By Yosief Abraham Z.,
Unfolding the situation of terrific drought in Eritrea in the year of 2002 armors to the advocacy of how problems should be addressed. In 2002, when failure in seasonal rain resulted into massive drought, soon, Eritrea issued an alert on the situation in July 2002. And after one month, the Government and the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) issued an appeal for urgent humanitarian response. As that gloom heydays, Eritrea had to face the drought situation with 54,000 metric tons harvested agricultural products while the demand at national scale thereby to alleviate the situation was 546,000 metric tons.
To aggravate the alertness of the situation, 2.3 million from the total population was then affected by the drought and famine impacts. Such symbols of distressing situation like the average cost of selling livestock decreased by 30%, while in opposite direction to this, the prices for grains in local markets skyrocketed and increased by 100% within four months. With the demand for supplementary foods for 400,000 children, it was clear then that the loom of such condition was too critical.
And following to the appeal by Eritrea, the International Community pledged 112,330 Metric Tons (MT). The response was, however, too slow and yet, till March of 29 of 2003 in which the Eritrean Government reissued its appeal on ‘Eritrea Profile,’ a State-owned English Newspaper, the total food donated by the international community covered 24% of the total demand. Eccentric to this, despite the exotic concern of Eritrea for aiding its children with supplementary food, the aid that harbored at the ports of Eritrea had then 2% of the appealed quantity.
Soon, Eritrea started waging its own battle and purchased 80,000 MT from international markets. And amazingly, the United States which had then concluded a loan agreement amounting $10 million also agreed that the loan would be repayable in 30 years and with a low interest.
In consideration with what the U.S. government makes to other countries, the aid loan was too low. And what would be the answer of Mr. Donald McConnell, former USA ambassador to Eritrea, who then singed the cooperation agreement on July 5 of 2002 here in Asmara?
After deep assessments held on April 3rd of 2003, Eritrea decided to further its efforts with the front-leader of that time established National Drought Relief Coordinating Committee. And comprised of Minister of Health, Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare and Head of the Macro-Policy, the Committee continued coordinating various efforts. Eritreans in Diaspora—with their captivating motto that no one will die as long as they are living—also mobilized all their capacities and means.
Following to the 2002 naturedly instigated drought and famine situation, Eritrea got vital lessons on how it has to handle its own matters. Temporary aids couldn’t to solve the problems; thus, with priorities on extensive water conservation awareness campaigns, introduction of agricultural mechanization and modern irrigating system, Eritrea let itself within the deep struggle to alleviate such consequential impacts.
Yet, while endeavors were underway, the year of 2008 also recalled for another heightened efforts with its negative notions, including skyrocketed prices in basic foods.
After this, Eritrea sophisticated its tactics to cope up drought-borne consequences. Large depots constructed across the nation and stocking surpluses from national and international markets continued restlessly. Hundreds of modern agricultural machines and tools imported to the country, and nation-wide campaigns for local nationals to take part on the on-going efforts, mainly in Western part of the country, held. The construction of water catchment areas, dams and other reservoirs have been added resultant impacts to the success of the country to assault negative impacts of drought.
Even in this year when the precipitation—agitated by El Nino– in the country has been low, yet, agricultural products, especially cereals, have been abundantly availing in local markets. With decrease in the cost of such products, the nation is telling something to its neighbor country. Addiction to aid is not good; and at this juncture where some donors have developed the sense of politicizing efforts even in like this critical situation, architecting practical policies thereby to get free from the chain is what expects for Ethiopia.
Of course, had Eritrea not been on the track it has now concerning to food securing policies, the low precipitation of this year’s summer in many parts of the country could have sparked another worst scenario. However, the country do not allowed donors aid to stretch the curtail thereby to close the window through which we need to look meticulously ‘what is better.’ And Ethiopia expects to torn the curtail and to look transparently to the policies that can be helpful in making them out from the bad omens of consequential droughts and consequences is, in fact, a noble lesson.