Climate Change in Ethiopia: Fatuma Ali Sali

Fatuma Ali Sali, 50, and her eight children, who live in Belina Arba, Ethiopia, are some of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians faced with the effects of climate change.

Fatuma Ali Sali, 50, and her eight children, who live in Belina Arba, Ethiopia, are some of the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians faced with the effects of climate change. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Hoisting a large yellow canister onto her head, Fatuma Ali Sali, who estimates she’s about 50 years old, demonstrates how she transports drinking water for her family on days when her donkey is put to work in the field.

Fatuma’s bright yellow scarf glows in the late afternoon sun. Her silver bracelets jingle as she points toward her village’s water point—a large, blue tank several hours away by foot—where dozens of women and girls gather every day to fill their water cans, then load them onto their donkeys to make the hours-long trek back home.

Fatuma and her eight children live in Belina Arba, a district of 20 small villages where most raise small livestock and farm sorghum, maize, groundnuts or chat, a plant commonly used as a stimulant and farmed as a cash crop.

Her small plot of sorghum has been taken over by a persistent weed. “The weed is one problem leading to low productivity, and the long droughts are a big challenge that we’re facing,” she says. “By the time the rain comes, the weed overgrows our sorghum and results in low productivity.”

The problem of drought has intensified in the past 20 years, Fatima says. And she’s seen the impact of climate change. “In 2010 we were better off. We continuously got good rain, and we didn’t have any weeds on our land. We produced much more during that time,” she says.
“Even last year, we could [collect] water. But this year, we don’t know when it will rain or if we can collect water.

“We’ve seen the impact of climate change harm our lives time and time again. The problem of drought has been getting more and more serious over the last 20 years.”

“Because of food shortages, the small children are facing many health issues. Many children in the community are malnourished. Last year, one of my children—the 2-year-old—was malnourished and faced a number of health problems. I believe 100% that the climate has changed.”

To make up for lost harvests, Fatima’s husband earns money working in their neighbors’ fields. The family owns no cows to help them plow. So when it rains, they get support from neighbors in exchange for work.

Fatima hopes for better harvests from CRS’ climate change project: “We hope for select drought-resistant sorghum seeds and a good variety of maize suitable for this environment. Water shortages are a major problem, and we hope that REAAP can solve it. If you train us on different techniques—for example, to be more productive with drought-tolerant seeds—it will be very helpful.”

REAAP stands for Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnerships. CRS is leading the project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Kim Pozniak is a CRS communications officer covering sub-Saharan Africa and global emergencies. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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