Impact of climate change issues over Ethiopian government policies. Adaptation instruments regarding agriculture and food security.


It is commonly believed that human activity emissions (greenhouse gases) through rising fuel fossil burning and land use alterations has led to climate change. This has materialised by an increase of the average level of global temperature (air and sea), sea-level rise, melting of ice caps and glaciers and reduction of snow coverage.

At continental and regional level, especially in Africa; the observations showed that temperatures have been increasing since the 1960s although, the changes were not always uniform (Boko M. and Alii, 2007). In Ethiopia for example, Boko and Alii (2007, p.436) state that, it has been noted that “minimum temperatures have increased slightly faster than maximum or mean temperatures”.

In terms of implication, these changes have already exacerbated extreme weather patterns such as droughts, extreme precipitation events and hot days and heat waves. Poor countries like Ethiopia are suffering the most because of their geographical location as well as their greater reliance on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture. In addition to this, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (2008, p.15) assume that “the anticipated impacts of climate change, which will begin to occur within the next two to three decades, include: (…), decline in agricultural productivity and food security; (…), particularly in tropical areas”.

To reverse such a prospect, a combination of policies based on mitigation and adaptation are required. Mitigation is intended to avoid or minimize climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases (Lecocq and Shalizi, 2007), whereas adaptation is intended to reduce the negative effects of climate change (or exploit the positive ones) by making the appropriate adjustments and changes (United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change[1], 2007).

Regarding the mitigation part, I believe that the responsibility must be beard by the industrialized countries because they “have contributed most to the existing stock of emissions in absolute terms and on a per capita basis” (The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2007). However, poor countries such as Ethiopia might contribute by improving their land and forest management practices.

Regarding the adaptation aspect, African countries such as Ethiopia must adopt responsive policies to an already pressurising climate stress. Moreover, future predictions are more alarming because climate change will lead to the loss of agricultural land, shorter growing seasons and lower yields (United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 2007). It is predicted that Ethiopia will face a general decline in the production of its main subsistence crop which is sorghum. This is the reason why the country must and is concentrating on adaptation policies.

Adaptation policies:

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is based on rain-fed agriculture with 85% of the population livelihood depending of this sector. In a situation like this, climate related hazards such as droughts or floods will have a negative impact on subsistence crop production and cause a huge loss of life.

Effective adaptation measures must be put in place to cope with the impacts of climate changes. The adaptation measures are by definition tailored for a single sector, region, or a single sector/activity within a specific region. This is because direct impacts of climate variability are felt locally.

In order to implement these measures, a wide range of interrelated needs must be met, including institutional capacity, information gathering capabilities, financial resources, and technological capabilities. Ethiopia lacks much of these capabilities because it is one of the least developed countries in the world.

This status, however, allows the country to benefit from the National adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs) put in place by the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in its decision 28/CP.7 (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001). This is a new approach designed to address the urgent adaptation needs of the least developed countries. It takes into account existing coping strategies at the grassroots level, and provides a preparation process to be followed for the identification of priority activities (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

A process guideline to be followed when preparing the NAPA is given in its establishing document. It is stated that the process begins with the constitution of a multidisciplinary national NAPA team composed of a lead agency and representatives of stakeholders. The team is responsible of preparing the NAPA following a rational model of policy making and coordinating the implementation of NAPA activities (/UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

In Ethiopia, the leadership and coordinating role is given to the National Meteorological Agency. Within this agency, a project management team was created in order to implement the day to day activities of the project. Following this first step, a project steering committee with representatives emanating from stakeholder institutions was established. The role of this committee is to provide overall guidance and oversight for the project. The representatives come from (Abebe Tadege, 2007):

–          Ministry of Water Resources

–          Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

–          Ministry of Finance and Economic Development

–          Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency

–          Ethiopian Science and Technology Agency

–          National Meteorological Agency

–          Addis   AbabaUniversity

–          Institute of Biodiversity Conservation and Research

–          Ethiopian Rural Energy Promotion and DevelopmentCenter

–          CRDA representing NGOs

After the formation of these structures, their first task according to the guideline is to synthesize available information on adverse effects of climate change and coping strategies, and to conduct a participatory assessment of vulnerability to current climate variability and extreme weather events (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

In Ethiopia, however, locally produced information on climate change is quasi inexistent. The National Meteorological Agency that is responsible for generating such information does not have adequate capacity to provide accurate and timely user specific weather and climate forecast. This is due to lack of facilities, skilled manpower and technologies (Abebe Tadege, 2007). For this reason, available information from other networks was accessed such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regional assessments and the UNFCCC national communications (UNFCCC, 2009). Once these informations were collected and synthesized, a participatory assessment was conducted with the key stakeholders and national experts; the objective being to feed in to the formulation of high priority adaptation options for the NAPA (Abebe Tadege, 2007).

On a practical base, the participatory process followed the so called “participatory workshop technique”. In this sense, two national and eight regional workshops were carried out, involving about 500 participants with various expertise. A mechanism of endorsement was also envisaged for the draft final NAPA. Thus, a national workshop was organised on 29 January 2007 where improvements were added by incorporating comments and suggestions (Abebe Tadege, 2007).

Having said that, it is believed that fair and effective planning depend on how national governments already include or exclude their citizens in decision-making and effective participatory planning for climate change requires functioning democratic structures. In a country where these are absent, planning for climate change is little more than rhetoric (Adger W.N., 2007).

The next steps required by the process guideline consist of the identification of key climate-change adaptation measures. This must be based on vulnerability and adaptation assessment but also include other needs identified under other relevant processes. After this, the NAPA team is required to identify and prioritize country-driven criteria for selecting priority activities (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

They are not given a green card on this matter. They must follow recommendations made by the least developed countries expert group (LEG) established by the UNFCCC at its Conference of the Parties 7/Decision 29 (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001). The LEG has identified 10 adaptation goals, one of it being Agriculture and Food Security: Achieve and Safeguard Food Security (LEG, 2009). National NAPA teams are advised to align the NAPA priorities to this set of goals. The purpose is to facilitate identification of adaptation strategies and activities to be implemented in order to address all priority needs presented in the NAPA (LEG, 2009). The criteria to be used for selecting priority activities, themselves, are listed in the establishing document of the NAPA in its section F, sub-title 4. Thus, the requirement is to draw the criteria needed (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

In Ethiopia, a wide range of adaptation options aligned with the adaptation goal (e.g. LEG) of “Agriculture and Food Security: Achieve and Safeguard Food Security” were compiled and reviewed mainly from the following sources:

–          On-going and planned projects

–          Initial National Communication of Ethiopia to the UNFCCC

–          Two national and eight regional consultation workshops

–          Synergy with multilateral environmental agreement assessment reports (Abebe Tadege, 2007).

The outcome of this review has given 37 potential adaptation strategies. These options were then prioritized and ranked before being included in the NAPA to address immediate adaptation needs.

As indicated by the guideline for the NAPA preparation, the criteria selected for prioritizing adaptation measures were drawn from the list it provided. The criteria selected were:

–          Impact on economic growth of the poor (poverty reduction potential);

–          Complementarities with national and sectoral plans;

–          Climate change risk (Losses avoided by poor people);

–          Synergy with action plans under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs);

–          Cost effectiveness (Abebe Tagede, 2007).

After this, the responsibility of the national NAPA team was to determine the importance of each criterion and assign to it a corresponding weight. The method used to evaluate them was proposed by the LEG in its Annotated guideline for the preparation of the NAPA. It is the Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCAs) and was chosen because it allows to make subjective decisions; the benefits of the proposed projects being difficult to quantify and value (Abebe Tagede, 2007).

Thus, each criterion received a weight. Once this was done, the following step was to assign value/scores to the weighted criteria. The scores were described in number for the purpose of MCA analysis. According to this approach, each one of the 37 project options was assigned scores across the five criteria.

After this, the scores were standardized so that for each project option, the five criteria could be aggregated horizontally. To carry out the standardization, an axis (linear interpolation) ranging from 0 to 1 was constructed on which each value of the criterion was plotted. Accordingly, the standardized value of a project with the highest score is 1.0, while the standardized value of the project with the least value is 0. Of course, higher values correspond to advantages, and lower values correspond to disadvantages.

This has allowed the average scores to be calculated and rank the project options. In this sense, the ranking was obtained by adding each of the five standardized scores for a given project option and dividing the total by five for each of the 37 project options. Other stages of ranking were conducted by taking a weighted average of the standardized score in an iterative way. This is to say that the final outcome of the analysis gave the 11 projects listed below. The total estimated cost of the 11 selected projects without the project design cost is 770 million USD.

List of prioritized projects (source: Abebe Tadege).

  Title of   Project Average   Standard Score  



Estimated Cost   (Million USD) Estimated   Project Design Cost (Million USD)
1 Promoting   drought/crop insurance program in Ethiopia 1.00 1 8 0.1
2 Strengthening/enhancing   drought and flood early warning systems in Ethiopia 1.00 2 10 0.1
3 Development of   small scale irrigation and water

harvesting   schemes in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid

areas of Ethiopia



3 30 0.5
4 Improving/enhancing   rangeland resource

management   practices in the pastoral areas of


0.95 4 2 0.05
5 Community   based sustainable utilization and

management of   wet lands in selected parts of


0.95 5 2 0.05
6 Capacity   building program for climate change

adaptation in Ethiopia

0.85 6 3 0.1
7 Realizing food   security through multi-purpose large scale

water   development project in Genale–Dawa


0.80 7 700 2
8 Community   Based Carbon Sequestration Project in

the Rift   Valley System of Ethiopia

0.78 8 1 0.05
9 Establishment   of national research and development

(R&D)   center for climate change

0.78 9 2 0.2
10 Strengthening   malaria containment program(MCP) in

selected areas   of Ethiopia

0.78 10 6 0.5
11 Promotion of   on farm and homestead forestry and

agro-forestry   practices in arid, semi-arid and dry-sub

humid parts of   Ethiopia

0.76 11 5 0.1

Total   cost

770 3.75


The preparation of the NAPA is the first step in implementing adaptation measures. This is a continuing process that can be used as a tool for periodic (e.g. every five years) monitoring and evaluation procedures and processes that would feed into further adaptation activities and projects.

Regarding the implementation of the NAPA priorities, the UNFCCC has defined a source for financing it at the seventh session of the Conference of the Parties. It was agreed during this session to establish the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) and request was made to the Global Environment Facility[2] (GEF) to operate it (UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001).

GEF was also given guidance and limits for financing the implementation of NAPA projects. Thus, areas chosen for funding correspond to the adaptation goals defined by the LEG. Also, project proposals under this fund must currently not exceed about USD five million (upgraded recently from USD 3.6 million), to allow all parties a balanced access (LEG, 2009). Additional costs are to be calculated using the sliding scale or proportional scale which takes into account the size and nature of the projects. If the project’s financing structure does not fit within the limits set by the sliding scale, then the additional costs should be financed from the national budget (GEF, 2006).

The guidance also defined criteria for project proposals. Regarding the choice of the implementing and executing agencies, it was allowed to each eligible country (e.g. LDCs) to choose the institutions it deemed appropriate to implement activities under its NAPA. However, it was recommended to use the support of institutions such as the Red Cross, the UN Disaster Relief Office and the World Health Organization to benefit from their technical expertise and experience (GEF, 2006).

In Ethiopia, the institutions appointed for the implementation purposes are the same that those composing the national NAPA team. This time, however, specific institutions or agencies were given the lead responsibility to implement one or several appointed projects. For example, the coordinating role for implementing project number seven relative to the realization of food security was given to the Ministry of Water Resources. A project steering committee composed of representatives from stakeholders was to be established in order to oversee the project. Finally, evaluation of the project was planned to be carried out by independent technical experts (Abebe Tadege, 2007).

Several factors were seen as barriers for the completion of the project, including lack of finance, lack of technical capacity, environmental impact, and legal/institutional barriers. In this sense, each project delivery may be hindered by specific barriers.


As shown above, the preparation of the NAPA followed the rational model of policy making based on a participatory process, the so called “participatory workshop technique”. This was a requirement imposed by the financing organisation, the UNFCCC, through its subsidiary bodies (e.g. LEG, GEF). However, I have signalled that fair and effective planning depend on how national governments include or exclude their citizens in decision-making and effective participatory planning for climate change requires functioning democratic structures. In the case of Ethiopia, there is at the moment no available field research providing that the required preparation process was indeed followed.

However, a first impression can be drawn from the projects financing model itself. It has been shown that available fund for each proposed project does not exceed USD five million, additional costs being calculated using a proportional scale. This means that additional costs will not be fully funded. Furthermore, when project’s financing structure does not fit within the limits set by the sliding scale, then the additional costs should be financed from the national budget.

In the case of Ethiopia, must of the projects prioritized have costs that exceed the imposed ceiling. Thus, additional costs will not be fully funded but also, if we consider that they do not fit within the limits required by the sliding scale then, arises a question of legitimacy. Why would a sovereign government follow, keeping its head down, a process imposed by a foreign institution? Because, it is a poor country?


1)      Abebe Tadege, 2007. “Climate change national adaptation programme of action (NAPA) of Ethiopia” [Online], Adis Ababa, National Meteorological Agency, available from: [Accessed 19 June 2010].

2)      Adger W.N. and Alii, 2007. “Assessment of adaptation practices, options, constraints and capacity” [Online], Cambridge, IPCC, available from: [Accessed 15 June 2010].

3)      Boko M. and Alii, 2007. “Africa. Climate change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” [Online], Cambridge, IPCC, available from: [Accessed 15 June 2010].

4)      GEF, 2006 “Programming paper for funding the implementation of NAPAs under the LCD trust fund” [Online], UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 18 June 2010].

5)      Lecock Franck and Shalizi Zmarak, 2007. “Balancing Expenditures on Mitigation of and Adaptation to Climate Change: An Exploration of Issues Relevant to Developing Countries” [Online], WashingtonD.C., The World Bank, available from: [Accessed 12 June 2010].

6)       LEG, 2009 “National Adaptation Programmes of Action: Overview of preparation, design of implementation strategies and submission of revised project lists and profiles” [Online], Bonn, UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 18 June 2010].

7)      LEG, 2009 “Step-by-Step guide for implementing national adaptation programme of action” [Online], Bonn, UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 18 June 2010].

8)      LEG, 2002 “Annotated guideline for the implementation of NAPAs under the LCD trust fund” [Online], UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 18 June 2010].

9)      The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2002 “Building a Sustainable Future. The Africa Region Environment Strategy” [Online], WashingtonD.C., The World Bank, available from: [Accessed 12 June 2010].

10)  UNFCCC, 2007 “Climate Change: Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Adaptation in Developing Countries” [Online], Bonn, UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 19 June 2010].

11)  UNFCCC/Conference of the Parties, 2001 “Report of the Conference of the Parties on its seventh session, held at Marakesh from 29 October to 10 November 2001” [Online], UNFCCC, available from: [Accessed 18 June 2010].

[1] The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty joined by most of the countries around the world. The objective was to start to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperatures increases are inevitable. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process, especially the Conference of the Parties (COP), the subsidiary bodies (e.g. LEG, LDC, GEF…) and their bureau.

[2] GEF is an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing and transition countries for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, etc…


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