We are used to complaining about rainy weather and cloudy days. It is easy for us who do not depend on the rains for our livelihood.
In Ethiopia, over 80 percent of the population eke out a living from agriculture. For them, the year is divided into Meher and Belg, the former constituting of harvests collected between September and February, the latter those collected between March and August. Meher is the most important growing season for all farmers in Ethiopia. However, Belg matters for small-scale farmers since that is the time when the most abundant rainfall reaches the soil.
Some farmers are luckily situated in irrigation areas. For them, production happens all year round. Irrigation schemes are being constructed all around Ethiopia at the moment, but only a fraction of farmers are currently reached by them.
You would understand the importance of the rains if you visited Ethiopia during two different times. Come here in September or October when the rains have been coming down for several months. This is a green paradise. Flowers everywhere and green hills make the country a dreamy, wondrous place. Come here in April when the rains are just a distant memory. If you look at the landscape from an airplane you see an arid landscape totally dearth of any green areas.
In April, everything is so dry. It is as if nature has gone on hold (which it hasn’t, but it looks and feels like it), just breathing in and out before the relief of the May rains.
But what if the rains wouldn’t come when they are expected? It is a dreadful thought.
Maybe I would suffer from the hot weather.
But those who would really suffer are the people who depend on this annual weather pattern, the farmers. I think about the farmers in Mecha, in Zemene Berhan, in Fogera, everywhere in Ethiopia. It is not difficult to understand the detrimental effects of the drought in Ethiopia 1984, for example. It was one of the reasons (not the only one) that led to one of the worst famines in the world.
Water is life.
One day in early May I felt a small breeze when walking on the street. It was so unexpected in this hot season. I immediately knew that the rains were close. During the night it came: a fresh downfall of rain, first lightly, then with a majestic power, as always here in Ethiopia. Thunder and lightnings giving the sky a mysterious silver tone. I just lay there in my bed embracing it, how welcome the rains felt, the wonderful smell of earth and life that come with it.