Ethiopia is still trying to recover from the severe drought of 1974, which wiped out vast areas of crops, and enormous quantities of livestock.
Ethiopia is still trying to recover from the severe drought of 1974, which wiped out vast areas of crops, and enormous quantities of livestock. Much of the nation, once self-sufficient in food, was reduced to starvation level. Countless numbers of people died -- despite massive international aid.
SYNOPSIS: Now the Ethiopian Government, with the help of some international agencies, is engaged in projects like this one in the Gode area, in the south-eastern region of the country. Tens of thousands of people who were once nomads are tilling the ground and digging irrigation ditches with unfamiliar tools. As they dig on the banks of the Wabe Shebel River, they chant the songs of the Ogaden desert -- there they once roamed with their herds of camels and goats across the frontiers of Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Territory of the Afars and Issas. They have to farm -- because the drought killed their cattle.
With government assistance they're turning barren areas of desert into fertile fields -- watering them from the Wabe Shebelle with miles of irrigation ditches. But the enterprise -- and others like it -- has not been without difficulties, both for the people and the authorities. Following the drought, up to a hundred thousand people were taken into shelters run by the military Government's Relief and Rehabilitation Commission. They were given food, medicine and schooling. many of them found conditions in the camp better than they had ever known -- and developed what aid officials began calling "a relief mentality'. They wanted to stay in the camps -- and thousands either refused to go to farm settlements, or simply packed up and moved on before the truck convoys came to collect them. For those who did agree to go, they found themselves transported hundreds of miles across the desert to unfamiliar regions -- and they were suddenly having to work for their daily ration of food. One international relief agency withdrew from the project because its officials claimed the Government's motives were political -- trying to turn stateless nomads into committed Ethiopians.
The Government found it difficult to provide housing -- and the settlers had to build primitive huts using sticks and hide. Their daily food rations are strictly temporary. Once their crops are harvested, the people will have to feed themselves. Only basics like dried milk will be provided, for the children. This, too, is causing some resentment -- especially after the relative ease of the refugee camps.
The settlers can keep their produce, but will eventually have to start paying for services -- another dispute. One official admitted: "These people will need a long education as farmers."