Pastoralists begin to cope with climate change effects

Ali Hamadu with the Jeldi Cooperative’s sheep under fattening

Drought and its consequences such as water and feed resources scarcity as well as loss of livestock have badly challenged pastoralists in the Afar lowland area in Eastern Ethiopia, which is home to the Danikil Depression, the hottest spot in the world. A large number of the community from that area have left their main encampments and went searching for water and feed for their livestock.

Ali Hamadu, a pastoralist living in the Afar Region of Eastern Ethiopia, says he has lost all his livestock as a result of the five year drought affecting the area. This situation had made him become dependent on food-aid from the government and humanitarian organizations to meet the needs of the household and his family (he has a wife and three children).


  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation options for pastoralists mainstreamed into national, regional and district development frameworks, such as development plans, strategies and policies;
  • Government and pastoral institutional capacities strengthened to effectively respond to the climate change risks and challenges, by building capacity and providing trainings for government agencies and respective pastoralist community institutions to effectively respond to the climate change risks and challenges at all levels;
  • Pastoral community coping mechanisms/sustainable livelihood enhanced, namely through development of water facilities, rangeland management activities and cooperatives.

“I was previously a respected figure in my community for my wealth having nearly hundred heads of animals (including sheep, goats and cattle). All of a sudden, I have nothing”, he explains. Ali is a resident in the Jeldi Kebele (local level administration structure) in Ada’ar district of the Afar region. As a result of heavy droughts, survival for pastoralists has become extremely difficult since 2008.

His dependence, Ali explains, is due to the decrease in livestock numbers over the last five years. Previously, he says, he had been using his animals to address all his household needs and depending on food-aid makes him feel desperate.  

Some pastoralists have already given up pastoral life and moved to urban areas looking for a better life. But others are still in their native area waiting for miraculous changes from nature.  

In order to address survival needs for pastoralists like Ali, the ‘Enabling Pastoral Communities to Adapt to Climate Change and Restoring Rangeland Environments Program’, MDG Fund Environment Joint Program (JP), aims to provide long-term adaptation tools for pastoralists such as Ali, facing the effects of climate change, such as extreme drought. UNDP, FAO and UNEP are the participating UN Agencies in the Joint Program which was developed to provide a gear for mainstreaming climate change adaptation options and improving the sustainable livelihoods of Ethiopia’s pastoral communities. The program comprises various livelihood enhancement activities as well as development of water facilities implemented in some of the most vulnerable communities in Ethiopia.

Ali is now a member of Jeldi Livestock Marketing Cooperative, which was established with seed-money allocated from MDG-F Environment JP in February 2012. This cooperative is made up of 172 household heads (135 men and 37 women). Activities of the cooperative include buying sheep for low cost from community members and fatten them for resale at a higher price. Now Jeldi Cooperative is making profit to be shared among its members including Ali. The Jeldi Cooperative is one of three established in the Ada’ar woreda in Afar. The MDG Joint Programme is establishing and supporting similar cooperatives in Telalak woreda, as well as in the other three Regions of the country in which the programme operates.

“In addition to the profit shared, I earn Birr 500 per month by taking care of the sheep. I am now able to satisfy my household needs unlike in the hard times of the last couple of years”, Ali says.

“Seeing livelihood changes of cooperative members, other pastoralists who are not embraced in cooperatives are frequently asking our office to organize them and facilitate cooperative establishment”, explains Ms. Firehiwot Mattewos, Ada’ar District Cooperatives Office Head. “In this MDG-F JP intervention area, community members are hoping for a bright future and searching for alternative livelihood schemes by seeing a successful beneficiary, such as Ali Hamadu, as a role model from Jeldi Cooperative”,says Ms. Firehiwot.

Ali’s story is a testament that the establishment of cooperatives can constitute a solid long term support for pastoralists in vulnerable areas in Ethiopia, while maintaining their traditional livelihoods and way of life. Furthermore, it encourages trade amongst the community and develops local networks.

Meet Kadra, Osman and Muktar. They are among Ethiopia’s 14% of people who live along the country’s arid southern, eastern and western boarders in pastoral communities. Geographically isolated, they have little access to development schemes and government services. With droughts now occurring regularly as a result of climate change, they are even more vulnerable to poverty. In this video find out how they are improving the odds against them.

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