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Orgo Bodo is a 40 year old member of the Hammer Tribe, a pastoralist community living in the South Omo Zone of the SNNP region. Like many in the Hammer community he raises cattle and goats to feed his family.
“Our community is not engaged in other farming activities we are pastoralists,” Orgo explained.
It is for this reason that climate change and a recent El Niño weather pattern affecting southern and eastern Ethiopia over the past couple of years has severely affected him.
Orgo and other Hammer community members have lost most of their animals due to the severe drought. Even though the South Omo area is arid and people were used to dry conditions, the weather has become so severe that, over the last two years, people living in the area like those in the Hammer tribe have suffered greatly, according to experts.
“The climate has changed in the past few years and it has affected the livelihoods of the people in the area. Rainfall has declined significantly, causing grassy areas to dry out,” Orgo told Capital.
Orgo said he lost all of his cattle and goats, which has devastated his family. “Before the drought I had 50 sheep and cows, others also lost their all their animals like I did and they had up to 1,000,” he said.
To combat this problem Orgo says he is now working with an alternative farming program under an association formed by community members to help fight the effects of drought on their daily lives.
“We have formed a 10 member association and started growing vegetables as an alternative source of income,” he said.
“There have been two harvests of onion, tomato and chili at Dimeka town at Hammer Wereda,’ he added.
Orgo was one of many invited participants from three regions, living the pastoralist life, who came to share best practices and learn from others at Farm Africa’s National Resilience Forum held from December 20 to 22 at Hawassa, SNNP.
The Farm Africa’s Market Approaches for Resilience project funded by Department for International Development (DFID) is being implemented in Ethiopia under the global Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program in three regions.
The project that focuses on pastoralists in the Ethiopia Somali, SNNP and Afar regions. The goal is to show ways people can still survive when their former way of living is threatened by climate change.
The interventions show people how to mitigate the effects of climate change by creating access to financial insurance services, establishing and strengthening village saving and credit groups, natural resource management including participatory forest management, and climate information dissemination via media. The project has also designed programs in semi urban areas including technical support on expanding income sources and job creation and creating green spaces.
Negusu Aklilu, Chief of Party, BRACED/MAR, said that that the BRACED project of Farm Africa mainly focuses getting the business and private sectors to expand savings and credit and participatory natural resource protection to alleviate climate change in the three regions.
In the past three years the program has benefited 178,000 individuals, mostly pastoralists. The goal is for them to be able to generate their own income rather than rely on aid.
“We are helping them act on their own ideas to earn more money,” he added.
For instance they established a village saving and loan association with a group of individuals saving a small amount of money when they earn some and then providing that sum as a loan for other members to implement new projects. Currently Farm Africa’s BRACED MAR program has formed 329 projects. Besides the saving and credit association the groups has social funds to help out people in emergency situations.
“We believe that by creating strong social bonds that the community will be able to support themselves when the program ends,” Negusu said.
Besides village savings and loan associations BRACED has also facilitated the linkage of microfinance institutions in the three respective regions to provide loans for pastoralists. “We have provided loan guarantees for the microfinance institutions to commence their operation in rural pastoralist areas in addition to helping them establish branches in targeted areas,” he added.
So far over 4,680 households have benefited from the microfinance institutions. In collaboration with M Birr and Bell Cash mobile banking service has also commenced in the rural areas for the community to settle their loans with the micro finances and also to manage their savings without having to travel long distances to banks.
Since the program has gotten the private sector involved insurance companies have also helped out. They have instigated a program to provide insurance coverage for livestock. Like the mobile banking and credit scheme with microfinance institutions insurance coverage came as a result of a partnership with Nyala Insurance, one of the leading private insurers.
Farm Africa’s documents indicate that in addition to partnering with Nyala, Mercy Corps, a nongovernmental organization, and a consultancy firm Pula Advisers have also taken part in the pilot project. Insurance coverage is a big help when it comes to giving pastoralists a leg up in response to climate shocks.
Aklilu said that two types of insurance coverage have been delivered to micro insurance clients. Animal indemnity insurance is linked to microfinance. Solomon Zegeye, Manager of General and Micro Insurance at Nyala Insurance told Capital that under the public private partnership the insurance company is working with relevant institutions to cover the pastoralists affected by climate change. “Under the BRACED program we have provided coverage in SNNP, Afar and Somali regions,” Solomon added.
Indemnity based coverage which began at Arba Minch and Derashe Wereda to help protect against the loss of animals due to disease, theft, and accidents.
The distribution cost for the current operation is easily managed by an IT application. As a result the person does not need to travel to the insurance coverage area. This helps expand the insurance service in rural locations, an insurance company spokesperson said.
So far Nyala has settled claims for the loss of two cattle which has led to a more trusting relationship with local clients.
The other insurance coverage is asset protection for pastoralists which helps them get veterinary support veterinary for milking cows.
Solomon said that in 2007 Nyala began agricultural micro insurance as a pioneer for its micro insurance policy and now it has expanded its coverage.
Experts said that the role of Mercy Corps, who is one of the implementer of the project with Farm Africa, on the implementation of micro insurance that includes indemnity based livestock insurance is crucial. The contribution of Farm Africa in the three regions is helping change the lifestyle and expand economic resources of pastoralists like Orgo who otherwise would have been devastated by climate change.
Mohammed Beroele, a pastoralist from Chifra Wereda of Afar region who is currently involved in small scale farming, told Capital that Farm Africa is providing technical support and equipment. “They provide us seeds for vegetables and fruit as well as the equipment and support we need,” he said.
“About five years ago I began farming, I was growing corn,” he said.
Mohammed said that in the last year he expanded the activity by adding the variety of fruit and vegetables and a ranch for livestock.
“At first I was not saving like other people in my region but now I am able to feed my family and livestock,” he said
“I could start saving soon, he added.”
The latest metrological forecasts for the community predict more dry weather so more will need to be done to prepare. The program has set up to 25 metrological data collectors, which give reliable and specific climate information transmitted via radio that they follow via their village radio group.
“The collected climate information is analyzed so we can make recommendations for the pastoralists and agro- pastoralists and they can take action based on the latest metrological forecasts,” Nigusu said
Nigusu added that they are getting promising results on their activity in the regions and expect to continue their strategic support since they will get more funds from their partners.