Ali is a cattle herder. He is an old man in his community. Ali relates “In old days we Afar had many animals and few worries. We were happy and at peace. Our camels and cattle produced so much milk that we poured some of it on the ground. In those days it was rare to find a poor person. If we did, the community would give him animals so that he could become like the rest of us. Everyone was proud and comfortable. Our only concern was that another tribe could come to steal our livestock.”
“Now things have changed. We face too many challenges. We have frequent droughts. The cows have long gone and the shrinking camel and goat herds are producing less milk. There is now not enough camel’s milk but to feed the little children. We have become dependent on food aid and goats’ milk mixed with hot water, coffee leaves and salt. We call the food aid, ‘Kings Food’ because it’s from the outside. We have no king. It is a shame to eat this food but we have no choice. We are dependent on it.”
Today, nobody brags about the size of their herds because too many are suffering. People don’t know what to do. We are proud of what we had in the old days but we are confused about our existence now. Some think this is God’s judgment or curse. Maybe it’s true but why would God want to curse us? Why doesn’t God allow us to have the good life our ancestors enjoyed?”
The Reality of the Situation:
The Afar region of Ethiopia is generally characterized by arid and semi-arid climate with low erratic rainfall and temperatures between 25°C and 48°C. Since 1990, the region has experienced major droughts severely affecting the semi-nomadic people every 2-3 years.
The Afar have become dependent on relief food in these critical times which they share among relatives and clan members. It is estimated that close to 500,000 people are affected.