Drones take flight to aid humanitarian work in Ethiopia

Training equips government partners with skills to deploy latest technology

Martin Karimi
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readMay 3, 2019


WFP is conducting hands-on training for government partners on how to use drones for humanitarian and development work. Photo: WFP/Katarzyna Chojnacka

The World Food Programme (WFP) is training government partners how to apply drone technology in humanitarian and development work in Ethiopia.

The training includes flight skills, and how to capture and interpret data that will in turn inform the design of aid projects.

This is the first training of its kind in Ethiopia, and it is being run in conjunction with the Information Network Security Agency, the government body that regulates the use of drones in the country.

Saving time and money

One of the key partners seeking to start using drones is the National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC), the government body that issues disaster warnings and coordinates emergency responses in the country.

“We are responsible for assessing the damage to crops, for instance when flooding occurs or forest fires or landslides, and we coordinate the response and rescue activities,” says Sahle Tefera, the Geographic Information System and Remote Sensing expert at NDRMC.

“Drones can make our assessments, response and rescue operations faster and more cost effective,” says Tefera.

WFP and the National Disaster Risk Management Commission will start deploying drones in mapping flood-risk zones in Ethiopia. Photo: WFP/Katarzyna Chojnacka

Plans are underway for WFP and NDRMC to start deploying drones to map flood-risk zones in the country.

“This technology is particularly important for Ethiopia due to the vastness of the country,” says Pierre Lucas, Chief Air Transport Officer at WFP Ethiopia. “You can cover large amounts of ground within a short period of time.”

Using drones reduces costs for government and humanitarian actors while making precise data available to decision-makers almost in real-time.

Facing down the tsetse fly

One key issue they can tackle is the scourge of tsetse flies, which cause sleeping sickness across the southern and western parts of Ethiopia.