Ethiopia's worst drought in decades takes toll

It is a hard-scrabble life being a farmer in northern Ethiopia.

Normal years are tough. In some areas the soil is poor for farming. There is little or no application of manure, so it is low in nutrients and crop yields are not as high as they could and should be. Any failure of seasonal rains spells big trouble, because reserve stockpiles of food will never be plentiful.

Bertukan Ali has lived such a life like many of the rural poor in the district of North Wallo, the most drought-prone region of Ethiopia.
Earlier this year she and her family waited patiently for the spring “belg” rains to fall.

Day after day they waited. Their fields, full of sorghum seeds, were thirsty. But the rains never came.

“OK”, she said to herself, “we’ll survive. The spring ‘belg’ are notoriously unreliable anyway, the summer ‘kiremt’ rains will shower the sorghum seeds in warm water.”
So they waited, and waited, but again the rains did not come.

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