Firmly attached to her home region and long used to the harshness of her living conditions, Amina Aliyu would probably not see herself as a potential “climate change refugee”. But there is a strong probability that in 10 or 15 years the place where she lives will no longer be fit for human habitation and migration to another region, or even another country, will be the only option.
Living in the toughest place on the planet
Home for Amina is the village of Sebana-Demale, just 60 km from the Danakil depression in north-eastern Ethiopia. This is one of the lowest places in altitude and one of the hottest in anywhere on the planet, with temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius or more, all year round.
Aliyu’s own village lies in a volcanic region described as one the harshest in Africa and often likened to a lunar landscape. There is a small river, the Demale, running through the village. Local residents, from the Afar people, with a long history as resourceful pastoralists, have tried in recent years to take up farming around the river. But not all families have access to motor pumps to draw water from the river when the depth of the water is low.
Aliyu has neither livestock nor the means to get food from the land. She lives off food aid and knows breaking out of that dependency will be difficult.
Difficult to leave, difficult to stay
Aliyu has seen climatic changes at first hand. Rainfall, already scarce, has further diminished. But Aliyu is adamant she will not abandon her home region for a less hostile environment. Asked if she could leave she responds emphatically: “No! Generations of my family lies buried here, I cannot leave them. This is my only home.”
But if living conditions become even less sustainable, Aliyu will face difficult options: to stay in the hope of finding new ways of generating income or receiving more external help; moving to another part of the region, or moving even further away and risking the loss of her coveted ancestral and cultural ties.
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