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Ethiopian Church moves to address food needs in the face of climate change

ADDIS ABABA (CNS): The climate change-induced drought that has afflicted the Horn of Africa presents an opportunity for the Catholic Church in Ethiopia to work more closely with the government in addressing food shortages and development concerns, said Father Hailegebriel Meleku, deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops' Conference. 

He recalled that in the 1970s and 80s the ruling regimes either did not have the capacity or the political will to face a series of famines, but that the country is now better poised to address its humanitarian problems, in part because Church bodies have been mobilised during recent crises. 

Father Meleku said the country’s leaders, in partnership with neighbouring governments, must begin to find new ways to address the adverse effects of climate change on vulnerable communities. 

Ethiopia itself has escaped the serious food shortages that have devastated large parts of neighbouring Somalia and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee into Kenya and elsewhere. However, he noted that some Ethiopians have had limited access to food, posing a serious challenge to the country’s leaders. 

Father Meleku said that the dwindling supply of water underlies this challenge and is a particular concern in the parched northern region bordering Eritrea. Securing adequate water supplies must be a government priority. 

Lane Bunkers, Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) country representative in Ethiopia, echoed Father Meluku’s observation. He pointed out that the drought is forcing farmers to abandon centuries-long practices defined by distinct agricultural seasons. “That’s changing because peasant farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture can no longer rely on the rain,” he said. “Land degradation and climate change are serious realities in Ethiopia.”

Recurring drought and food shortages have spurred Ethiopian Catholics to voice their concerns at the international level. 

In 2009, Ethiopian religious leaders, including Archbishop Berhanyesus Souraphiel, the president of the bishops’ conference, wrote to the president of the United States of America (US), Barack Obama, in advance of the 2009 international climate talks in Denmark, urging him to adopt a strong “position and full pledge on sound climate change policy.” They called such a stance a “moral and ethical imperative to ensure a preserved environment.” ......

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