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Ethiopia: The cost-effectiveness of early action

18 Dec 2019

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The Somali region before the intervention by CERF and FAO. Credit: FAO

As the possibility of a drought loomed in Ethiopia’s Somali region in July, Suldamo worried about losing all her livestock.

A pastoralist and mother of six, Suldamo, who lives in the town of Charati and is the head of her household, also feared that she would not be able to feed or clothe her children, or send them to school.

In nearby Kohle District, Ikrant, also a pastoralist, faced a similar predicament because of the looming drought. The loss of livestock would mean that her children would not have enough milk, which could trigger malnutrition.

But thanks to timely funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) – Suldamo and Ikran were able to survive the drought. 


Suldamo, a pastoralist in the Somali region of Ethiopia, and her children. Credit: OCHA

Facing the potential impact of drought, humanitarian partners approached CERF and international donors at mid-year with a prioritized Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan targeting 1.27 million people across 11 zones in the Somali and Oromia regions. The ‘Emergency Livestock Response to Drought-Affected Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Communities in Ethiopia’ aimed to safeguard the livelihoods of pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities and accelerate their recovery.

The livestock sector in Ethiopia supports the livelihoods of about 80 per cent of rural people in Ethiopia. Livestock are a source of protein-rich food and provide income, manure, draught power, fuel and leather.

However, recurrent droughts and low overall rainfall have resulted in a growing threat to the survival of pastoral production systems – and of communities themselves.

The Plan included an appeal for US$20.7 million for emergency agriculture and livestock interventions to help 3.8 million people in drought-prone areas outside the Somali region. It was part of early action efforts to avoid a potential humanitarian crisis that could cost $40 million to $60 million.

With a CERF allocation of $10 million – $6.5 million of which went to this project – and ECHO funding of $2 million, a total of 8,000 metric tons of animal feed were distributed to 24,000 households, benefiting 230,000 animals such as goats and lactating cows. The households – 47 per cent of which are headed by females – were also provided with training on feeding regimes and proper animal husbandry practices.

An evaluation by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and partners in November noted that the early action in the Oromia and Somali regions helped to avoid $6.2 million in losses. This figure is expected to increase to $10.1 million when the remaining interventions are completed to reach the planned target of 87,000 households.

The early funding from CERF and ECHO prevented livestock death, ensuring milk for children and preventing malnutrition for the children of Ikram, Suldamo and those in hundreds of thousands of households. According to the evaluation, each beneficiary household gained $187 from the early action intervention compared with non-beneficiaries.