Worst drought in decades killed almost all animals of Ethiopia’s nomads

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Baby goat resting, photo: Canva

Dried-up carcasses of goats, cows and donkeys are found on the ground in the small village of Hargududo in Ethiopia. For the last 18 months, there has hardly been a drop of rain in the area.

April usually is one of the wettest months of the year in this region, but the air in Hargududo is dry and hot and the earth dusty. Many of the animals belonging to the 200 semi-nomadic herder families in the village have died.

Those who had “300 goats before the drought have only 50 to 60 left. For some people… none have survived,” 52-year-old villager Hussein Habil told news agency AFP.

Farm animals are dying from drought across whole areas of southern Ethiopia and neighbouring Kenya and Somalia.

Lack of rain has killed nearly 1.5 million farm animals, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Surviving animals are in extremely bad condition.

“We were pure nomads before this drought, depending on the animals for meat, milk” and money, said 50-year-old Tarik Muhamad, a herder from Hargududo. “But nowadays, most of us are settling down in villages. There is no longer a future in pastoralism because there are no animals to be herded.”

The alternating dry and rainy seasons have always set the rhythm of herders’ lives. “Before this catastrophic drought, we used to survive difficult times thanks to the grasses from earlier rains,” the herder said.

But none of the last three rainy seasons have come. In East Africa, the frequency of drought has doubled from once every six years to once every three since 2005, according to the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

“I have seen goats eating their own faeces, camels eating other camels”

– herder Abdi Kabe Adan

The herders AFP met said they had lost almost all their farm animals. The few cows or goats that were still alive were emaciated. Even many dromedaries have lost their humps, where they store fat to survive for long periods without food.

In his tiny hut, the 50-year-old herder Abdi Kabe Adan weeps uncontrollably and prays to Allah for rain.

“Before, rain fell elsewhere in the region, so we moved with our animals to watered pastures, even if it took several days. But this time, the drought is everywhere… Wells have run out of water, no pastures for animals to graze. I don’t think it’s possible for our way of life to continue,” he sobbed.

“I have seen goats eating their own faeces, camels eating other camels. I have never seen that in my life,” Abdi said.

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