A cry for help from Ethiopia in face of climate change

Posted: 3 December 2009

Climate change is hitting the world's poorest countries, the people least able to cope, according to a new case study on Ethiopia.

Researchers looked at which groups in the country are most vulnerable, what community members say they need to adapt, and the role of family planning and reproductive health in increasing resilience to climate change impacts.

"The Ethiopia example shows that we must fulfill the global demand for contraception to improve the lives of women and communities, said Dr. Karen Hardee, Vice President for Research at Population Action International (PAI), and the report's author. "Leaders in Copenhagen should integrate family planning into global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change,"

Ethiopia is expected to more than double its population by 2050. The report highlights how rapid increase in the population is likely to exacerbate the effects of climate change. In the study, women and men from two areas of Ethiopia speak about the increasing challenges they face in adapting to climate change. They recount how rising temperatures, more frequent droughts, increased flooding, receding grazing land and diminishing forests are making it more difficult for their families and communities to cope.

"Nothing seems... like in the past. On the contrary, the problems are getting worse," said one interviewee in Oromia, Ethiopia. "The temperature, shortage of food and rainfall situation is worsening." Another participant commented that "...if a family has limited children, it will have enough land for its kids and hence we can protect the forests... Limiting the number of children will help us to cope with the change in climate."

Kathleen Mogelgaard, Senior Program Manager for Population and Climate Change at PAI said "We're helping to fulfill the needs of women while addressing climate change. In contrast, so much of the dialogue leading up to Copenhagen focuses on taking away people's rights to use energy or consume natural resources,"

The study Linking Population, Fertility and Family Planning with Adaptation to Climate Change: Views from Ethiopia was carried out by PAI and the Miz-Hasab Research Center in Ethiopia, in collaboration with the Joint Global Change Research Institute.