Climate change is happening

In her 45 years, Belyu has seen dramatic change in the small village of Cherkos in Ethiopia, where she lives. In her youth, Belyu remembers two rainy seasons – one from February to June, known locally as the ‘belg’ season, and a second in the latter half of the year, known as ‘meher’. Today, the change in climate means that the short, sharp rains of the belg season no longer make an appearance in the central Ethiopian Highlands where Cherkos is situated. Only the ‘meher’ season remains – but this season is longer, and the rains are too heavy for the soil in Cherkos to absorb. When the ‘meher’ season arrives, the ground is quickly over-saturated and crops struggle to grow well. In a community where life is defined by the rhythms of the land, this change presents a deadly challenge.

When I was in childhood, there was a surplus of crops she said. ‘But now, I live in poverty.’ Like many others in Cherkos, Belyu remembers a time when providing for the family was not the struggle that it is today. Nowadays, she estimates that families like hers are only able to produce a third of what they could just thirty years ago. The impact of this dramatic decrease in production means that there is a ‘food gap’ – a few months in every year where Belyu struggles to produce enough to feed herself and the four children she looks after. Where just one generation ago there was enough for all, now there is real scarcity.

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