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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
Ask drought-stricken villagers in Ethiopia

Composite image of Moyale community in Ethiopia

Moyale is a small community in the Borena region of Ethiopia, which is at the heart of a food crisis leaving at least 11m across the Horn of Africa needing aid.

Cattle and people in Moyale, Ethiopia
Moyale is near the Kenyan border
Just this week, the seasonal rains have begun after two failed rains in a row. More than one in three people in this barren area - known as the triangle of conflict because of its proximity to the Kenyan and Somali borders - needs food aid and many have lost their cattle and with it any wealth they had.

The BBC News website is inviting readers around the world to put their questions to local people as they come to terms with how sustainable their lifestyles are and what their futures may hold.

They will be answering your questions throughout the day on Thursday 6 April via a LIVE laptop link-up.

Click on the links below to read more about the villagers.

ADEN DUBA, 48, PASTORALIST

Aden Duba

Aden Duba is worried that their traditional lifestyle is not sustainable any more.

He supports eight children, two wives and another seven members of his extended family.

He says he is left with very little after having lost 21 cattle, nine goats and two camels and is worried that those left will die, despite the rainy season finally arriving.

"I live in Moyale and my cattle are in the country 30kms (19 miles) away. Even now they may be dead because of the rain.

"There is little food assistance and this is a big problem - almost everyone needs help."

He says he is worried that if things continue like this those who lose all their animals might not live in peace.

"We are starting to sense that pastoralism is not sustainable as a livelihood anymore."

The 48-year-old says that because of this they want their children to be educated and have more opportunities and a different life but in the meantime they struggle during the drought to send them to school.

"It's very difficult to switch from pastoralism to non-pastoralism overnight. We were brought up with regular conflict and this is a tough life," he says.

"We want our children to go to university but without cattle we will not be able to afford fees. We are struggling to feed our children."

BORU ROBA, 57, HERDSMAN

Boru Roba

Fifty-seven-year-old Boru Roba has been a herdsman all his life.

His wealth is measured in terms of how much livestock he has. He has lost more than 120 head of cattle and he fears for the 60 remaining. The cold that comes with the rains can finish off the weaker cattle.

"I am also worried about the health of people and cattle - the rain spreads diseases."

He says the rains which have just begun are still a month too late for many.

He says the rainy seasons are much shorter than they used to be and is worried that these current rains will be short and the remaining animals might perish.

He also grows some crops but the erratic rainfall means it is much harder than it used to be.

Conflicts between his Borena group and others are also worse when people lose their cattle, he says, and he is concerned at the easy availability of guns.

He also says that when people lose their cattle they are forced to cut down trees to make a living which causes environmental damage and can lead to desertification.

The key solutions for the area he feels are better use of water and more education.

"We want our children to be educated and be competent in this."

MOMINA GABABO, 32, CATTLE TRADER

Momina Gababo

Momina Gababo is not just a cattle owner and as such is relatively wealthy among the Gabra community.

She and her husband are also cattle traders and employ people to take cattle north by foot to Yabelow to sell them.

They have lost some of their livestock but still have a good number of camels, cattle and goats as they could afford to feed them .

She is 32 years old and is married with five children - and has taken in five more from relatives.

"Some of the children are orphans and are impaired - before the drought we had a good income so it was not a problem to look after them. Yet I still have had cattle dying - even for me it's not been easy."

She expects to have more children but wants a bigger gap between them than the current two years between each of hers so far.

"I have been fortunate and have come through the drought still in good shape, but many of my neighbours have been beaten by the drought."

She thinks people need to change their habits and traditions if they want to survive and prosper.

Horn of Africa map

"Cattle is not the only way to make money - people are too dependent on them. They should be more enterprising. There are many ways to make money."

She also feels strongly that women have a difficult time in southern Ethiopia.

"Women are the first to suffer in the drought - even when the animals suffer from lack of water we hold water on our backs and travel for many kilometres to give the animals water.

"We also have to get them hay and transport it and grow food crops. It is not easy in our culture."

IBRAHIM ALI, 47, CATTLE OWNER

Ibrahim Ali

Ibrahim Ali is a Muslim and has had many wives during his life.

He currently has just two, having abandoned several in the past.

The 47-year-old has 16 children to look after and during the drought has lost almost all of his cattle, having just four cows left.

"Two are very weak - almost dead - with the rains two will die. I am sure of that.

"I have many children - with only two cattle. This is what the Lord wills. I have no alternative but to bear what happens."

He says that his family sometimes gets money from relatives and friends so they can buy some sorghum or wheat or rice, but if they don't they can go hungry.

"Sometimes we have food, sometimes we don't. No-one has died but many of us have had bad stomach aches and diarrhoea. The drought affects animals and people equally."

For the future, Ibrahim wants food assistance, education in trade and farming.

We are used to drought and people die - but we also need to make sure we don't overstock with cattle or it degrades the land.

I will tell people the truth - whatever people want to know.

TATO BORU, 40, PEACE ACTIVIST

Tato Boru

Tato Boru had her first child, Abdi Molu, when she was only 13.

It was very difficult for her and she had two operations after giving birth, says the mother of six, who is now 40.

"He is a good boy but he has had a difficult time. He grew up without education and in a very rural area."

Her third son, Nura, had a better education and went across the border into Kenya and down to the capital, Nairobi, because she thought that English was useful and may help him get a job.

However, since the drought she couldn't pay the school fees and now he is back in Ethiopia studying at grade nine.

"For many years life was good. We could drink as much milk as we wanted from our cattle, but it is getting harder and drought makes it worse."

She has lost lots of cattle in what she says is the worst drought for years. She feels they are becoming increasingly common and linked to that is conflict and cattle rustling.

About 10 years ago the Somalis took all of her livestock and she remembers it as a terrible time.

"I was one of the women who applauded the men to go and fight," she recalls, but because of her experience with the raid she became involved in a local peace committee.

Run by a local NGO, Research Centre for Civics and Human Rights Education backed by Oxfam America, she organises visits to communities to teach the people about peace.

"It is going well - we don't now just sympathise with our own people the Borena, but also with the Somalis and Gabre.

"I am very happy that people will read about us and I can communicate with them about our lives."

NAIMA IDRIS, 19, UNEMPLOYED

Naima Idris

Naima Idris does not like her life here in Moyale at the moment and is frustrated.

She is 19 and after finishing school and doing a computer diploma wanted to go away to study.

However her traditional family does not want her to leave and expects her to stay here and marry.

"There is nothing good about being here," she says. "There are few opportunities." She spent a few months as a secretary but her contract ended.

She believes the culture of the cattle herding Borena is too restrictive and conservative - especially for young women.

She studied for several years on the Kenyan side of the border where she says it is a bit more relaxed. She learnt English there and wants to study it further and then get a job and have some independence.

"I need education, but it's expensive! And as a girl I am not allowed to go away to Addis Ababa or Awasa."

Her father owns a bus, so although they lost their only five cattle, the drought has not been a disaster for them.

However, she says conflict and hostility between the Somali and Borena groups in the area is a big problem.

"When droughts occur, conflict over scarcer resources is more likely to flare and with the easy availability of guns, deaths can occur."

Composite image of Moyale community in Ethiopia




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