The rain doesn't come on time anymore

Poverty, vulnerability, and climate variability in Ethiopia

Climate variability in Ethiopia is not new – but now, in addition to the usual struggles, Ethiopians living in poverty are additionally suffering the effects of climate change – both more variable climate and more extreme weather events.

People who are already poor and marginalized are struggling with the added burden of climate variability. For now, this means that the little that they have goes to dealing with the current unpredictable weather because their livelihoods are so dependent on it. When selling off assets becomes a mean to cope, there is little left to plan for the future. Thus, communities are faced with simultaneously increasing climate variability, and with it increasing risk and vulnerability.

In 2009, Oxfam commissioned research on climate variability in four administrative areas in Ethiopia.

The research set out to answer three fundamental questions:

  • Do Ethiopian farmers and pastoralists perceive changes in weather patterns? If so, what are they? What meteorological information is available in the four study areas?
  • How have farmers and pastoralists been coping with and adapting to these changes in weather patterns?
  • What policy recommendations emerge from these specific case studies that will increase the resilience of poor men and women in Ethiopia?

These questions are especially important to explore in Ethiopia because it is one of the poorest countries in the world, where 85 percent of the population depends on agriculture.