Abba Tesfalem (58) is an Ethiopian orthodox priest who lives in Tigray, the northern Ethiopia region besieged by armed conflict. When he was a child, his community was smaller, and rain came at fixed times. They used to easily grow crops like wheat and chillies because they knew when the rains would come and when to plant. Now drought and climate change has changed this. Rain is sporadic and planting crops isn’t an option.
“The climate and environment are totally different now. We could predict when it would rain back in the past. Back then it was very fertile: we had agriculture and education. You can’t compare it now,“ Abba Tesfalem explains.
“When there is a drought, a lot of people will go to the water supply system. Sometimes, we have to wait a long, long time.. a week sometimes. There was a time in March when there was nothing. There wasn’t enough to buy food from the market. The only option was to take a loan and to survive by buying bread,” he adds.
“I really struggle. I worry for my children and family. I have to put food on the table. I don’t want my family to pass a day without food. Every day I have to work to provide food for the family. That’s what I do, I don’t have time for other things apart from this,” he tells us.
The lack of water in the region Is having a severe psychological impact on locals in Ethiopia like Abba Tesfalem and his family.
“There is a hand pump not far from here, so we use donkeys, and we send our children there to get water or we go ourselves. Then we bring the water. When that dries up, there is a water supply system in the sub-district which is miles from here. That one is the one we have to wait for days at for water. If the water has run out in between, we go to that hand pump,” he says.
“When you don’t have water, all you think about is water. When you queue for water, all you think about is the water you hope to get. You worry that you won’t get water. It plays on our mind, it’s like a sickness. We all feel this way here. It’s a very difficult situation to think only of water,” he concludes.
Africa is the most vulnerable place in the world to global climate change
Ethiopia has already endured 10 major droughts since 1980. For the past four decades, the average annual temperature in Ethiopia has been increasing by 0.37 degrees C per decade, with the majority of warming occurring during the second half of the 1990s. Eighty-five per cent of Ethiopians live in rural areas and most rely on subsistence farming for survival. With increasing changes to the climate, Ethiopians are struggling to farm. The drought is worsening, and people are going days without food and water.