Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia

Situation Report of South Wollo Zone (Region 3)
(21 - 26 March, 1994)

Hans Spiess, Field Officer for Regions 1 & 3


The survey in South Wollo Zone had the following objectives:


Amid areas struck by drought in the Northern part of the country, South Wollo was considered better off than North Wollo, Tigray and parts of Gondar. However, for the last two months reports are reaching Addis Abeba, that large areas of the zone are also affected by food shortages. People have started to migrate to the main towns as well as to Gondar and Gojam regions in search for food and labor, or with their cattle to better grazing areas. Many people are going back to the resettlement areas from where they returned some two years ago. There is still an important influx of people returning to their original homes from the resettlement sites, because they have heard that relief distributions will start there.

According to the Relief and Rehabilitation Bureau zonal office and the MoA, only 4 of the 20 woredas of South Wollo zone are self-sufficient. The better off woredas are located in the southwestern part of the zone, some of which were formerly included in Shoa province. Among the 16 woredas having drought problems, the worst affected are located entirely in the lowlands on the eastern side of the zone, bordering Region 2 (Afar). The remaining affected woredas contain both lowland and mid-highland areas.

The highland areas are dependent on the Belg rains, whereas for the lowland parts the Meher season is more important.
Last year's Belg rains were sufficient, with even too much rain in some places. The Kiremt rainy season was interrupted in
the middle (July/August) or stopped, which led along with other factors to the current critical conditions. This year the Belg rains have started late or not even at all (Eastern woredas). Normally, planting time starts in January, depending on the location, and continues up to March. The crops usually mature and are harvested in June. Since planting time is one to two months behind in many places, the harvest will be delayed until July/August. The farmers already fear that if the Kiremt season starts on time, the Belg harvest will be damaged by rain.

Apart from insufficient rainfall last season, plant and animal pests have added to the current serious situation. The crops were affected by locusts (in the Eastern part), army worms, crickets and rodents. The most important animal diseases are blackleg (local name Abagorba), anthrax (local name Abasenga),  foot and mouth disease, sheeppox, pasteurelloses and rinderpest.

For both plant and animal pests and diseases the capacity of  the MoA to curb any outbreaks is limited, due to lack of
sufficient drugs and pesticides as well as logistical constraints( shortage of field vehicles and inaccessibility of some places).

There are often complaints to be heard that South Wollo zone is neglected by NGOs, compared to North Wollo zone and Tigray region. This is felt especially now, since all the relief food for North Wollo and South Tigray is moved through South Wollo.  One chapter of this report deals with who is doing what in this zone.

The majority of NGOs operating in South Wollo zone are involved in development activities linked to FFW. Due to the prevailing drought conditions the RRB and the local administrations proposed to suspend the FFW activities and to carry out free distributions until the situation will have improved. How to tackle this issue is causing some tension between the RRB and the development agencies. The question is  to what extent free food distributions can take place without putting the ongoing FFW projects in jeopardy.

There seems to be in general a problem of communication and understanding between the various counterparts (NGOs, RRB,
administration and line ministries) concerning development activities.


Name of woreda
Total population
Drought-affected pop.
Esseye Gola
Dessie Zuriya
Lega Ambo
Debre Sina
Were Ilu
Lege Ida
Total number of displaced in South Wollo:
Displaced from Assab
Displaced from  Eritrea
Ex-servicemen (Head families)
plus their dependents
Displaced from resettlement areas
Total number of displaced
N.B. The total population figures were provided by the zonal administration office in Dessie. The figures of drought-affected and displaced people were given by the RRB zonal bureau in Dessie.

There are some doubts about the figures of drought-affected and displaced. The zonal administration informed us about double-registering especially among the different categories of displaced. A screening carried out by the zonal and woreda
administrative bodies has already shown a reduction by around 70,000 from the original RRB-figure of 267,521 displaced in
need of urgent assistance. The administration thinks that the same problem exists for the figures of the drought-affected
populations and for this category the administration also is trying to do a screening.

There is definitely some confusion regarding the various figures of displaced and drought-affected in need of urgent
assistance. In some woredas the administration still distinguishes between displaced and drought-affected whereas
in others the total number of people in need of assistance are considered drought-affected.

For the two worst affected woredas, Dawe and Artuma, the given figure of drought-affected even exceeding the total
population figures. The only explanation for this was that the zonal administration was using data from a census some years
back. The zonal administration thinks, that in view of present and pending relief food distributions, some woreda
administrations were releasing exaggerated numbers of needy people.


After having collected information about the drought-affected areas at the zonal level, the following South Wollo woredas
were visited:

1. Werebabo (East, low- to highland)
2. Kutaber (North-Central, low- to highland)
3. Tenta (North-West, low- to highland)
4. Mekdela (West, low- to highland)
5. Esseye Gola (South-East, lowland)
6. Dawe (South-East, lowland)

Dawe and Werebabo together with Artuma and Bati woredas are the worst affected by drought. They are all located in the
eastern part of the zone, bordering Region 2 (Afar).

Kutaber, Tenta and Mekdela woredas are divided into highland, mid-highland and lowland areas. Whereas the highland parts can manage to cope with the current conditions, the problems are located partially in the mid-highland and particularly in the

In Esseye Gola woreda, last year's unusual weather conditions have created a special situation. Crop reduction was caused on the Western side by flooding cultivated land and in the eastern side by insufficient rainfall. There is a large grazing area at the southern end of the woreda called Chefa (west of the main road Addis Abeba - Dessie, between Karakore and Kemise). In times of drought entire families from the neighbouring woredas in the east move with their cattle to this place. This is the case now. Besides problems with its own affected population, the displaced populations with their cattle from the surrounding woredas put additional stress on the water and health situation. The gathering of animals from the highland and the lowland leads to the spread and exchange of animal diseases. The same water is used by humans and animals, which creates also serious health hazards.


Werebabo woreda is situated east of Lake Hayk. The western part of the woreda lies in the highland and then the woreda
stretches out to the lowland bordering Region 2 (Afar).

22 Kebeles

Main woreda town Bisidimu
Total population: approx.  100,000
Drought-affected population: approx.  60,000
In urgent need of food: approx.  20,000
Any formerly displaced persons are by now integrated in the communities and considered drought-affected.
Average family size 6
Average landholding per family less than 1 ha
No migration has been reported so far.
Major crops (highland) Teff, barley, maize, wheat and beans 
Major crops (lowland) Sorghum and beans
Belg season Regular planting period March/April 
Harvesting time  August
Meher season Regular planting period May/June 
Harvesting time October/November
Last year the Belg rains were almost normal, but locust infestation in June caused considerable damage to the crops.
The Kiremt rains stopped in the middle of the season and never resumed. Although the planted sorghum failed to produce grain, the stalks were left in the field for feeding the cattle up to the beginning of 1994.

Fertilizer is usually not applied, since the farmers have a tendency to keep any cash for the purchase of food.

Livestock: In the lowland the livestock have been surviving on sorghum stalks. In the highland the cattle were taken to the
pastures around Lake Hayk where there is still grass forage available. Unless they have to, the farmers are not willing to
sell any livestock now, because the prices are severely depressed.

Water: The water situation is still satisfactory in the towns (wells and springs). However in the lowland, existing wells are drying up and the water runoff from the highland has stopped.

Health: Bisidimu and Arabati (40 km east of Bisidimu) each have a clinic. The main health problem is malaria in the lowland. In February there were some cases of meningitis, but it was immediately controlled.

Monitoring of the drought conditions: At the end of December 1993 the last assessment was carried out by the zonal RRB, MoA and Administration officials. At the woreda level an Emergency Prevention and Preparedness Committee is continually checking on the development of the drought situation.

Current relief activities: In the lowland town of Arabati, the organization Kale Hiwot has set up a distribution center. The actual plan is to assist 3 badly affected Kebeles. A request to assist two more is under discussion. The program is based on FFW. Oil will be added as soon as available. 500 quintals have already been distributed. The RRB also promised to supply some relief food to this area, but no definite plan of action has been set up.


Kutaber town is located 27 km north of Dessie, but the woreda continues to the west and south-west. The kebeles are about
equally situated in the highland and in the lowland. Kutaber is the most densely populated woreda in South Wollo. High numbers of ex-servicemen and displaced from the resettlement regions add to the already existing problems. The woreda
administrator thinks that even in a good year the existing arable land capacity will not be able to provide sufficient food for the entire woreda population.

32 Kebeles

Main woreda town Kutaber 
Total population 115,000
Drought-affected population 60,000
Displaced from resettlement 15,000
Ex-servicemen 1,500
Average family size  5-6
Average landholding per family  0.5 ha

No migration due to the drought conditions have been reported.

Major crops Beans, peas, sorghum, barley, teff, wheat, maize

 Last year the Belg rains started early and stopped early. The Kiremt rains started late and stopped early. The insufficient
rainfall along with an army worm infestation in the lowland kebeles caused large crop losses.

Fertilizer is not commonly used. It is a question of the method of application and available cash to purchase it. The
MoA plans to demonstrate to the farmers how the use of  fertilizer may lead to higher crop yields.

Livestock: Some livestock are affected by various diseases, but no large outbreak has been reported.

Health: Kutaber town has 1 clinic and 3 clinics are located in the countryside. The clinics cannot function properly because
there is usually a shortage of drugs and not enough skilled health staff. The closest hospital is in Baru Meda (15 km south of Kutaber town).

Up to date there are no reports about the outbreak of diseases linked to the food shortage. The lowland population commonly
is subjected to malaria.

Since no vehicles are available to distribute drugs to the remote clinics, sick people are doomed because they are unable
to make the 2-3 day journey to the hospital.

NGO: Up to now no relief or development agency has been active in this woreda. However, the Swedish-Philadelphia Church has a plan for a water development and irrigation project in four lowland kebeles. The woreda administration as well as the
above-mentioned organization have been ready to start with the project for two months, but the final approval by the RRB
zonal office in Dessie has been delayed for unknown reasons.


Tenta woreda is located west of Dessie (and the woreda capital, Adjibar, is 120 km by road). Fifty percent of the 47 Kebeles are situated in the lowland, 17 percent in the mid-highland and 33 percent in the highland. As observed in other woredas, the main problems exist in the lowland. Regarding population figures there is a big difference between the information gathered from the woreda administration (approx. 250,000) and the one received from the zonal administration office in Dessie (108,185). The numbers of drought-affected people stated by the woreda administration and the RRB zonal office are however identical.

47 Kebeles

Main woreda town Adjibar
Total population approx. 250,000
Drought-affected population(this figure includes approx. 10,000 returned from resettlement areas)  approx. 30,000
Ex-servicemen  800
Average family size 5
Average landholding per family highland 1.0 ha 
lowland 0.5 ha
Major crops highland: barley, beans, oats  
lowland: sorghum, teff
  Situation last year: The rainfall in the highland kebeles was below normal, but almost okay. The Kiremt rains were late and
crops were attacked by pests (army worm and rodents) which led to a crop reduction of around 60 percent. Farmers are not yet familiar with the use of fertilizer.

The mid-highland kebeles have severe problems with erosion.  Most of the tilled land is on eroded slopes. A committee
established by the administration in cooperation with the MoA is trying to solve the problem by introducing terracing methods and other soil conservation measures.

Water: The highland kebeles still have an adequate water supply. In the lowland the situation is critical and people as
well as animals have to cover long distances to get water (average 6-7 hours round-trip). Adjibar town presently has
a problem because the generator for the water pump is broken and no spare parts are available.

Livestock: No major animal disease outbreaks were reported.  There are some problems with Blackleg and Anthrax, and drugs are not sufficient to control the diseases.

Health: 1 health center is in Tenta and 4 clinics in the countryside, one of these being in the lowland. The lowland population is subjected to malaria and there are now some cases of kwashiorkor reported. Drugs are not available in sufficient quantities in order to curb the major health problems. No cases of meningitis were reported. The nearest hospital is in Dessie (120-150 km by road).

NGO: The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus/Lutheran World Federation is running a rural integrated development
project in 16 kebeles, of which 9 belong to Tenta woreda.


Mekdela woreda is also situated west of Dessie, neighbouring Tenta woreda (about 130 km by road from Dessie). The situation of this woreda is similar to Tenta woreda. Half of the 41 kebeles are in the highland, 25 percent in the mid-highland,
25 percent in the lowland. The total population figures provided by the woreda administration (100,000) are considerably lower than the figures of the zonal administration office (151,026). However, the drought-affected population has reached 36,000 persons (RRB Dessie: 22,821).

41 Kebeles

Main woreda town Masha
Total population approx. 100,000
Drought-affected approx. 36,000 (18 lowland kebeles)
Average family size 5
Average landholding per family 1-1.5 ha
 Migration numbers have not been recorded, but there are indications that many people started moving to Gondar and
Gojam regions.
Major crops  
Teff, maize, sorghum, beans, peas  
Barley, beans, lentils, oats, teff 
Barley, wheat, beans, lentils
Belg season Regular planting period February/March
(highland) Harvest time July/August
Meher season Regular planting period June
Harvest time October/November
Last year the rains were irregular and stopped in the middle of both growing seasons, which affected particularly the
lowland areas. Teff prices on the local markets have more than doubled compared to one year ago. Food for sale on local
markets is coming from Gojam/Gondar (about 1 - 2 days walk).

In addition to the shortage of rain, the crops were also damaged by army worms and rodents. Some grain in storage was
attacked by weevils. Small, insufficient quantities of  pesticides were provided freely by the MoA.

Soil conditions: The communities, in cooperation with the MoA, are engaged in terracing to stop the erosion.

Water: The water situation is critical in the lowland areas.

In the worst hit places people need to go 24 hours round-trip to get water. Some cattle have been moved for grazing to
neighbouring kebeles.

Livestock: There are some problems with anthrax in the entire woreda and there are not enough drugs available.

Health: The woreda has 3 clinics. The most common disease is malaria in the lowland. There were some cases of meningitis
reported in February, but since then the situation is normal.

NGO: The Japanese International Volunteer Center (JVC) is running a water and agricultural development project.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is planning to distribute relief food, but no
agreement has been reached about the number of beneficiaries.


Esseye Gola is in the south-east of South Wollo zone. Besides its own problems it also has to deal with the influx from
displaced persons from the worst affected woredas in the east (Bati, Artuma and Dawe).

14 Kebeles

Main woreda town Kemise (on the main road A.A. - Dessie)
Total population 42,000
Drought-affected 25,000 - 30,000 (displ. included)
Displaced ex-servicemen:   255 Head of Families 
resettlement:    1,000 Head of Families 
Eritrea/Assab:    155 Head of Families
There are also 250 displaced families from the east1ern side of the woreda around Kemise town. They were victims of a local
tribal conflict two years ago. They would be ready to go back to their places, but during the fighting their homes were destroyed.
 Average family size 5
Average landholding per family 0.5 ha
This woreda has in- and out-migration. Some people moved away from the woreda to the bigger towns and back to the
resettlement sites. From the neighbouring woredas (Artuma, Bati and Dawe) there is considerable in-migration to the
grazing grounds in the Chefa plain.
Major crops Sorghum, teff and maize
Planting season April/May
Harvest time October/November
Last year the rainy season was interrupted for one month. Shortage of rain and army worm infestations led to a crop
reduction of more than 50 percent. Pesticides to curb these plant pests arrived too late.

There are problems with erosion on the west side of the woreda, where water runoff from western highlands flooded and
destroyed 50 ha of cultivated land.

Water: There is a chronic water problem in the eastern part of  the woreda. In Kemise town the water pump needs to be
repaired, meanwhile they are getting water out of the river and are being exposed to diseases like bilharzia, giardia and
other parasites.

Health: one health center is in Kemise and 1 clinic in the eastern rural part of the woreda. The main disease is malaria.
Spraying campaigns are organized, but the campaign is not sufficient for effective control.

NGO: World Vision International (WVI) is running a FFW and development program in the woreda.


Dawe woreda is presently the worst drought-affected woreda of South Wollo zone. The entire woreda is located in the
lowlands, surrounded by the other badly affected woredas Bati, Artuma and Region 2 (Afar). The woreda has received very little rain since April last year. Many people are migrating now to the Chefa plain with their animals (1 to 2 days walk), others are going back to the resettlement sites.

16 Kebeles

Main woreda town Bora
Total population 44,386
Drought-affected: practically the entire population, but in urgent need of food 13,000
Displaced: from resettlement areas  1,149 head of  families (7,907 persons).
Average family size 5
Average landholding per family 1.5 ha (but soil not fertile)
Migration to the Chefa plain started in January and is still continuing. (While driving from Kemise to Bora, around a dozen
families with their animals were on the way to Chefa).

Although some people have gone back to the resettlement sites, more are still returning from there, since they have heard about relief distributions having started.

Major crops  Sorghum, teff, maize, haricot beans and pepper (berbere)
Planting season April/May
Harvest time December/January
The regular rainy season starts in July and lasts up to September. Some small rains in March/April are used to prepare
the land for planting.

Last year the conditions worsened when there was practically no rain after April. There were some showers in July, but what
little of the crops was left was destroyed by pests: locusts (in June), stalkborer, army worms, grasshoppers. The people
started to sell animals in exchange for food as early as August last year.

Livestock: Livestock is exposed to various diseases: blackleg anthrax, Eastafrican horse disease, internal and external

Water: Surprisingly, two rivers running through the woreda have water all year long. The population does not have to go
further than 2-3 hours in order to get water for human and animal consumption.

Health: one clinic is in Bora and one in Harawa. Most common diseases: malaria, amebas, giardia, diarrhea and skin
diseases. Two months ago some cases of meningitis were reported, but meningitis is under control now.

Markets: The woreda has two market places (Harawa and Bora).

Many people also go regularly to the market in Kemise. The prices of food have risen sharply but for animals they are
down by over 50 percent compared to last year (price for one goat ETB 40.-- last year, now ETB 10.--).

NGO: No organization is present in this woreda. WVI carried out a relief distribution to 11,800 beneficiaries in February.
Each beneficiary received 10.0 kg of grain, 0.5 kg of oil and 1.5 kg of beans.


The market prices for grain are on the rise in the entire zone. Some farmers from Central South Wollo are going to
Weldyia to buy relief food which is apparently inexpensive compared to the better off woredas of South Wollo.

The collected information confirms the findings of the January/February survey of SCF (UK). Surprisingly the highest
hike in grain prices is reported from Legambo woreda which is according to RRB among the least affected woredas of the zone.

The prices for animals have dropped considerably, particularly in the worst affected woredas of Werebabo, Bati, Dawe and
Artuma. In these woredas an oxen is presently sold for half  the price of one year ago. The prices for goats are down by
over 50 percent.


Listed below are the relief and development agencies present in South Wollo Zone.


CONCERN has a regional office in Kombolcha.

Development activities:

CONCERN plans to extend the development program in the Harbo area (south of Kombolcha). Due to a change of the woreda boundaries by the zonal administration, details could not be worked out yet.

Relief activities:

Concern has transferred 300 MT of maize to Bati to be distributed to 15,000 - 20,000 beneficiaries in the worst
 affected kebeles of Bati woreda. The distribution will be carried out by RRB.

An assistance program in favour of displaced groups from Assab/Eritrea is still pending due to difficulties in identifying the beneficiaries.


The EECMY/LWF is running an agricultural and water development project in Washera. The project is covering 9 kebeles of Tenta and 7 kebeles of Lega Ambo woreda.

Activities: - Soil and water conservation

The project seems to be working very well and the activities are fully accepted by the population, the administration and
the concerned ministries (MoA and MoH).


The ERCS/IFRC is planning emergency relief food distributions in Tenta and Mekdela woredas. No agreement has been signed yet due to confusion about the number of beneficiaries in both woredas.


The Italian Cooperation has been involved in development activities for the health, agricultural and water supply sectors since August 1991.

Activities in the health sector:

Activities in the agricultural sector: Activities in the water supply sector:  There is a plan for road construction in the west of the zone in cooperation with ILO. The project is due to start end of


The JVC is engaged in water and agricultural development activities in 13 kebeles of Mekdela woreda.

Activities: - Irrigation schemes


 In the lowland town of Arabati in Werebabo woreda Kale Hiwat

has set up a distribution center. The actual plan is to assist badly affected kebeles. 500 quintals of wheat have already been distributed. A second distribution center will be established in Chifra, further east to Arabati. The food to this place has to be brought in through Bati.

Presently the organization has 700 MT of grain and 30 MT of oil ready to distribute. The able-bodied people will be engaged in FFW activities and the disabled will get free food.

So far 15,000 beneficiaries have been registered, half of them for FFW and the other half for free distribution. The
community is deciding on the FFW activities. Sweet potato seedlings (drought resistant) and lowland fruit trees (Papaya,
Mango) are planted in an irrigated plot which the farmers will transplant to their own plots as soon as they get some rain.

6.7. OXFAM

Oxfam has just completed its water development program in the southwestern part of South Wollo zone.

 Activities from April 1993 to January 1994:
 In Wogide, 9 hand-dug wells and 1 spring, in Kalala, 4 hand- dug wells and in Sayint, 1 hand-dug well were completed.
On request from kebeles, some formerly established installations were repaired and some hand pumps replaced. For the time being Oxfam has no new projects in South Wollo.


SCF (UK) has been carrying out nutritional surveys in the area every three months. In the future the food security situation
in the surveyed areas will also be assessed.


The Swedish-Philadelphia Church has plans for a water development and irrigation project in 4 lowland kebeles of
Kutaber woreda. The local administration and the organization have already agreed on the nature of the project, but the
zonal RRB office is still studying the proposal (now over two months).

6.10. UNICEF

UNICEF is supporting the Urban Integrated Basic Services Programme on behalf of the city council of Dessie.

Activities: - Support of day-care centers

A credit fund over ETB 50,000.-- was just established to provide 100 women (residents) with a credit (ETB 500.-- each)
for starting small businesses on a revolving fund basis (repayment within 18 months).


WVI is engaged in agricultural and water development activities in Esseye Gola and Artuma woredas. Due to the
prevailing drought conditions they might also get involved in relief food distributions. The current activities are carried
out in 12 rural kebeles and 2 urban-dweller kebeles (Kemise) in Esseye Gola woreda and in 3 kebeles in Artuma woreda.


Water and agricultural development:

Health: Infrastructural assistance: Relief distributions:

Due to the critical conditions in the surrounding areas WVI is discussing with RRB Headquarters possible relief distributions
in Esseye Gola, Artuma and Dawe woredas.


Dessie Ato Kibret Eshetu, Office Manager, SCF UK 
Ato Alemu, Head of zonal MoA office. 
Dr. Girma, Veterinarian, MoA zonal office 
Ato Negash, Acting head of zonal RRB office 
Ato Aleli, Secretary of zonal administration 
Ato Kebede Mola, Program Officer, Oxfam 
Ato Ayenew, UNICEF representative,
Bisidimu Ato Mituku, Werebabo woreda administrator
Kutaber Ato Berhanu Aragaw, Kutaber woreda admin.
Adjibar Ato Seleshi, Tenta woreda administrator
Masha Ato Abebe, Mekdela woreda administrator 
Ato Amede, Vice chairman, woreda admin. 
Ato Thomas, Admin. and community org., JVC
Washera Ato Tadesse, Veterinarian assistant, EECMY/LWF
Kemise Ato Shambelu Umar, Esseye Gola woreda vice ch. 
Ato Endalkatchew, project manager, WVI
Bora Ato Biso, Dawe woreda administrator 
Ato Wassie, extension supervisor MoA, Dawe wor.
Kombolcha Mrs. Connie ?, CONCERN 
Ato Fessaha, Administrator CONCERN
Addis Abeba Dr. Erminio Sacco, Italian Cooperation 
Ato Negusse, Kale Hiwot Church


The designations employed and the presentation of material in this document do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the UN concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

March 30, 1994

UN-EUE  Tel.: (251) (1) 51-10-28/29 
PO Box : 5580  Fax: (251) (1) 51-12-92 
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  Email: undp-eue@telecom.net.et