and the rest of the Horn.