Empowering Communities to Build Resilience

water harvesting

Throughout most of his 55 years, Mohammed Hassen and his family have faced much suffering during on-again, off-again droughts that have ravaged his district in northeastern Ethiopia

However, the father of nine along with with other farmers in his region is now dreaming of a better future, , the result of practical drought-adaptation measures that are better preparing them for future droughts and the effects of climate change

In Mohammed’s case, it has meant providing him and his neighbours with improved, high-yield seeds that are resistant to drought, heavy rains and have the added benefit of maturing early. Mohammed’s income has doubled and his large family is now able to enjoy three meals a day in place of their usual two, and has  extra cash to buy school supplies for the children.

Hassen and his family are benefiting from a three-year UNDP pilot project covering four African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – where the most recent drought has had disastrous consequences. UNDP is working with Ethiopia’s  Ministry of Agriculture, with financing of US$995,000 from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

A key component of the initiative includes ensuring that participating countries and communities can share their drought and climate change experiences with one another, with the ultimate hope of achieving some kind of sustainable and transformational change in the face of the ongoing and worsening effects of climate change.


  • Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are the four countries taking part in the GEF supported pilot programme on Coping with Drought and Climate Change
  • GEF has provided UNDP USD 995,000 to undertake a three year project in Ethiopia

With a population of 85 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation after Nigeria, and more than 80 percent of Ethiopians depend heavily on the country’s environmental resources for their livelihoods.

Ethiopia also hosted an estimated 275,000 drought refugees from the Horn of Africa in 2012 alone.  The country’s host communities, however, are already fragile themselves, with livelihoods dependent on increasingly erratic rainfall patterns, magnifying Ethiopia’s vulnerability to climate-related shocks and food shortages.

Saed Ibrahim, 41, knows all too well about food insecurity. His 400 square metre plot used to produce less than than 50 kilogrammes of food per year, forcing his family to spend six months of the year dependent on food relief assistance programmes.

While this arrangement helped keep his family from starving, Saed felt frustrated and powerless.

“My family considered me a useless head of the household because of my inability to feed them,” he says. “The time I asked my wife if we could have one more child she asked me ‘what are you going to feed it?’ and I felt ashamed. We didn’t have peace in our family because of our deep-rooted poverty.”

The UNDP/GEF drought adaptation project helped Ibrahim to join 200 fellow Ethiopian farmers on a learning tour to gain insight into water harvesting techniques, vegetable production and beekeeping. Ibrahim says he feels he is on his way to leaving poverty behind, with an income that has increased by a staggering 75 percent, thanks to the advice and expertise he accessed through the project. Today, the family’s vegetable plots are not only a source of income but help provide a much-needed nutritional balance to his family’s diet.

His 10-year-old daughter, Fozia, is witnessing real change at home. Her family now goes clothes shopping twice a year instead of only once, and buying school supplies is no longer a problem.

The project is also empowering local communities to take charge of their crop-cycle planning with the introduction of easy-to-use early warning systems that can predict harsh or inclement weather 

The UNDP Country Office in Zimbabwe showed a visiting colleague from UNDP in Ethiopia the benefits of introducing simple plastic rain gauges. This led to user-friendly rain gauges being introduced to Mohammed Hassen’s community and neighbouring areas.

Zewde Hussien, 40, is not intimidated by the simple rain gauge near her house and takes pleasure in being able to read the data and play her part in predicting rainfall and helping her husband make contingency plans in case of potential drought.

The simple act of checking and reading the plastic rain gauge has helped bring a sense of self- worth into Zewdie’s life

who noted, “I am taking part in the agricultural practices along with my husband and this has helped me feel confident in my life and consider myself capable,” she says.

Zewdie’s village now has 20 of the rain gauges for the farmers and her information is fed nationally to local agricultural offices where it is complemented with satellite feeds on national forecasts.


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