Standing amidst a group of scrawny fellow Ethiopian farmers, Tuke Shika points to the scorching sun when asked why his food reserves have dwindled this year.
"The weather has changed, it's not as it used to be before," he laments. "The rains are increasingly erratic, and we are getting less and less yields."
In Loke, 350 kilometres (215 miles) south of Addis Ababa, massive expanses of land that were once lush with healthy maize stalks are now replaced with burnt out twigs, despite rains recently flushing the sun-blasted district.
With his food silos diminishing by half from the 50 quintals of maize he reaped last year, Tuke is one of the more than 2,000 people in the area facing food shortages.
"People here are suffering with their livestock dying, and more and more children succumbing to malnutrition," he adds.
Experts say east Africa is facing one of its worst droughts in decades with over over 23 million people facing starvation, with climate change further compounding the dire picture.
"We are facing a challenging situation when it comes to food security for the start of 2010," he added.
Twenty-five years after a scathing famine killed a million people in the Horn of Africa nation, Ethiopia announced last month that more than six million required food relief out of a population of about 80 million.
The government appealed for 159,000 tonnes of food aid worth 121 million dollars to feed its hungry population.
Official figures also indicate that nearly 80,000 children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition and that nine million dollars is required for moderately malnourished children and women.
Although none of Ethiopia's six national droughts since 1984 have been as devastating, aid groups say the grim prospects of food shortages will linger for years to come due to climate change.
Average temperatures in Ethiopia are predicted to rise by 3.9 degrees celsius by 2080, Oxfam said, making drought "the norm, hitting the region in up to three in every four years in the next 25 years."
Ethiopia's case is worsened by its very geographical setting, with a majority of the population living in areas situated about 2,000 meters above sea level.
"Nearly half of Ethiopia is mountainous," Tewolde Berhan Gebre-Egziabher, head of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, said in a recent conference on climate change.
"Ninety percent of us live on these mountains and since our presence changes the delicate components of the environment into vulnerability, our land has been degrading fast ... and our lives with it," he added.
Most farmers here also lack the knowledge of effective farming practices, while a dearth of modern technology and irrigation curbs their ability to mitigate negative effects.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is holding a summit on food security in Rome next week and world leaders will gather again in Copenhagen next month, with the aim of achieving a global pact on slashing greenhouse gas emissions.
Africa is demanding that billions of dollars be paid to the continent in compensation by carbon-intensive rich nations.
African countries also demand that industrialised nations take measures to limit global warming to two degrees celsius and cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020.
Yet, several experts have expressed doubt over achieving a comprehensive deal in Copenhagen.
Tuke, who dropped out of school at 6th grade, says the world no longer has the luxury of not acting.
"The situation is getting worse with people around the world suffering," he says.
"They have to find some results. They have to act by giving money to affected people and find ways to whatever they are doing that has worsened the problem."
Source: AFP Global Edition