3.4. Impacts of Climate Change and Variability
3.4.1. Decreased Livestock Assets and Productivity
The majority of the respondents (90%) responded that the recurrent and prolonged droughts decreased number of livestock and productivity. The respondents complained that on average, the number of livestock per household under normal years was 44.2 Tropical Livestock Unit (TLU). However, recently, the number of livestock per household was 29.87 TLU. Besides, the drought also decreased the amount of yield per animal.
3.4.2. Decreased Forage Availability
The majority of the respondents (92%) complained that since the magnitude of drought has increased, the rangeland has been degraded and the palatable forages have recently been replaced by non-palatable plants. Respondents noted that before the grazing area recovered from the previous drought, another drought affected the new growth. This situation could cause loss of palatable forage species from the rangeland and reduces forage availability.
3.4.3. Drying up of Water Points
Eighty-five percent of respondents clarified that water points have either dried up or supply was diminished over the course of the recent decades. The shallow wells, ponds and cisterns were the main sources of water for pastoralists. The local households complained that they travelled long distances, more than 20 km, to get water from perennial rivers, even during normal dry seasons of the year.
3.4.4. Effects on Households’ Terms of Exchange
Ninety percent of the respondents affirmed that during droughts, pastoralists had been compelled to sell their livestock at low price because of poor body conditions of animals and oversupply. In recent years, drought frequency has increased, droughts occurred every two three years and pastoralists had no time to recover from the effects of the past drought and, subsequently, the price of livestock continued to decrease while the food grain price was increasing.
3.5. Adaptation and Coping Strategies of Fentale Pastoralists
The major adaptation and coping strategies of pastoral households to adapt to adverse effects of climate variability are indicated in Fig. 2.
3.5.1. Integrating Livestock with Crop Production
Since livestock assets and productivity decreased over time, some households begun crop farming using small-scale irrigation along the banks of the Awash River. The results showed that some pastoral households (25%) practiced small-scale crop cultivation using traditional irrigation practices such as furrows and channels using ground gravity (Fig. 2).
3.5.2. Livestock Diversification and Herd Composition Change
The findings indicated that goats were the dominant population in the herd, followed by camels. The numbers of cattle possessed were exceptionally small when compared with number of goats and camels. The respondents (72%) noticed that the explanation behind huge numbers of goats and camels was that camels and goats are tolerant to the effects of drought and can survive on browsing trees and bushes during feed shortage, while keeping large number of cattle was difficult since palatable forages have been lost due to frequent and prolonged droughts.
3.5.3. Livestock Mobility
The local households (90%) detailed that forages were temporally available and particularly the type of forages in the area were short-lived. Hence, before the forages disappear, the pastoralists would move their livestock on time and on the right place to use these short-lived forages.
3.5.4. Off-farm Activities
The findings showed that cash-for-work was the main off-farm activity practiced by 48% pastoral households in the Fentale district (Fig. 2). The cash-for-work programme which was offered by humanitarian assistance organisations gave temporary employment for the poor pastoralists. The second prevailing off-farm activity was charcoal and firewood selling. The other off-farm activities pursued by 23% of households were petty trading for, example, shopping, livestock and khat trading.
3.5.5. Decreasing Consumption, Remittance and Food Aid
Fifty-six percent of the households indicated that in response to food deficiencies, pastoralists reduce their number of meals per day (Fig. 2). As indicated by the local people, during the most exceedingly awful occasions of the year some adult households ate only one meal per day (41%), others two meals per day (54%) and very few adult households had three meals per day (5%). With respect to kids’ food consumption, most kids (68%) had only two meals per day and 32% three meals per day. The households further indicated that during the drought, the pastoral households diminished the expenditure for clothing, social events and medication.
3.5.6. Livestock Selling
The findings showed that 82% of pastoralists were involved in livestock selling within the 12 months preceding the survey period. Livestock selling is normal in the study area so as to satisfy their requirements; however, most households had been compelled to sell their livestock during the drought periods as the necessity for food grains raised because of the decrease of milk and butter yields from their cows and camels.
In the present study, the average family size (6.5) was generally higher than the national average family size. Such enormous family size in the area may be connected with the polygamy culture that is commonly practiced in Fentale district. Similar results were reported in the studies conducted in Afar region and Sidama zone, Ethiopia (Muluken et al., 2019; Hameso, 2015). Besides, the result indicated that 97% of households were in the range of 18 to 64 years old implying that they were in the productive age category. The result is similar with the studies conducted in Sidama zone, southern Ethiopia which indicated that 96% of farmers in their study area were in the productive age category (Davies et al., 2009). This study revealed that household’s level of education was very low, 72.2% illiterates and 28.8% literates. This implies that the vulnerability of communities to climate variability and change in the study area was high as illiterate households are reluctant to adopt new adaptive technologies and have low employment opportunities on non-farm activities as compared to their counterparts. This result is supported by the studies conducted in Afar region and dry lands of Africa which indicated that education enhances household’s resilience to climate-induced shocks and stresses (Muluken et al., 2019; Kebede and Adane, 2011). Furthermore, basic services such as access to credit, market, climate information and extension services in the study area was very poor which could decrease the adaptive capacity of households to climate induced shocks. This result is in line with a study conducted in Africa which revealed that poor access to basic services reduces the capacity of rural households to diversify their livelihood strategies in light of climate change induced shocks (Hassan and Nhemachena, 2008).
On the other hand, this study also looked into perception of pastoral households to climate variability and change which is paramount to local decision makers to introduce appropriate adaptation measures and enhance climate resilience of the local people (Maddison, 2006; Bisrat et al., 2017). Accordingly, 98% of pastoral households perceived that the rainfall has decreased; rainfall comes early/late and ceases short from the normal rainy season, while 95% of the respondents complained that the temperature has increased. Besides, the results showed that there have been frequent droughts in the study areas as complained by 100% of the respondents. The result is in line with the studies conducted in Borana, Southern Ethiopia; Southern and Central Tigray and in Quara district, Gonder, northern Ethiopia Nega et al., 2015; Mohammed et al. ,2018). The perception of local people on Belg rainfall, temperature and frequency of drought was in line with the results of the observed data analysis. However, their perception on trends of Kiremt rainfall contradicted with the findings of meteorological data analysis. In the present study, the results of the meteorological data analysis indicated significant decreasing trend of Belg rainfall, increasing trend of Kiremt rainfall, significant increasing trend of seasonal and annual temperatures and occurrence of 1 extreme drought, 2 severe drought, 2 moderate droughts, 13 mild droughts for the period 1983–2017 (at α = 0.05). Consequently, the significant declining trend of Belg rainfall allied with its irregular rainfall distribution and increased temperature trends could have an adverse impact on Fentale pastoralists as they are reliant on the seasonal availability of rainfall to access forage and water for their livestock. Similar studies were reported in Ethiopia and other eastern African countries (Bewket and Conway, 2007; Ellis, and Swift,1988).
This study also identified perceived impacts of climate variability on pastoral households in Fentale district. Accordingly, majority of households (90%) experienced decreased number of livestock and productivity associated with recurrent droughts and disease outbreaks. Comparable findings were reported in a study conducted in southern low lands of Ethiopia which revealed that rate of livestock reproduction and productivity have been declining from time to time in pastoral communities, due to the negative effects of climate related shocks, particularly drought (Amsalu and Adem, 2009). The local people (92%) further complained that the rangeland had become degraded and replaced by unpalatable species as a result of declining rainfall and recurrent droughts leading to scarcity of livestock feed. This result is in agreement with a study conducted in Fentale Pastoral Woreda of Oromia Regional State, Ethiopia which revealed that the increased magnitude of the drought negatively affected availability of palatable grasses and browse (Bekele, and Amsalu, 2012). The authors further revealed that productivity of arid and semi-arid rangelands of Ethiopia reduced and has failed to support the existing livestock. As reported by 90% of respondents, due to the drying up of watering points and feed scarcity, livestock have been becoming very emaciated and couldn’t be sold at reasonable price. Hence, the price of livestock continued to decrease while the food grain price was increasing in the study area. Similar results were found which revealed that the price of livestock decreased by 50–60%, related with the drought of 2002, while the price of maize raised by about 235% (Davies, and Bennett, 2007).
Furthermore, this study assessed the main adaptation and coping strategies employed by the local pastoral households in the face of climate change and variability. Accordingly, the results indicated that mixed crop-livestock production, livestock diversification and herd change, mobility, off-farm activities, decreasing consumption, remittance and food aid and livestock selling were the main strategies adopted by the local people to adapt and cope with climate change induced shocks. The results are in line with the studies conducted in Borana region, southern Ethiopia and other horn of Africa (Habtamu, 2012; Mengistu, 2016).
This study implies that rainfall has been becoming more variable and Belg season rainfall showed a significant declined trend, drought frequency and temperature of the study area have been increasing indicating sustainability of pastoralism as livelihood for pastoral households in the study is becoming at greater risk. Hence, the local decision makers and other concerned partners should develop and introduce appropriate adaptive strategies to reduce the adverse effects associated with recurrent droughts, rainfall variability and increasing temperatures. The survey results indicated that mixed crop-livestock using small scale irrigation, herd mobility and livestock diversification were the main adaptation strategies adopted by the local pastoral households. Therefore, households should be provided with improved agricultural technologies such as a water pump for irrigation, and improved seed varieties with short growing periods and resistant to diseases. It is also paramount to support those households who adopted herd mobility as adaptation strategy such as reducing conflicts with neighboring ethnic groups (Afar and Somali ethnic groups) and improving peace among them. In this study, access to credit, market, education, extension services and climate information was very low. Hence, there is a need to improve these basic public services if pastoral households need to be climate resilient. Further study is required to explore constraints of adaptation strategies and factors that increases vulnerability of pastoral households to climate induced shocks.