Climate Change in Ethiopia – Effects, Overview

Ethiopia is one of the nations in Africa most susceptible to climate change. This is due in part to the nation’s propensity for floods and droughts as well as the fact that 80–85% of Ethiopians make their living from pastoralism and agriculture.

The effects of drought and flooding increase with each subsequent one, particularly in terms of poverty, hunger, and livelihoods, since those who are most disadvantaged must overcome increasingly difficult obstacles to catch up.

A total of 4.5 million Ethiopians needed food aid in 2011 due to the Horn of Africa drought. Given that Ethiopia is similarly vulnerable to the effects of El Niño and La Niña, drought is particularly dangerous here.

El Niño, a warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that happens every two to seven years, made the country’s two consecutive failed rainy seasons in 2015—which resulted in the lowest recorded rainfalls in 55 years for some parts of the country—even worse.

The El Niño that struck in 2015–16, which affected 60 million people worldwide, was ranked as one of the three strongest events ever recorded by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Ethiopians made up 9.7 million of those people.

How Climate Change Has Impacted Ethiopia So Far

It is predicted that in the coming decades, human-caused climate change will result in previously unheard-of levels of global warming.

The effects of climate change are highly likely to affect the nation. The nation’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture, high rates of poverty, and quick population expansion all contribute to its increasing susceptibility to climate change in Ethiopia.

High degrees of environmental deterioration, ongoing food insecurity, recurrent cycles of natural drought, etc. might potentially be contributing factors to the nation’s susceptibility to climate change.

  • Increased Drought and Flooding
  • Impact on Livestock
  • Reduction in GDP
  • Health Challenges
  • Climate Change Impacts on Sanitation and Hygiene
  • Nutrition-related Impacts
  • Impacts on Groundwater Availability
  • Impact on Soil Organic Matter and Soil Quality
  • Impacts on Settlement and Infrastructure

1. Increased Drought and Flooding

In Ethiopia, recurrent floods and droughts have led to property damage, human relocation, and fatalities. It is anticipated that the frequency of droughts will rise, adding strain to food production systems that are already susceptible.

Resources related to soil, water, and biodiversity are under severe strain in the nation due to rapid population growth and unsuitable traditional farming and management techniques.

Poor management methods include things like overgrazing, deforestation, and extensive cultivation. All of these make adapting to climate change on a national scale more difficult.

Floods also submerge fields and harm crops. Food shortages, as a result, could result in malnutrition. For example, 1,650 hectares of maize crops were devastated in the Gambella region in 2006 due to flooding.

Local reports state that the primary cause of the 20% decrease in productivity was waterlogging on the farmlands.

Most of the people affected by the storm were particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. It is reasonable to conclude that a shortage of food could exacerbate the country’s present hunger issue.

2. Impact on Livestock

The majority of livestock in Africa and the tenth-largest producer of livestock and livestock products worldwide are found in Ethiopia, where they account for roughly 10% of the nation’s foreign exchange revenues.

Ethiopia has frequent and severe droughts, which have a significant impact on the nation’s cattle since less rainfall limits the amount of water available and lowers the productivity of grasslands and rangelands.

When there is a drought, cattle suffer. The primary causes of cattle fatalities in Ethiopia are food and water shortages. Raising the temperature can have an impact on livestock’s behavior and metabolism, which includes decreasing their food intake and output.

Variations in temperature and precipitation may also expand the range of distribution and longevity of insects such as mosquitoes and flies that spread infectious illnesses to cattle.

Ethiopia is already seeing these effects on livestock; throughout the previous 20 years, there have been cattle losses in the southern Ethiopian region of Borana due to drought.

The average number of animals per family decreased: “from ten to three oxen; from 35 to seven cows; and from 33 to six goats.”

Similar to droughts, floods significantly affect animals. Floods have the potential to kill or carry away animals.

For example, in the SNNPR in 2006, flooding claimed the lives of about 15,600 animals. Large stretches of grazing ground are also submerged under water due to flooding, which prevents the animals from finding food.

3. Reduction in GDP

It is projected that the country’s GDP growth will be negatively impacted by climate change by 0.5 to 2.5% per year. It is indisputable that quick and practical measures to increase resilience are needed.

Climate change may impede economic growth. Even worse, it has the potential to undo development progress and worsen the nation’s social and economic issues.

4. Health Challenges

People throughout the world are currently experiencing the negative effects of climate change on their health and lives. This is especially true in nations with low incomes. It has an impact on the environmental and social determinants of health, such as safe drinking water, food security, shelter, and clean air.

The ways that climate change affects health are multifaceted. Nonetheless, the literature identifies two primary effects of climate change on health.

The first is the immediate impact of heat stress and weather-related extremes, which raise morbidity and mortality rates. The indirect effect is the other one.

Changes in the incidence of infectious diseases and fatalities resulting from climate change are considered an indirect consequence of climate change.

Undernutrition as a result of fluctuations in agricultural productivity and food security is one of the main health impacts. The other climatic effects include an increase in the prevalence of diseases like malaria, meningitis, and diarrhea that are sensitive to the climate.

However, water scarcity and natural catastrophes like floods and droughts are the primary causes of other detrimental health effects of climate change.

When floods force people into overcrowded refugee camps with inadequate water and sanitation facilities, the health issues they cause are exacerbated.

After the flood passes and they go back to their houses, the water from their customary sources has become tainted with toxins and germs that cause disease.

  • Vector-borne Diseases
  • Water-borne Diseases
  • Zoonotic Diseases
  • Meningitis

1. Vector-borne Diseases

Malaria in eastern Africa has become more severe due, in large part, to climate change. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 68% of Ethiopians reside in malaria-risk zones.

Climate change is also expected to change the geographic range and lengthen the period that major vector-borne diseases take to spread.

2. Water-borne Diseases

There isn’t much research that looks at the connection between water-borne illnesses and climate change in Ethiopia. Nonetheless, the reports that have been made public by the studies suggest potential connections.

According to the most current Ethiopian Demography and Health Survey (EDHS) data, there is a seasonal variation in the prevalence of diarrhea. After devastating floods in 2006, a cholera pandemic struck, causing a great deal of illness and death.

Acute watery diarrhea outbreaks have happened in several parts of Ethiopia since 2006. Thousands of people became ill as a result, and hundreds of them died.

3. Zoonotic Diseases

A “hotspot” for zoonotic disease outbreaks has been identified as Ethiopia. The nation was the top hotspot for leptospirosis, the fourth greatest for trypanosomosis and Q fever, and the tenth for tuberculosis.

Just 13 countries account for 68% of the global zoonotic disease burden. The fourth-highest zoonotic burden is found in Ethiopia. These figures show that the zoonotic disease burden is already present in the nation.

The burden could rise as a result of climate change effects. In many countries with different ecologies, researchers have connected leptospirosis epidemics to high rainfall and flooding.

The current environment is conducive to the incidence of climate-induced zoonotic illness, even though relatively little research has looked at the relationship between zoonotic disease and climate change in Ethiopia.

4. Meningitis

Since the first meningitis outbreaks were documented in Ethiopia in 1901, there have been numerous outbreaks in the country, with the biggest ones occurring in 1981 and 1989. Other outbreaks occurred in 1935, the 1940s, the 1950s, 1964, and 1977.

Every incident had an impact on nearly 50,000 people. In the past, the Oromiya Region and the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) have been the most severely impacted. There were also notable effects in the regions of Amhara, Gambella, and Tigray.

Recent studies indicate an expansion of certain serogroups of meningitis in Ethiopia beyond the areas traditionally included in the meningitis belt. This is primarily in line with modifications to the climate and ecology in Ethiopia’s Southern Province.

Meningitis outbreaks were reported in various areas of Ethiopia’s SNNPR region in 2013, according to a news release from the Federal Ministry of Health.

The outbreak typically occurs in the dry season, which lasts from December to June. Dusty winds and respiratory ailments are common during this time of year in the area.

5. Climate Change Impacts on Sanitation and Hygiene

Climate change-related flooding ruins wastewater treatment plants and drainage infrastructure, which has an impact on cleanliness. If sewer lines are present, they may rupture during flooding, overwhelming waste treatment facilities.

Septic tanks and pit latrines may overflow in other locations. Urban and slum sanitation facilities are particularly susceptible to flooding due to their sometimes shoddy construction and design.

Flooding has a significant negative influence on sanitation in rural regions, with inadequate toilet coverage and widespread open defecation.

Even in places without latrines, the slabs are usually composed of mud and wood, which is far more susceptible to flooding than concrete slabs.

The majority of latrines lack a diversion trench, a sturdy wall, or a suitable roof to redirect floodwater and prevent it from entering the latrine. Overflowing latrines can contaminate water supplies and cause diarrheal illness outbreaks.

Drought and water scarcity also have a major impact on sanitation and hygiene. More homes in wealthier urban areas are now using water-flush toilets, which need several liters of water to flush human waste into a septic tank or sewer.

Due to a lack of water, excreta cannot be flushed away, which causes an unpleasant stench to accumulate and draw flies. This makes it more likely that fecal microbes will spread through the hands.

People are also unable to maintain their hygiene by showering or washing their hands and face due to water constraints.

6. Nutrition-related Impacts

Through several causal pathways that affect food security, sanitation, water quality, food safety, health, and mother and child healthcare practices, climate change has an impact on nutrition.

Over the coming decades, there is concern that climate change will raise the risk of hunger and undernutrition.

Ethiopia is ranked fourth out of the sample of countries that were examined in a study that evaluated the incidence of food energy insufficiency in both rural and urban areas in a few African nations.

Ethiopia is also frequently described as having low agricultural yields and average farm sizes, deforestation and land degradation, and persistent issues with food security.

Based on these projections, Ethiopia might have had an additional 2 million undernourished children in 2005, during a drought year.

Low conception rates and poor lactation animal health are caused by pasture and water scarcity in areas of Ethiopia like Shinile and Borena, where drought is more common.

This has an unfavorable effect on the supply of milk and dairy products for home consumption.

Malnutrition and food insecurity have a more severe effect on impoverished households because they lack the resources to change the makeup of their herd.

7. Impacts on Groundwater Availability

The majority of the time, surface water and rainfall are the direct sources of groundwater, with soil infiltration serving as a means of replenishment.

Groundwater exploitation rises when replenishment and/or evaporation rates cause surface water sources to become insufficient.

However, to fulfill sustainable demand, groundwater recharge rates are typically insufficient, which results in lower-quality water and deeper pumping depths (and thus higher expenditures).

Climate change will have an impact on the water resources industry by reducing river runoff, producing less energy, and increasing floods and droughts.

8. Impact on Soil Organic Matter and Soil Quality

The predicted changes in climate could affect soil moisture regimes and temperatures. The soil affects many factors, including water availability, soil temperature regulation, and cycling, all of which have an effect on vegetation at the ecosystem level.

Variations in soil moisture content and temperature can affect the species composition of the ecosystem.

The changes in biomass (detritus material, above- and below-ground biomass) returning to the soil may have an impact on the soil’s organic carbon pool and physical characteristics.

There may be differences in how climate change affects tropical, temperate, and boreal locations.

Net primary production (NPP) may rise in boreal forest regions but plummet in many tropical regions due to projected increases in temperature and effective rainfall.

9. Impacts on Settlement and Infrastructure

The effects of climate unpredictability, such as storms, floods, and protracted droughts, are already clearly felt in infrastructure and settlements.

Urban planners often view less well-known, unpredictable, fast-acting disasters such as flash floods and storm surges as the biggest threats to concentrated localized populations caused by climate variability and change.

The adverse consequences of climate change may give rise to a fresh migration wave. These refugees might relocate to different communities, hunt for new employment opportunities, and increase the burden on the infrastructure.

How Ethiopia Contributes to Climate Change

Ethiopia primarily contributes to climate change through commercial logging, fuelwood collection, and the extension of agricultural land. These activities result in deforestation.

To address this issue, the government has implemented several initiatives, such as protected area establishment, community forest management, and reforestation projects.

However, due to limited funding, poor execution, and lax enforcement, these efforts have been restricted.

  • Agricultural Expansion
  • Failing Government Policies
  • Charcoal Burning
  • Encroachment for Settlement
  • Lack of Avenue for Public Engagement

1. Agricultural Expansion

Almost 80% of the deforestation that occurs globally is a result of agricultural output. Ethiopia’s altering agricultural and animal production practices are the primary sources of deforestation.

Ethiopian farmers are impoverished, face food insecurity, and are unable to pay for the preservation of their forests.

Farmers simply value agricultural land more when it comes to facing food insecurity. If individual farmers are facing extreme food insecurity, their only real choice is to turn forests into agricultural land.

Due to their low time preference rates, individuals would much rather eat now than tomorrow and are unable to afford the costs associated with protecting forests for the benefit of the greater national or international community.

Bamboo’s image is a concern. It is regarded as little more than a weed in Ethiopia’s dry areas, therefore the market for bamboo goods such as chopsticks, toothpicks, furniture, and flooring is not very profitable.

This implies that the agro-industry has every reason to plant crops like sorghum and maize in place of bamboo forests.

2. Failing Government Policies

Ineffective government policies that reflect previous institutional and governmental changes as well as instability of land tenure are two ways that deforestation in Ethiopia contributes to climate change.

Ethiopian and foreign stakeholders are engaged in a competitive game about resources, rights, and mandates. Ethiopian and foreign stakeholders are engaged in a competitive game about resources, rights, and mandates. This makes it more difficult to work together to stop deforestation.

In addition to suitable financial incentives, stakeholders’ trust must be restored, and environmental education, public awareness, and civil society engagement must be bolstered. Delegating authority is necessary to build conservation capacities.

Even though it is home to Coffea arabica and produces some of the best coffee on earth, the global coffee business now makes very little effort to protect the forests.

3. Charcoal Burning

Charcoal is a major contributor to climate change in Ethiopia. Here, urban people mostly use this affordable resource for cooking, and as these populations grow and the demand for charcoal rises, deforestation gets worse.

Charcoal production also contributes significantly to carbon emissions in addition to waste from wood. Whether they live in rural or urban areas, Ethiopian households mostly use charcoal as a fuel source for heating and cooking.

The nation has one of the greatest rates of deforestation in the world, losing around 300,000 hectares of forest annually, and its production is a major contributing factor to this damage.

4. Encroachment for Settlement

With an annual growth rate of around 3%, the continent’s population is the fastest expanding in the world thanks to rising life expectancy, declining infant mortality, and high fertility rates.

Currently, 13% of the world’s population resides in sub-Saharan Africa. Nonetheless, projections indicate that the region will house 35% of the world’s population by the end of the century, with its population expected to double over the following several decades.

These figures make it not unexpected that one of the primary factors leading to deforestation in Africa and climate change is population growth.

Trees are felled not only to make way for new communities but also to harvest the basic materials required to build houses and infrastructure.

5. Lack of Avenue for Public Engagement

Ethiopia doesn’t have a strong lobby, and the country’s current restrictive socio-political environment negatively impacts environmental education, awareness, advocacy, and the development of an involved and empowered civil society—all of which are essential for the sustainable conservation and use of Ethiopia’s forests.

Possible Ways to Manage Effects of Climate Change in Ethiopia

To mitigate the effects of climate change in Ethiopia, several solutions can be implemented, like

  • Policy Change
  • Crop Diversification
  • Mixing Crop Production with Pastoralism
  • Tree Planting
  • Off-farm Activities
  • Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)
  • Selling of Assets
  • Enset
  • Food Aid
  • Irrigation and Diverting of Water
  • Migration Climate

1. Policy Change

Policies that are capable of meeting these difficulties are desperately needed. To incorporate climate resilience into urban planning, we recommend that

  • The government created a climate adaptation and resilience office.
  • An impartial authority should evaluate the policies in effect.
  • A water management policy should be implemented to guarantee fair access to and sustainable use of water.
  • The city should spend money on green infrastructure
  • It should also upgrade infrastructure and manage waste better
  • It should run public awareness campaigns and teach students about the effects of climate change in schools
  • It should set up procedures for efficient coordination between various government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and foreign organizations.

2. Crop Diversification

Rather than aiming to maximize the yields of a single crop, this technique tries to minimize the risks of a complete crop failure. Crop diversification is common in Ethiopia. In Ethiopia, crop diversification is the most often employed strategy to combat climate change.

Increased usage of various crop kinds in the same season may result in cheaper costs and easier access for farmers.

In eastern Ethiopia, crop diversification was a common strategy for adapting to climate change, along with soil and water conservation and water collection techniques.

3. Mixing Crop Production with Pastoralism

Key methods in Ethiopia include the division of animals into separate herds, the use of mixed species herds, the use of widely distributed and seasonally available pastures, and mobility in response to seasonal fluctuation in pasture yield.

Selling animals was a typical way for farmers in Ethiopia’s Upper Awash Basin to cope with dry spells.

4. Tree Planting

In the Ethiopian Nile Basin, planting trees is one of the main strategies farmers use to adjust to climate change. The value of vegetation, such as grass, trees, and plants, lies in their ability to prevent soil erosion through their roots.

Trees are useful in times of drought and flooding, and a large stand of them can provide shade, fresher air, and a reduction in local temperatures.

5. Off-farm Activities

If farmers have side jobs outside the farm, it helps lessen their exposure to climate change. Farmers in Ethiopia’s Upper Awash Basin found that selling their labor was a useful coping mechanism during dry spells.

Increased production of small-scale commodities is another one of Ethiopia’s traditional and modern coping strategies. Selling honey, clothing, or handmade goods including mattresses, hot food, drinks, whips, and ropes are a few examples of off-farm enterprises.

6. Soil and Water Conservation (SWC)

Since about 1990, Ethiopia has been using various types of soil and water conservation measures, and these strategies have likely evolved significantly since then.

Farmers mostly employ soil and water conservation techniques to restore their land because of soil erosion and degradation. Because these processes are being somewhat accelerated by climate change, these activities are becoming more and more significant.

7. Selling of Assets

A coping strategy for Ethiopia’s climate variability and extremes is the sale of agricultural equipment and other assets.

Farmers may choose to sell some of their resources at the market, which can serve as a safety net, a coping strategy, and a significant source of additional revenue.

Similar to cattle, for example, material assets within the household might serve as a cushion against hard times.

8. Enset

Neset, also known as the false banana, is closely linked to the previous section and is valued highly in many Ethiopian communities, particularly in the south. It is a moderately drought-resistant plant.

Enset is a plant that grows well in some areas of Ethiopia, making it a prime illustration of the previous section.

But it is so crucial that it is chosen to be studied as a separate area. Enset yields more food per unit area than the majority of Ethiopian cereals.

9. Food Aid

In Ethiopia, food appeals and food help have been recognized as coping mechanisms against climate extremes and variability.

NGOs, the government, families, and other people can provide farmers with financial assistance during periods of severe drought. Drought-related expenses in Ethiopia are projected to have totaled US$5.3 million.

10. Irrigation and Diverting of Water

Merely 2,900 km2 (estimated in 2003), or 1% of the total cultivated area in Ethiopia, is irrigated. Among the main adaption techniques found in Ethiopia, irrigation is one of the least used options.

11. Migration Climate

Both permanent and temporary migration in pursuit of jobs are examples of traditional and modern coping strategies in Ethiopia against climate variability and extremes. A small percentage of Ethiopians lead semi-nomadic lives.

They go a few times a year in search of pastures for their animals. For example, they own a permanent farm in one location, but for a portion of the year, they relocate the family and their animals to different regions, returning several months later.


There is a need to raise community awareness and knowledge about health and climate change. Dissemination platforms and appropriate media can do this.

It is necessary to increase the number of skilled individuals in climate change and health in research organizations and higher education institutions.

A recommended action to be performed is to increase the research capacity on climate change and health. A portion of this can be accomplished by educating academic institutions and research centers and offering them technological help.

Other crucial areas include creating and enhancing national and international research collaborations, as well as establishing institutes for health and climate change research that are well-equipped with lab space.

It is necessary to update the current policies. These seem like equally urgent challenges, as does the requirement to create new policies and strategies that adhere to national and international norms.

In a similar vein, health units and climate change must be integrated into diverse organizations and academic/research institutions.

These are the primary needs that this study has determined to be urgent. All demand the coordinated efforts of stakeholders.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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