Climate-related Vulnerability and Adaptive-capacity in Ethiopia's Borana and Somali Communities

Beatrice Riche, Excellent Hachileka, Cynthia Awuor, Anne Hammill
Created: 7/31/2009 -


Pastoral communities in the Borana and Shinile zones of Ethiopia have been changing and adapting their livelihoods to changing environmental conditions for centuries. Recurrent droughts have been a major issue throughout history in the Ethiopian lowlands, and strategies to cope with, and adapt to these droughts are embedded in communities’ traditional social structures and resource management systems.

Local and scientific observations show that the region’s climate is changing. Recent evidence includes increasing temperatures and drought frequency, as well as unpredictable rains that fall in shorter but more intense episodes. The magnitude and rate of current climate change, combined with additional environmental, social and political issues, are making many traditional coping strategies ineffective and/or unsustainable, amplifying environmental degradation and food insecurity, and forcing communities to rapidly find new livelihood strategies.

The communities participating in this study have many ideas on how to prepare for future climate change, demonstrating a strong motivation to move out of poverty and take their future into their own hands. Suggested strategies include: modifying livestock diversity, composition and numbers; diversifying livelihood activities; producing, collecting and preserving hay; modifying rangeland management practices; modifying farming practices; maintaining, rehabilitating and constructing water infrastructure; education; savings and credit; establishing community groups to promote local engagement in a range of social and economic activities; making local natural resource management more effective, efficient and participatory; reducing conflicts over available resources; planting trees; and raising community awareness on climate change issues, including future projections and potential adaptation strategies.

Despite this sense of determination, pastoralists’ ability to adapt is constrained by many factors including increasing land degradation; conflicts over scarce resources, which limit movement and destroy assets that are key for adaptation (especially in Borana); limited access to information (including that on weather, climate change, markets, as well as pest and disease outbreaks); limited education, skills and access to financial services and markets required to diversity their livelihoods; inadequate government policies, capacities and coordination; demographic pressures; and social and gender inequalities and marginalization, which reduce the voice and adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of pastoralists will require community-based and community-led interventions, but will also require tailored support from NGOs, donors, and overnments.

Published On


Community / Local
National / Federal
Sector Addressed
Rural / Indigenous Livelihoods
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Community Planning (developing climate-smart communities)
Develop disaster preparedness plans and policies
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Diseases or parasites
Storms or extreme weather events
Sociopolitical Setting