Ethiopia tries to avert another famine. Mindful of past disasters, Ethiopians are readier than before to deal with drought.

JUMPING a fence of prickly pears, Gumat Hussain, a local chief in the driest district of North Wollo, Ethiopia’s most drought-prone province, walks gloomily through his sorghum. “The crops have not produced grain. They are useless even for the animals,” he sighs. El Niño, the world’s largest climatic weather phenomenon, is keeping the rains away across swathes of Africa this year. Ethiopian officials say that the harvest is failing as completely as in a series of droughts that together killed more than 1m of the country’s people between 1965 and 1985, and made Ethiopia a byword for hopeless famine.