Measures to fight drought in the lowlands of Ethiopia

Project description

Title: Capacity development for strengthening the drought resilience of the pastoral and agro-pastoral population in the lowlands of Ethiopia
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Ethiopia
Partner: Ministry of Agriculture (MoA)
Overall term: 2013 to 2018


Afar is a lowland region of eastern Ethiopia. It is home to nearly 1.5 million people, more than half of whom live below the absolute poverty line. In response to the region’s extreme conditions, including one of the world’s hottest climates, low rainfall, sparse arable land and limited access to water, most of Afar’s population depends on semi-nomadic livestock farming (pastoralism). While this form livelihood is traditionally well adapted to the local conditions, it is now coming under increasing pressure. The effects of climate change – frequent droughts, flash floods, erratic rainfall – combined with rapid population growth are contributing to a shortage of natural resources, thereby threatening the traditional way of life. Integrating the semi-nomadic lifestyles of the people of Afar into development strategies therefore presents Ethiopian institutions with a considerable challenge.


Pastoralists and agro-pastoralists – nomadic and semi-nomadic groups that live from livestock with some arable farming – have more reliable access to natural resources, including water, land and pastures, and can make more intensive use of them.


On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the project is working in five districts of the western Afar region whose combined population is approximately 300,000. Around 265,000 of these people, including 120,000 women, live in rural areas. Most of them depend on livestock farming and, to a lesser extent, arable farming to earn their living. Their main sources of livelihood are herds of camels, cows, sheep and goats. Increasingly, the supplies of fodder and water for this livestock are under threat.

GIZ experts are working with Ethiopian partners to improve their collaboration with institutions at national, regional, district and village levels. The project pursues a holistic approach and provides support for a number of measures:

  • It encourages land use planning with inputs from all users and authorities. This helps establish reliable access to soil and water, while also improving the pastures.
  • It rehabilitates degraded water catchments and pasture areas. This entails, for example, the construction of weirs to reduce water run-off and erosion during sporadic flash floods, and to retain eroded soil and water in the river channel.
  • To increase food security and raise the incomes of local people, the project promotes fodder production on the rehabilitated sites.
  • It safeguards herd migration routes and promotes income-generating measures.

At the same time, preparations are under way for further measures that aim to improve pastures and combat rapidly spreading and invasive plants such as Prosopis juliflora and Parthenium hysterophorus.

All the project’s activities are planned by the communities themselves, with support from the pastoralists’ traditional representatives, as well as civil society organisations and the authorities. They take into account the prevailing environmental conditions in the region, as well as the traditional lifestyle of the people of Afar.

The project supports the Ethiopian Government at regional and federal levels to improve coordination of measures by international development partners.