For Debo Buru, a resident of Medecho sub-district, in Yabello, Oromia Regional State, pastoralist life is growing more unpredictable and precarious by the year. About a decade ago, life was good for Debo – she had six cows and plenty of milk, which was a major source of food; she even sold the extra milk to buy sugar, maize and clothes. Water was plentiful, and she never worried about where the next meal would come from.

That started to change about eight years ago, when Debo lost most of her cattle to a bad drought. Milk became hard to come by. Her two surviving cows were so weak and sickly that they hardly gave any milk. Since then, pasture and water conditions have deteriorated. It generally rains too little too late. Debo is struggling to feed her family of five with only one cow and three goats. She receives government support of 15 kg of wheat per family member a month. Moreover, she works for an NGO every other day to earn ETB 375 (less than USD 20) a month. The support enables her family to survive, but her life is nothing like what she dreamed for her children. With all the hard work, she can only feed her children once or twice a day and the only milk for her children comes from one lactating goat, which is far from enough.

The current drought is yet another blow for Debo –she is on the verge of losing her only cow. Debo says, “my family and I look at my cow with a broken heart. She has no more weight to lose but her life.” Debo finds it hard to imagine life without her cow and her feeling for the future is bleak.

In response to the recent emergency in pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, USAID’s PRIME project has recently worked with government and private sector actors to facilitate fodder distribution to pastoralists. Debo was one of the hundreds of beneficiaries selected, receiving vouchers worth 79 kg of fodder which will feed her cow for about 20 days. Debo thinks that the fodder support couldn’t have come at a better time. “I can’t be thankful enough for the fodder. Without the fodder, it would be a matter of days before my cow dies,” says Debo with a subdued voice. For now, she hopes that her cow will survive this drought and be able to continue to send her children to school.[read more =”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

PRIME responded to the escalating drought emergency in its operational areas through fodder vouchers and commercial de-stocking. Both interventions are aimed at reducing the pressure of deteriorating pasture conditions on households by having the means to maintain their remaining livestock assets and/or sale part of their herd and convert them into cash assets to be able to re-stock their herd. Based on the national guideline for livestock relief intervention in pastoral areas of Ethiopia, the project facilitated the distribution of 64,000 kg of hay in 30 sub-districts of Borena Zone, Oromiya Regional State in August 2014 only. The interventions will reach about 5000 heads of livestock, helping families maintain their living standards and nutritional status, and contributing to protecting PRIME’s market-based investment and development gains. For this intervention, PRIME provided vouchers to beneficiaries who collected hay from private businesses that were linked to wholesalers contracted by PRIME. The intervention has contributed to establishing a market system for fodder in Borena Zone. PRIME will continue to support the fodder market system so that pastoralists have access to fodder at an affordable price to improve the productivity of livestock and livestock products in dry and rainy seasons.

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