BY ABEBE WOLDEGIORGIS
Apart from its vulnerability to diversified weather conditions, agriculture, the main stay of the nation’s economy, remains subsistence yet and remarkable number of the farmers earns hand to mouth life. Adding an insult to injury, the war undergone in the northern part of the country, ignited by the terrorist TPLF, has seriously affected the sector. This in turn placed adverse impact on the nation’s economy as the sector engages about 80 percent of population and is the among the major foreign currency earners.
Field assessment was conducted jointly by Ministry of Agriculture and Disaster Risk Management Commission in the war torn areas recently to get the overall data regarding the damages committed and to provide essential remedy to the sector. Isayas Lema, Crop Development Director at the Ministry said that over 14 million quintals of agricultural products have been looted and made out of use only in Amhara region.
In this budget year, it was planned to cultivate 13.2 million hectares of land and produce 374 million quintals. It is proved that 12.5 million hectares of land is plowed. It is understood that 50 percent of the farmlands are located in the eight zones of Amhara region and was not plowed due to the ongoing war. Gonder and South wello zones were expected to harvest but unable to collect what they produced. Most zones of Wollo, Gonder and whaghimra unable to maintain their crops.
Sesame is the most affected crop because of the war and close to 70 percent of the crop is produced in the large scale farm of Gonder and Tigray. Since the areas are highly hit by the war, it critically affected the nation’s sesame export.
The war also affected the market system established for long there. As to Isayas, in Ethiopia, 29 percent of agricultural output is supplied to the market while the rest of the product is consumed at the household level. Therefore, the war created scarce of the products to be supplied to the local market but the most difficult situation is that the displaced farmers could not harvest their crops due to war and became recipient of daily food aid. Currently, the government is purchasing grain from abroad in order to substitute the deficit and stabilize local market.
The war critically brought shortage of crop commodities in the central market too but the most disastrous impact is that some people in and the surrounding areas of the war zones become vulnerable to hunger. Farmers are also suffering from psychological trauma because formerly they used to feed themselves but now they become aid dependent to sustain their life as a result of the consequence of the war. Currently, the government is working on expanding irrigation farms in the low land areas of the country so that compensating what was lost in the war zones’ farms will be attainable.
Infrastructure such as roads, electric power supply, telecom service and facilities like offices, health institutions, and education and research centers are mostly or totally obliterated in the war zones. The Ministry of Agriculture also lost its resources. In addition to the demolishing of various infrastructures, agricultural research centers in Wello zone are damaged. Damage of crops can be compensated by bringing the products from other places but the demolishing of permanent assets critically affects the whole things and might take some time to be repaired.
Farmers, both in Gonder and Wollo zones, have lost not only their crops but also their livestock. This makes the rehabilitation activity more challenging. As a short term solution, the government is importing wheat, rice, edible oil and other agricultural products in order to feed the displaced people.
According to Isayas, to reinvigorate what has been affected by the terrorist acts so far needs 500 million US Dollar only for Amhara region and since the war is not totally ceased, the figure might be increasing.
The Amhara regional state planning commission recently announced that the destruction in five zones has reached 260 billion Birr excluding the looted property. The commission also revealed that to rebuild the demolished infrastructure, it will take up to three decades particularly the damage occurred in Kombolcha town which is the industrial hub of the region.
As to Isayas, there is a need for food assistance, logistic cost, health care, nutrition, potable water and sanitation and agricultural service offices. He further said that over two million people are displaced by the war in Amhara region alone which does not include southern Wello and Northern Shewa.
Currently, multi-sectoral cluster teams that the head quarter is located in Bahir Dar have been established and move to the various affected places of the region for assessment. Field experts also deployed to Semera, Dessie and Gondar.
The team comprised experts from the fields of agriculture, health, sanitation and other sectors and led by the National Disaster Risk Management Commission and it submitted the latest report to the Ministry of Agriculture. According to their report, over 500 million USD is required of which 90 million USD to be allotted for seed supply and rehabilitate irrigation.
However, as to Isayas, it is very hard to replace shortly the farmers’ livestock that were brutally killed by the terrorist group. Farmers in the rehabilitation center need food and health services. To restart farming, over 559,000 quintals of seed and over 240,000 quintals fertilizers is needed. As the rehabilitation work is highly costly, it needs the support of the UN humanitarian agencies and right after the war is over the displaced farmers must resume their farming work.
Professor Alemayehu Geda, an instructor in the Department of Economics at Addis Ababa University has reflected on the impact of the war on the nation’s macro economy. He said that it is obvious that the war might retard the nation’s development efforts and aggravate the budget deficit but it is also hard to know the exact impact of the war because the conflict has not come to an end and the availed data is obtained only from the freed war affected areas.
He further said that the ultimate consequences of the war have to be revealed by collecting data from all war impacted zones. Currently, the data is obtained from parts of Amhara and Afar regions and it indicates that 13,000 hectares of farm land is not plowed in Afar region.
Commercial farming enterprises located in Northern Gondar and Tigray regions took loan from the Development Bank of Ethiopia and the loaned money has high chance to be liquidated. It is unable to get reliable information about the whereabouts of the machinery and the equipment of the farms because they are in the war zones. There should a separate plan for the recovery of commercial farms there.
Demis Chanyalew is an agricultural economist and serves as expert and consultant in various public and private enterprises. As to him, most war affected people in Amhara region earn their living from subsistence farming. Their means of living which is agriculture is already vulnerable to extreme weather conditions such as drought and excessive rain. In addition, it suffers from pests and weeds and ultimately their yield per hectare is reduced and leaves the farmers under poverty.
The outbreak of the war ignited by the terrorist group further deteriorated the farmers’ situation. Innocent civilians were killed, women were raped and school compounds are turned into grave yards and such atrocities incurred psychological trauma against the farmers. Therefore, even if the war ended, the psychological trauma will inhibit them not to unleash their full potential on agriculture.
To bring remedy to the problem, task force should be established by social psychologies to bring relief to the farmers for their psychological treatment. In addition, the government should continue mobilizing resources to recover the material damage. As to Demis, the financial support of Ethiopian Diaspora all over the world in addition to backing the reconstruction of the demolished infrastructures; resolves the nation’s hard currency shortages. Hence, the government should strengthen its bond with the Diaspora.
The January 11/2022