Back to all resources

Crisis response summary: Ethiopia, anticipation of Belg rains

Date added

19 April 2016


Starting in early 2015, Ethiopia began experiencing its worst drought in over 30 years, with Belg rains failing in Feb-April 2015, followed by a poor Kiremt rain season in July-Sept 2015 exacerbated by El Nino.

Download the Crisis Response Summary

Given that these two rains supply roughly 80% of national agriculture production, the need for emergency food assistance rose dramatically, with levels of Severe Acute Malnutrition reaching higher levels than any month in the 2011 Horn of Africa crisis. The loss of coping mechanisms and overall resilience triggered a drought cycle whereby farmers replanted seeds 2-3 times and exhausted their seed stocks and were then unable to purchase new seeds due to decreased supply, higher prices and reduced house-hold income.

On 4 January, 2016, four agencies alerted the Start Fund, noting a significant gap in funding to adequately replace seed stocks and prepare farmers for the upcoming 2016 Belg season. A window of opportunity was seen for the Start Fund to enable farmers to capitalise on this short planting window ahead of the rains to close the food gap left from previous failed harvests and to have a quick impact on the affected population while other funds became available.

On 8 January, 94 hours after the Start Fund alert, £500,000 was awarded to GOAL, Plan UK, Save the Children, Tearfund and World Vision. Save the Children’s award was on the condition that it not overlap with Plan UK’s intervention areas. All projects were encouraged to use the funding to leverage donors to provide a more timely response to the crisis. Projects focused on addressing needs related to FSL through distribution of seeds (including Barley, Haricot bean, Maize, Potato, Sorghum and Teff), distribution of fertilizer, and training seed recipients/farmers on planting techniques. All agencies operated through their own field staff, except for Tearfund which operated through the local partner Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission.

Agencies experienced several challenges during implementation. All projects experienced lengthy (2-3 week) processes involving agreements and purchasing of seeds from the cooperative union. However this did not prevent any agencies from distribution seeds prior to the start of Belg rains. Facing a high demand of sorghum seeds, Plan UK only purchased 50 out of a planned 82 quintals and filled the gap with alternative seeds such as maize and haricot beans. Save the Children was impacted by a nationwide barley seed shortage, causing its distribution to be delayed until one week after the project’s end date.

Distribution costs incurred after its project end date were not charged to the Start Fund. Tearfund found the government-managed beneficiary selection process to be lengthy and bureaucratic, delaying its implementation and preventing it from conducting its planting demonstrations to farmers. It also reported some insecurity in South Wello Zone arising from political demonstrations, which caused some travel restrictions

This project reached 182,776 people (50% female, 50% male), with £478,560, 1% of the total affected population and 78,044 more people than planned. Agencies targeted food insecure and vulnerable households whose livelihoods were disrupted by the recurrent drought and rain failure, including households requiring emergency nutrition response, households with small landholdings, households practicing negative coping strategies, households with no agricultural inputs, and households willing to use improved technology advised by the agricultural office, such as planning in rows and using fertilizer.

Particular attention was paid to female-headed households (especially widows), single and/or divorced mothers, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, disabled people, socially discriminated minorities, and people living with HIV and AIDS. Children under 18 (46%) and people over 50 (8%) together made up 54% of people reached.

Download the Crisis Response Summary