A four-year drought affecting much of the Horn of Africa, including the coffee-growing countries of Ethiopia and Kenya, has led the UN to request a massive increase in food aide to stave off the very real threat of food shortages and a return to starvation levels akin to those faced 25 years ago. The BBC report is here.
The drought has been acerbated by climate change, and food insecurity has risen as conflict from Somalia and Eritrea has made movement of people and goods difficult and dangerous. It appears that the drought has primarily affected low-lying areas of Ethiopia and Kenya, which means that the coffee growing regions have been spared. The threat of 6.2 million people needing food assistance in Ethiopia alone, however, will no doubt put tremendous stress on the fragile economies and infrastructures of the region.
An analyst says that Ethiopia’s unique system of land ownership (it’s owned by the state) keeps many people at risk of food shortages.
It is in part the result of policies designed to keep farmers on the land, which belongs to the state and cannot be sold. So farms are passed down the generations, divided and sub-divided. Many are so small and the land so overworked that it could not provide for the families that work it even with normal rainfall.
Let’s hope those in need will receive the assistance they require, and those who can give will.