Raining when it shouldn’t

Wheat and Barley, northern Amhara regionOver the weekend we were trekking in the north of Ethiopia. The fields were full of wheat and barley, looking (to my inexpert eye) about 3 weeks from harvest (see the picture, right, taken on 29th November).  The farmers all said they were looking forward to a good harvest this year.

Then last night, we woke up to torrential rain. I gather it was raining in Addis Ababa too.  It doesn’t normally rain at this time of year in Ethiopia.  If this continues for another day or two, the crop will be ruined.

The rain today is an unwelcome reminder of how precarious is the livelihoods of millions of people who are dependent on rain coming at the right time (and not at the wrong time).  It can turn a good harvest into a bad one, or into no harvest at all.  Affected families may be forced to sell their meagre assets, pushing not only them but their children into another generation of chronic poverty.

Our thoughts today are with the millions of farmers of Ethiopia and their families.

UPDATE: (2nd December) – It has been cloudy, but not raining, here in Addis. Fingers crossed.

2 comments on “Raining when it shouldn’t”

  1. Owen, it’s happening here in Zanzibar, too. It’s raining as I speak. Normally there should be a little rain at this time of year (but not much, according to colleagues), but it’s been chucking down at least every other day for two weeks now. So much so that the fields normally used for the Eid el Hajj celebrations were flooded and they had to be relocated.

    In four years I spent in in Malawi there was at least one year in which torrential rain came out of season, too.

  2. You raise a very important point. Climate change is taking place, and it is affecting people badly, regardless what its cause maybe and how much the scientists and politicians argue about it.
    When I was last in Ethiopia in early November, I went to the Rift valley, in the Awash/Sodere area, and was shocked to see how dry and sad the country side looked for that time of year. I had never been in that time of year, but expected it to be green from the recent rain season.

    I too hope that the rain you speak of was a one off and that the farms get to yield their crops without too much loss. Ethiopia is already suffering enough from famine as it is.

    Where exactly did you go on your trek, if you don’t mind my asking?

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and