Christmas 2017 Unlike Any Other

Giving a Goat to Afar people in Ethiopia

Christmas came right on time for the communities in Berhale district, Afar region, Ethiopia. Receiving goats, and feed for the early stages of the goat integration to the area, has proven to be a vital remedy for treating the abundant traces of the El Nino drought. Giving a goat is a long-term solution combining humanitarian and developmental assistance to people in need.

It is Christmas day, the 25th of December 2017, however Christmas seems far away when being in Berhale district, of Afar region in Northern Ethiopia. Here, the climate is dry, and hot (around 30 C) and instead of reindeer, this area is centred around goat herding. The Afar people, being Muslim, do not celebrate Christmas, so today is just another day. Being in this hot and dry climate in Ethiopia, I can’t help but be reminded of the Band Aid Christmas song, dedicated to the drought and famine affected Ethiopians back in 1984: “And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime, The greatest gift they'll get this year is life, Where nothing ever grows, No rain nor rivers flow, Do they know it's Christmastime at all?” Nevertheless, Christmas is a lot closer than meets the eye.

Still haunted by El-Nino

The lowland Afar region has been heavily affected by the extreme drought of 2016, where the already dry and hot climate characterising the region was exaggerated to dire conditions. Water is already scarce and the drought in 2016 reduced the water availability in the region, causing the landscape to dry out and many of the cattle to decease. The Afar people are mainly pastoralists, and survive through goat and camel herding. Thereby, the drought in 2016 has left substantial marks on both the people’s livelihoods and the surrounding environment, where many of the communities in the region are still in need of emergency aid.

Around twenty days ago, DCA distributed goats to vulnerable groups in the Berhale district as part of an emergency project as a response to the drought-affected conditions. The targeted groups where: female-led households, orphans, individuals with disabilities and HIV/AIDS positive individuals. Each beneficiary was given five goats in total: four female and one male goat. This decision was made to boost the reproductive efficiency of each goatherd, as a long-term goal of achieving developmental growth in the area. Thereby, DCA sought out to combine emergency response with long-term developmental solutions.

Christmas time after all

Today the beneficiaries will receive their Christmas gift from DCA, being 37.5kg of goat-feed for each beneficiary. This amount is carefully calculated to last each beneficiary a month. The overall aim of the distribution is to support the integration of the newly received goats, to the local environment surrounding Berhale. All though the distributed goats are from the Afar region, the goat-feed is given anyhow, to overcome the small differences of environment that might occur. Furthermore, since the area is still haunted by the drought of 2016, it is not easy to find grazing areas for the goats. Thereby, the feed is distributed as a start-off boost, to secure the survival and reproduction of the goats.

The goats in Afar are used to adapt to harsh and dry climates, with little water and grazing areas. However, since the Afar people are pastoralist, they have learned to rely almost 100% on their goatherd. For that reason, giving goats to the Afar community has proven to be a vital solution for overcoming the severe consequences of the drought in 2016. There might not be snow, rain or river flows in Berhale like the song from Band Aid from 1984 states, but on Christmas day 2017 there are goats and goat-feed to secure the lives of the vulnerable groups of Berhale district. 

How does giving a goat help the Afar people?

A goat provides long-term livelihood security, such as:

  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Calves

These can be consumed by the owner, or sold to obtain other necessities.