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28-05-2021 | Latest News , Africa

Ethiopia: Fear and lack of farming supplies risk severe long-term food shortages

As fighting in pockets of Ethiopia’s Tigray region continues and food supplies dwindle, local farmers not only lack seeds and fertilizer ahead of the planting season but fear runs high.

Endrias Kidane states: “Our children are suffering. Whenever we hear the sound of a corrugated iron we all run thinking its gunshots. We run everywhere to the hills and mountains.”

Weyzero Haregu Teshale adds: “The land cannot grow crops without fertilizer and the fertilizers we had were looted.”

Without the necessary agricultural supplies, the dramatic food shortages already seen in the region will continue to grow and thousands of people may not have enough to eat during the planting season.

To help farmers who can safely access their agricultural land grow cereal crops for the next year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in partnership with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, is distributing seeds and two varieties of fertilizer to 16,000 families in central zone of Tigray Region.   

“The farming communities we recently visited are struggling. They can only afford two meals a day instead of three, and the variety of what they eat has become very poor,” said Amila Suriyarathne, who heads the economic security program for the ICRC in Ethiopia. “The farming season in Tigray starts soon, and things can deteriorate very quickly if farmers can’t plant crops.”    

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood in rural Tigray. However, climate and soil in this mountainous area pose significant challenges to farmers, who heavily depend on fertilizer to boost food production. Since armed violence flared up last November, agricultural seeds and subsidized fertilizers on credit from cooperative unions, vital for growing crops in the region, have been unavailable.   

At the same time, an estimated one million displaced people have been relying on the support of the host communities who shared their already limited resources and whose food stores are running dangerously low. Many farming communities suffered from looting that further undermined their ability to produce food. 

A recent analysis by the ICRC of the food security situation in the region found that families who now can afford to eat two meals a day may soon be forced to eat only one per day. The violence in the region, aside from affecting the agricultural cycle, is also making it difficult for families to find additional work to help them afford more food.

For further information about how ICRC is supporting people in Tigray

see the latest operational update


Location: Aksum, Tigray Region, Ethiopia

Length: 7.52

Format: mp4

Camera: Eric Chege

Date: 26/05/2021

Copyright: ICRC access all


Wide shot of a village in Aksum


Wide shot of a village in Aksum


Various shots of homesteads and farms.


Shots of villagers walking.


Shots of villagers seated.


Interview:  Endrias Kidane, Community Member

“ Since October 25 we have been living in fear. Our children are suffering, we are fearful. Whenever we hear the sound of a corrugated iron we all run thinking its gunshots. We run everywhere to the hills and mountains.”


Various shots of women seated.


Shots of a boy seated.


Interview: Weyzero Haregu Teshale, Community Member

“The situation has hurt us a lot. We all left our houses with nothing to carry from the situation and our children have been exposed to different kind of diseases, there is no school. All children and women are hiding in mountains”


Wide shot of the distribution area.


Various shots of ICRC staff disseminating information to community members.


Interview: Malaika Van Klinken - Ecosec Team Leader

“After November 2020, there was a lot of losses of seeds that we knew about. There’s also been a lack pf fertilizer arriving in the area. The land here needs fertilizer so we came and did an assessment and the first thing the people said they needed was fertilizer and seeds. So we did an assessment through the villages, through the communities and registered 12 Kebeles, which consist of 3 to 4 villages each, so about 40 villages in total. The assessment consisted of understanding the security situation, understanding where the people had land, understanding whether the people had started farming, whether the people had started ploughing. This was our criteria for giving the people fertilizer and seeds. In this 12 Kabeles, the 40 villages, people had already started ploughing, had started preparing land and were desperately looking for fertilizer to be able to start planting.”


Various shots of the fertilizer and seeds being offloaded from trucks at the distribution center.


Various shots of community members undergoing registration and verification during the distribution.


Shots of people walking to collect the seeds and fertilizer.


Interview: Malaika Van Klinken - Ecosec Team Leader

“So in the 12 Kebeles, we are supporting 16,134 households. Each household gets 100kg of fertilizer consisting of two different types of fertilizer of 50kg of each type of fertilizer. They are getting 5kg of Sorghum seeds and 10kg of Teff seeds.”


Various shots of the distribution process.


Interview: Weyzero Haregu Teshale, Community Member

“We are very happy to receive the fertilizers. The land cannot grow crops without fertilizer and the fertilizers we had were looted.”


Interview: Malaika Van Klinken - Ecosec Team Leader

“The reaction has been incredibly positive. People have the trauma of the farming of the 1980s still very much in their psyche. What they were worried the most as the conflict started and as everything was going on, what stresses them the most is the lack of being able to produce food so this has driven them to continue farming, to continue ploughing their lands and the reaction has been overwhelming. As soon as we are distributing it, we are already seeing people starting to use it, starting to plant the Sorghum seeds, Teff seeds will be planted in June, the people are prepared. The trauma of the famine is still very much in the psyche and people are trying to avert a food insecurity situation.”


Various shots of people packing fertilizers and seeds for transportation.

For further information, please contact:

Anne Kilimo, ICRC Addis Ababa,   M. +251944101700

Alyona Synenko, ICRC Nairobi,  M. +254716897265

Wolde Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Geneva,  M. +41792519302

or visit our website:

To find out what the ICRC is doing to put an end to attacks on health workers and patients, go to

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Duration : 7m 52s
Size : 1.1 GB
On Screen Credit: ICRC or logo

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