“Before, the clouds bringing rain always came from the north! Nowadays, the clouds approach from any direction and we cannot rely on them”: an Ethiopian farmer.


The Climate Change Program at the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center & Network (HoA-REC&N) aims to both increase the adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable communities in the Horn of Africa to the shocks of climate change, and mitigate its impacts.

 By promoting sustainable and participatory interventions, building capacity and investing in research, the Program will improve livelihoods and food security across the Horn of Africa, and support environmental conservation.


The Climate Change Program at HoA-REC&N was formally established in 2010.

 It was created in response to research conducted in Ethiopia from February 2009 until March 2010 by HoA-REC&N and partners which asked the following questions:

  • What were the likely impacts of climate change on agricultural production and local livelihoods?
  • How were communities and farmers responding to the challenges of changing environmental conditions?

 The findings, documented in the report, “Failing Seasons, Ailing Societies: Climate Change and the Meaning of Adaptation in Ethiopia” showed that the effects of climate change significantly increased the vulnerability of agricultural communities in Ethiopia by exacerbating food insecurity and ecosystem degradation.

 The need to adapt to climate change has been identified as a major social-environmental concern for Ethiopia and the Horn of Arica.

 Objectives of the Climate Change Program

  • To provide technical solutions for climate change adaptation (in communities most vulnerable to climate change);
  • To promote and strengthen the development and modification of societal institutions to realise and implement adaptation measures
  • To provide capacity building for relevant local agents (Non-Governmental OrganizationOrganizations (NGOs), Community-based Organizations (CBOs), Government Organizations (GOs)) on issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • To facilitate and support research on relevant issues in line with climate change adaptation and mitigation challenges
  • To develop and implement expertise in financing schemes in climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • To increase the adaptive capacity of pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and farmers to climate change
  • To create a platform for climate change mitigation by developing pilot dry land carbon sequestration projects


 The Program works with partner organizations to implement projects in the South Omo zone, the Central Rift Valley and Gambella, where farmer and pastoralist livelihoods are under particular threat from the impacts of a changing climate.

 In order to enhance the adaptive capacity of these societies, the programmatic set up of the Climate Change Program rests on two pillars:

  • Technical Innovations
  • Institution Building

 Recent Projects

With its partners, HoA-REC&N is currently supporting communities in South Omo and the Rift Valley to adapt their farming and livestock cultivation methods in response to the changing weather.

 The strategic approaches of the program

 The local partners (government and traditional leaders):

A key principle of the projects will be to consult closely with community members, traditional leaders and the relevant government line departments to ensure activities are appropriate and sustainable.

 The implementing partners:

–          Action For Development (AfD), Global Teams for Local Initiatives (GTLI), the Nyangatom woreda Office of Agriculture and Pastoral Affairs and Water and Energy, and Nynagatom Woreda Women and Children are responsible for activities in South Omo.

–         Arsi Nature Conservation and Environmental Development Association (ANCEDA), Rift Valley Children and Women Development Organization (RCWDO) and Soil and More Ethiopia PLC (private partner) are responsible for activities in the Central Rift Valley.

 Implementation approaches: The primary approach is to build upon existing local resources and social capital, as well as create greater gender balance.

 Institutional sustainability: The projects principally work with existing institutional structures (e.g. local government or traditional customary systems) and with cooperatives and user groups. In this way, the project is not reliant on newly created institutions, providing greater post-project sustainability.

 This capacity building approach also ensures that the structures on which projects depend will have appropriate expertise and capacity. The HoA-REC&N approach itself will continue the strong functioning partnership between different yet complementary member/partner organizations all working towards climate change adaptation and food security for pastoralists/farmers in project sites. These partnerships will be encouraged to continue after the project lifetime through networking structures, learning and exchange initiatives and through subsequent projects.

 The expected results of the program’s projects are:

  • The human, physical and social capital of affected communities would able to recover from the impacts of climate change and resilience increases;
  • Improved environmental governance;
  • Increased access to and better quality natural resources and rangeland for grazing through natural resource and water management;
  • Holistic and integrated participatory rangeland / natural resource management is implemented whereby food security is enhanced and conflict over pastureland and water points reduced.

 Active Project: South Omo Zone, Ethiopia

 Location: One of the 13 zones of the Southern Nations and Nationalities Regional State (SNNPRS), Ethiopia, located in the south-western parts of the country

Population: 577,673 (CSA 2007). 92.5% of the population live rurally, and 7.5% live in urban area.

Ethnic Groups: Include BenaTsemay, Dassanech, Debeu- Ari, Bodi, Brayle, Dime, Hamer, Kara, Malle, Muguji (kuweigu), Murule, Mursi and Nyangatom.

Livelihoods: Apart from mixing livestock and crop production (main economic activity), the semi-nomadic, agro-pastoralists in the area are engaged in activities such as fishing, hunting, fruit gathering, and collecting honey from the forest.

 South Omo is highly impacted by drought and is a food-insecure area. It is particularly associated with resource-based conflicts and recurrent droughts, and is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

 The Climate Change Program at HoA-REC&N, in collaboration with government and non- governmental partners, has established two project intervention sites in South Omo: the Nyangatom and Hamer woredas.

 The Nyangatom Project

 The Nyangatom are dependent on cattle, goat and sheep to make a living, as well as “river retreat” agriculture to grow crops like sorghum. In the last 10 years, the environment had become hotter and drier and that most of the surrounding fertile land had turned into scorched stretches of dirt, unable to yield anything of nutritional value. Men from the community were migrating with their animals to higher altitude and conflict-prone areas in search of pasture and water, often living away from home for more than 6 months of the year. A secondary issue was the encroachment of drought-resistant varieties of bush (Prospis juliflora).

 In order to equip the Nyangatom with appropriate climate change adaptation strategies, the Climate Change Program proposed the following approaches:

  • Knowledge-based Enclosed (Rangeland) area Management (ERM)/Participatory Rangeland Management (PRM or NRM);
  • Empowering pastoralist decision making, including institutional capacity building;
  • Empowerment/entitlement of resources to user groups, particularly women.

 The main activities include:

 ‘Traditional’ management of rangeland areas

In consultation with local residents, a PRM strategy was developed involving fencing off areas of land and nurturing grass and other palatable plants to re-appear for livestock feed. The new enclosed areas will provide protection for up to 1,000 hectares.

 Selective bush clearing

Bush clearing, thinning and re-seeding in areas where undesirable bush encroachment had taken place and led to the degradation of grazing land; fencing using the removed bush and water harvesting structures have been constructed in selected areas.

 Livelihood intensification

  • Participatory livelihood diversification and Water, Sanitation and Hygeine (WASH) practices to improve the livelihood of the Nyangatom community as an adaptation to climate change;
  •  Support the Ethiopian Government’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy implementation capacity of line offices;
  • Establishing and strengthen Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) to managed climate related shocks.


HoA-REC&N is also working to slowly shift the role of women in the society. Women have few rights in the Nyangatom, for example, they’re unable to own property, and therefore HoA-REC&N is giving women the opportunity to actively engage in different project activities.

 The Hamer woreda

 The project in the Hamer woreda of South Omo aims to strengthen and support efforts to conserve the Buska Mountain massif forest and the livelihoods of communities that depend on its resources. The main objective is to uncover the indigenous environmental stewardship system of the Hamer community that has served to protect the forest historically, and make sure governance practices continue to guard the forest against deforestation.

 The project is also aimed at generate carbon finance through REDD+, part of the United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program (UN-REDD), and other carbon-reducing activities.

 Forest Protection

An elder man, now over 80, named Ato Muga Ourgo, a descendent of the Hamer clan leader family (Balabat), was given the responsibility to manage and conserve the Buska mount forest. For more than 40 years, Ato Muga has upheld this responsibility and any person should get permission from Ato Muga prior to visiting or fetching any resources from the forest. The Hamers should also consult him on where to keep the traditional bee hives (including the trees), and when and how to collect the honey. Any person who violates this unwritten law will be brought to the traditional justice system (commonly exercised until recently) or the formal judiciary system.

 There are signs that this indigenous protection of the forest is becoming undermined and it is possible that the system of environmental governance that currently exists could break down completely, with damaging consequences to the forest.

HoA-REC&N has started a project to safeguard the natural forest and preserve the indigenous knowledge and values that protect it through local stewardship, as well as generate income from climate financing.

 Active Project: The Central Rift Valley

 The Ethiopian Central Rift Valley (CRV) is endowed with important lake systems and national parks and reserves, and provides substantial areas of productive rain-fed agricultural and rangelands. However being semi-arid, it is also an area highly vulnerable to climate change and variability.

Immediate intervention is needed to improve access to water and address the degradation of natural resources in the CRV. HoA-REC&N is, therefore, exploring watershed management and sustainable land management schemes.

As a starting point, efforts will be focused on:

–          Awareness and training on climate change impacts and adaptive strategies;

–          Improving environmental governance;

–          Livelihood diversification and ecotourism;

–          Improving conventional livelihood strategies;

–          Piloting conservation agriculture, climate-smart agriculture and organic farming as an option for triple-wins;

–          Conducting further assessment/studies on climate change impacts and provide training;

–          Enhancing the implementation capacity of local line offices and support CRGE strategies.


 The program has published a book entitle “Ailing Seasons, Failing Societies: The meaning of Adaptation in Ethiopia” both in Amharic and English. The book has been distributed to the wider public: schools in Addis Ababa, Addis Ababa University, regional bureaus, South Research Center (SoRC) and others.




Adane Kebede

Programme Coordinator, Climate Change  Programme


Tel: (+251) (0)911 151200