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Drought In The Horn Of Africa – The Reality Is Nothing To Do With Climate Change

July 5, 2011

As soon as I saw the first reports appear on the news channels about a possible humanitarian disaster in the countries that make up the so-called “Horn of Africa”, I made a bet.  I bet that within a few hours it would be attributed to climate change.  I also bet that this would not come from any proven science, but from the mouthpieces that front the global green powerhouses, such as Greenpeace.

I was right on both counts.

Looking at twitter, we have the usual outbursts from the passionate, screaming for us to help these poor people, blaming climate change, and to send more money to the aid agencies.

But what is the reality?  This is apparently the worst drought for “60 years”.  taking that as a fact, we have the first problem with the climate change causation.  If there was a drought nearly as bad 60 years ago (and what makes it “bad”, people dying, rainfall levels, duration of drought conditions, all of these?).  The simple question nobody wants to answer is what caused the drought 60 years ago, because it could not have been CO2 levels, and why could it simply not be those same conditions prevailing again now?

The second, and more important point, is that the Horn Of Africa is suffering from having the same big fat elephant in the corner of the room that nobody wants to really confront: population.

Since 1974 the population of the countries of the Horn of Africa have DOUBLED.  It was around 170 million as off 2001.  It is predicted to rise by another 40% by 2015.

This massive increase of people has led directly to forest cover declining dramatically, as it is destroyed for shelter and fuel.  Coverage in Ethiopia has for example declined from 40% to below 2% in 30 years.  So the trees and bushes that bind the land, prevent desertification and that retain and funnel water, are gone.  This also means that evapotranspiration is dramatically decreased.

As on commenter on the Guardian “article” commented:

” Sudan lost 31,000 square kilometres of wooded land per year between 1990 and 2000. In 1989 alone the amount of forest in northern Sudan which became desert could have supplied 25% of the country’s annual wood needs. Now I wonder who cut those trees down, and what they were used for? “

Add to that the constant wars, political and tribal issues and poor infrastructure for harnessing and distributing what rainfall there is, and has been for half a century, a recipe for disaster.

So climate change, as the Guardian for example lazily trots out, is actually far from the real issue, and is not even proven to be causing the drought.  There is also absolutely no data, despite what you may read from Aid Agency quotes, that extreme weather conditions are increasing.  Yes more extreme weather is recorded, but that is because of our improving technology.  We can record and be aware of extreme events we simply would not have known existed 30 years ago.  Bob Geldof had to say “give us your fucking money” on TV to get us to pay attention to the Horn Of Africa in 1985.  Look at the latest drought. It’s a “pre famine” warning, yet half the worlds press is all over it already.

And what of the “climate change” that is causing this drought?  has it got hotter.  Not from the long term temp data it hasn’t.

What about precipitation?  Well taking Ethiopia as an example, in the West the average is 2000mm a year, while in the North East lowlands it is around 100mm.  So is there a lack of water, even in drought years, or is it that it is not managed and distributed?  And is it getting worse?  Well not according to the World Bank.  According to their report, yes rainfall is down in the past decade on average, but it is not as low as the years 1982-1987, when what Ethiopians call the “great famine” occurred.  So nope, its not getting worse.

Ethiopia has the Blue Nile, and no fewer than ELEVEN high altitude lakes.  The problem is that the massively growing population has been forced to settle further and further away from these sources of water.

The history of drought in The Horn Of Africa shows a strong correlation with strong El Nino’s, with drought usually occuring in the year after a strong El Nino.  Guess what, 2010 witnessed a HUGE El Nino.


Our Compassion Is Killing People.

Our “compassion” has actually made the whole mess worse.

Put simply, land and money can only grow and purchase so much food.  This means that each country can only support a certain amount of people, it can only sustain a finite amount of people without handouts.  Even a fool can see that the Horn Of Africa is hardly the place a large population can exist easily.

From Sir Bob onwards, what we have done is to basically keep alive a population that has just about the strength to keep growing.  So by sending aid, we keep the population above the sustainable level, giving it just enough strength to breed and grows further.  This basic fact means that every time there is a famine now, more people will die than should have had to suffer.

So the harsh reality is that the “global community” has made the problem worse.  A hundred years ago, the drought would simply kill off everyone who could not survive, leaving only those the land can support. But now, our compassion is simply making bigger and bigger time bombs, and every drought will kill millions of people who simply should not have even been there in the first place.

Harsh, and will turn the stomach of the compassionate lefties, but you simply cannot sustain population growth forever, especially in areas of the planet that for a thousand years have been unable to sustain large populations.  Send money to massage your own guilt, but don’t for a moment think its doing any good, all you are doing in the long run is allowing more people to be born so that the bodycount next time is bigger.



The Horn Of Africa has ALWAYS had droughts.  It’s not getting worse because of climate change,  As per usual, the elephant in the room is not being addressed by the “do gooders”, namely, unsustainable population increases in the past 30 years across area’s of the planet ill-equipped to handle it.

I will close this piece with a quote from another Guardian commenter:

All that is admirable. Now, what were people saying in 1985?

With the money from the Live Aid concerts, Miss Jenden [Band Aid administrator] said, ”the feeling is we’d like to concentrate on chronic hunger and poverty throughout much of the sub-Sahara, seeking long-term solutions through irrigation and agricultural projects for small farmers, and by training, education and health programs.”

And again, in 2000:

In a tragedy of Biblical scale, up to 16 million people from a total of 120 million in northeastern Africa face famine. A similar famine in 1974 left nearly one million dead while another half million died in the 1984 famine.

As the world contemplates how to avert this disaster, it is worthwhile to look at the root causes of this and many other ills ravaging this troubled region. There are five reasons why the world community ought to find long-term solutions as opposed to its customary quick fix in the form of “humanitarian response.”

And in 2004:

Donors and aid organizations such as the World Bank and UNICEF, which have long sustained Ethiopians in times of drought, have pressured the government to come up with long-term solutions by making their loans conditional on sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Or in 2009:

“We cannot make the rains come, but there is much more that we can do to break the cycle of drought-driven disaster in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa,” Oxfam director Penny Laurence said.

“Food aid offers temporary relief and has kept people alive in countless situations, but does not tackle the underlying causes that continue to make people vulnerable to disaster year-after-year.”

Perhaps things will be done better this time round the cycle.


From → Climate News

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