German funding for WFP-supported relief and safety-net programmes in Ethiopia is helping 1.6 million pastoralists and farmers living on the edge.
LIMMU BILBILU DISTRICT, ETHIOPIA - Ire Galato planted barley, maize and teff last year in her small, one-hectare plot in the rolling hills of central Ethiopia, in the country's Oromia region. The 45-year-old farmer and her family waited patiently for the rains to come to reap the results.
Instead, violent hail last September battered her farm, destroying all of the crops and leaving Galato and hundreds of other small farmers destitute.
"It was a complete loss," said the tiny woman, assessing the harvest of 2013. "We had to beg for food from relatives."
Today, Galato no longer has to beg. She is among nearly 2,500 people in Oromia's Limmu Bilbilu district who are receiving monthly WFP distributions of maize, corn-soya blended food, pulses and vegetable oil to tide them over until the next harvest.
"I'll grind this and cook it for my family," she said of the big bag of WFP grain she was sitting on.
The distributions are being funded by donors like Germany, which recently contributed a massive €19.5 million (US$26.4 million) to WFP-supported relief and safety-net programmes in Ethiopia.
"This is a very critical and timely contribution," said WFP's acting Country Director Purnima Kashyap at a ceremony honoring the German funding, at WFP's main warehouse hub in the Ethiopian city of Nazareth.
Germany's support will cover WFP food assistance to roughly 1.6 million vulnerable farmers and pastoralists across the country, under the Ethiopian government's relief and Productive Safety Net programmes.
Germany's Ambassador to Ethiopia, Lieselore Cyrus, met Galato and other farmers at the WFP distribution point in Limmu Bilbilu and reaffirmed her country’s commitment to offer humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Ethiopians as well as programmes that support longer-term food security.
"We are convinced that investing in development and resilience is a more efficient and sustainable form of support," Ambassador Cyrus said.
The highlands district of Limmu Bilbilu, where horses and cattle graze in fields edged with eucalyptus groves, has long been known as Ethiopia's breadbasket. But even here, farmers have been hard hit by adverse and unpredictable weather.
"The problem here is not lack of rainfall, but hazards like water logging from too much rain and hailstorms," said Fuad Adem, programme officer for WFP's Nazareth office. "In the past, this kind of weather used to occur every five to 10 years. Now, it's happening every three years or so."
The government is building local resilience through farming techniques and technology like a Broad Bed Maker plow that helps to reduce water logging.
"Farmers now know how to manage their farms and prepare themselves early through actions like watershed management and terracing," said Rahel Asfaw, acting director of Ethiopia's Early Warning and Response Directorate.
But hail is another matter, as nothing can be done to protect the crops. Last season's hailstorm also destroyed Gena Duga's barley, teff and maize crops, forcing the 30-year-old farmer to sell his oxen and cut wood to feed his family of seven.
"This will sustain my family until we can produce something," he said of the WFP food. "Right now, we’re just waiting for the rains to start planting for the new season."