Choke — Sloping fields of barley and potatoes stretching far into the distance are a common sight in the mountains of Ethiopia’s northwestern Amhara Regional State. Local farmer Babel Tena, in a faded jacket and head scarf, has been cultivating low-yielding varieties of barley, beans and potatoes here for more than 40 years. “Our soil and produce have been washed away by [rain] run-off because we farm on the side of the mountain,” he said, ploughing his field with an ox and a horse. Tena and other farmers used to grow beans here, but the climate has now become too dry, he said, frowning. “I have nine children. I have no farmland to hand over,” he said, blaming a scarcity of land and a growing population.

The climate of the Choke Mountain watershed in the Upper Blue Nile Highlands is changing as the planet warms. Studies by Debre Markos University show that the area also faces severe land degradation due to human settlement, over-grazing, deforestation and unsustainable agricul...

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