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    NewsAfricaEthiopia: when dry land and lack of rain force you to leave

    Ethiopia: when dry land and lack of rain force you to leave

    Droughts, irregular rains, unproductive land, food insecurity, poverty… This bleak picture is seriously reducing the quality of life of the population of Arsi, in the Oromia region (in central Ethiopia), according to a report presented this Thursday by Ayuda en Accion and the Institute on Conflicts and Humanitarian Action (IECAH). And faced with these circumstances, the response of many inhabitants, especially the youngest, is to leave. “People make the decision to migrate due to many variables, including poverty or hunger, but also due to climate change, which has played a very relevant role and must be taken into account,” explained Francisco Rey, co-director of IECAH. , in the presentation.

    Migration in Arsi, whether to other parts of the country or abroad, is one of the highest in Ethiopia, the report says. And the causes are various, from food insecurity (shortage of food) to the lack of job opportunities caused by climate change, which means, for example, that rainfall is reduced. A large part of the 3.2 million people who live in this area depend on small-scale agriculture and livestock, and the consequences of global warming are increasingly devastating for land and livestock, develops the study, entitled Climate change, youth and human mobility: an example through the case of Arsi, Ethiopia.

    “Agriculture, from which 80% of the population lives and which accounts for 37% of GDP, is subsistence and dependent on rain. Because of the droughts and floods, the land gives less and less, while the population does not stop growing ”, Ermiyas Tadesse, director of Aid Programs in Action Ethiopia, explained this Thursday during the presentation of the report.

    Remittances help start and maintain economic activities without relying solely on weather conditions, but are only beneficial if the new businesses are sustainable

    These circumstances, in turn, result in a lack of income and, therefore, in greater poverty. In addition to the difficulties in agriculture, other obstacles are the social pressure linked to the local mentality regarding the idea of ​​family success and the lack of quality services, such as education and professional training. “So there is not much other option, apart from migrating”, has concluded Tadesse.

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    According to the survey, 58% of the participants considered that their assets were insufficient to cover their basic daily needs. In the case of young women, these circumstances have a greater impact, since 60% decide to leave due to lack of income and 28% because their crops fail. “Especially young women are at a disadvantage in terms of control and access to land. They do not manage to earn enough income to live and, furthermore, they are the ones who suffer the effects of climate change disproportionately, since they must face not only their own needs, but also those of their families”, explained David Perejil , IECAH researcher and co-author of the report, in the presentation.

    The main destinations for migrants are the urban and industrialized areas of Ethiopia —Asella, Adama, Mojo or the capital, Addis Ababa— and neighboring Arab countries, which demand low-skilled labor for men, and domestic workers, in the case of women. Saudi Arabia receives between 80% and 90% of Ethiopian labor migration. “They leave to send remittances to their families, who remain in their places of origin, and have more economic options. In this sense, it is important to note that Arsi migration is usually a family project, in which all members of the group contribute to the process. Therefore, the failure or success of those who emigrate affect everyone”, Perejil assured.

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    Birtukan Bikila, a young man who emigrated to Saudi Arabia, is back in his hometown, in the Arsi area, in the Oromia region (Ethiopia), at the end of 2022.GJ Carazo (Help in Action)

    The study has identified several success stories, in which the family saw its income increase and managed to adapt to this new clan organization, thanks to the migration of one or more of its members. “I emigrated to Saudi Arabia for two reasons”, begins the young Birtukan Bikila, in a testimony collected on video by Ayuda en Accion. “My family sent me to study thinking that the university would cover all my expenses, but it didn’t. They only bear the costs of food and accommodation, they do not give money, ”she continues. “That’s why I left,” she declares. “While I was in Saudi Arabia, I sent money to my family, so they could buy uniforms, exercise books, fertilizer. I also bought them two oxen and built them a house with sheets of corrugated iron”, explains the young woman.

    The high cost of migrating

    However, even in the best situations, migrating comes at a high cost, as those who undertake the journey face abuse, human rights violations and risk death along the way. “In addition to being mistreated in transit or destination countries, they are often victims of human trafficking networks that subject them to forced labor,” explains Julian Donoso, from the Ayuda en Accion program team, in conversation with this newspaper. . “Women are especially vulnerable, as they are often forced to work in semi-slavery conditions, as domestic workers or prostitutes,” he points out.

    Migration comes at a high cost, as those who undertake the journey face abuse, human rights violations and risk death on the way.

    In addition, according to this person in charge, family remittances only occasionally manage to reduce exposure to the effects of climate change, improve (or, at least, maintain) the quality of life and develop initiatives that strengthen the capacities and increase the resilience of the beneficiaries. “They help start and maintain economic activities without relying solely on weather conditions, but they are only beneficial if the new businesses are sustainable,” he stresses. This is due, in part, to the scarcity of initiatives that support migrants and their families in the use of these resources, providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to do so.

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    And if migrants do manage to return home, their reintegration poses significant challenges, the report notes. “The return is not easy either, because they have to endure tensions in the family environment,” explains Donoso. “Women are stigmatized by the community due to the nature of the work they do, and men often suffer from mental problems as they blame themselves for not being able to support their families,” he says.

    Beyond migrating, these communities also try to alleviate their poverty with other strategies such as daily work in the city (23%), the sale of productive assets (18%) or the sale of firewood (10%). To them are added other more painful decisions, such as child labor and the marriage of minors, according to this report.

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