Ethiopia tries to avert another famine

Mindful of past disasters, Ethiopians are readier than before to deal with drought

JUMPING a fence of prickly pears, Gumat Hussain, a local chief in the driest district of North Wollo, Ethiopia’s most drought-prone province, walks gloomily through his sorghum. “The crops have not produced grain. They are useless even for the animals,” he sighs. “My oxen and goats will soon die. Our people will wait only for the government to respond.”

In many lowland parts of North Wollo, a day’s drive north of Addis Ababa, the capital, the annual midsummer rains lasted for under a week. This was because of a particularly strong El Niño effect, which this year made swathes of Africa drier than usual, along with a longer-term drying of Ethiopia’s climate, especially in the north and east. Now it is harvest time and the tall, green crops belie their fruitlessness.

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