5. LIVELIHOOD AND FOOD SECURITY
STRATEGIES AND PROGRAMS OF ETHIOPIA
Definitions of famine
• Famine refers to widespread food shortage leading
to significant rise in regional death rates.
• It also refers to sudden, sharp reduction in food
supply resulting in widespread hunger.
• Famine contains three elements: food shortage,
starvation and excess mortality.
• It has a greater effect on the most vulnerable in
• Famine is caused by many complex factors
including: poor climatic and environmental
conditions, population growth, market failure or
• It is sudden collapse in level of food consumption of
large numbers of people.
• It also means lack of food over large geographical
areas sufficiently long and severe to cause
widespread disease and death from starvation.
• It refers to unusually high mortality with unusually
severe threat to food intake of some segments of a
(Food consumption based)
• It refers to a set of conditions that occur when large
numbers of people in a region cannot obtain
sufficient food, resulting in widespread, acute
5.2 History of Famine in Ethiopia
• Ethiopia has been and remains one of those
areas that account for a sizeable proportion of
the famine vulnerable groups.
• This problem has not only been recurrent but
also particularly severe in the case-study
country so much so that the name "Ethiopia"
does not fail to conjure up images of suffering
famine victims that has at various times been
so dramatized by the Western media.
• The literature gives ample indication regarding
the frequency of historical famines in Ethiopia.
• Pankhurst, who relies mainly upon royal
chronicles written in the local language and
which enable the rather precise dating of
events, has established that during the period
of 1540 to 1750 no less than eleven major
• The famines for which the most detailed
information is available occurred in the last
century, with the famine of 1888-1892
described as perhaps the most terrible natural
disaster still remembered in that part of Africa.
• Yet another writer, in a study on the chronology
of Ethiopian droughts, concludes that on the
basis of the droughts documented over the last
200 years, seven droughts per century can be
expected in Ethiopia, while "...
• extremely destructive droughts, such as those of
1973-5, 1957, 1913, 1888-92, 1560-2 and 1543-4
average two occurrences per century based
upon these incomplete statistic“
• In recent years, famine has unfortunately
become Ethiopia’s trademark and even now,
despite changes in regimes, the threat of famine
• In 1973, during the Imperial regime, almost three
million Ethiopians were affected by food shortages
and total excess mortality in the country hovered
at around 250 000.
• A decade later, during the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ Derg
regime, approximately 7.8 million Ethiopians were
caught struggling for survival, out of which excess
mortality was conservatively estimated at 700,000.
• And in the year 2000, amidst the ‘free-market’
orientation of the EPRDF regime, 8 million people
required food aid, out of which excess mortality
was estimated to be over 6000 in one district
• Three years later, the number of Ethiopians
requiring food aid rose to 14 million.
• While there has been disagreement over the
number of deaths that took place during the
last two events, it appears quite clear that the
number of people vulnerable to famine in the
country has crossed 14 million in just three
5.3 Food Security Situation in Ethiopia
• Ethiopia with an area of 1.016 million km2 and
a population of about 105 million is the second
most populous country in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• The majority of the Ethiopian population
(about 84%) is living in rural areas and
agriculture is the main stay of the Ethiopian
economy as it commands the lion’s share in
terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP),
employment, export earnings and supply of
• It accounts for about
– 50% of the GDP,
– 84% of the employment for of the population,
– 90% of the export earnings,
– 70% of the country’s raw material requirement for
agro-based large and medium sized industries.
• As per the National Accounts estimates of
– crop production is estimated to contribute on
– livestock accounts for around 27% and
– forestry and other sub- sectors around 13% of the
total agricultural value added.
• Agriculture is the foundation of the country’s
food production and hence, the major
contributing sector to food security.
• Endowed with considerable agricultural
potential, Ethiopia had been self-sufficient in
staple food and was classified as a net exporter
of food grain till the late 1950s.
• It was reported that annual export of grain to
the world market amounted to 150,000 tons in
• The performance of the Ethiopian economy
very much depends on the performance of the
• Unfortunately, increase in agricultural
production has consistently failed to keep pace
with population growth.
• Ethiopia’s agricultural sector is not even able to
fulfil its most basic and important function: the
provision of food to a large and expanding
• Both food production and per capita food
availability have been declining, particularly in the
• Total domestic food production decreased on
average by 1.1% per annum while the level of per
capita food production dropped by 4.3% and
2%for the 1980s and mid of 1990s respectively.
• The per capita food production, which was 200 kg
in 1979/80, dropped to 150 kg in the early and
• Both chronic and transitory problems of food
insecurity are severe in Ethiopia.
• Food insecurity currently covers a large area and a
significant number of people, as high as 40 to 50
%over the last decade.
• The recommended minimum per capita food
intake for Ethiopia is 2,100 KCal per day, which is
225.5 kg. in cereal equivalent per capita per year.
• In the period 1980-1989, domestic food
production was on average about 70%, which is
1477.6 KCal. per capita per day.
• For the periods 1980-1989 and 1990s, including
imported cereals, average food availability was still
1590.5 and 1600-1700 KCal. per capita per day
• More disturbing is that food availability has not
only been very low, but has also been declining
• The deteriorating condition is best reflected in the
high level of malnutrition (stunting and wasting of
children less than five years of age), increasing
number of people in need of food assistance and
the amount of grain imported.
• For the period 1985-1996, the country received
8.97 million metric tons of food aid, the highest
being in 1985, where food aid reached 1.3 million
metric tons making the proportion of food aid to
total production 26.2 percent.
• In 1990, the amount of grain imported and aid
to Ethiopia amounted to 680,000 and 657,000
metric tons respectively.
• There are now millions of rural people who have
become dependent on food aid for over a
decade and half.
• The bulk of the Ethiopian population lives in
rural areas where incomes, largely derived from
agriculture, are very low and subject to the
vagaries of nature.
• The intensity of poverty is so rampant in rural
areas that, even during relatively better years,
incomes are very low to go round the year and
as a result, households usually suffer from
malnutrition, particularly in pre-harvest season.
5.3.1 Who are Food Insecure in Rural Ethiopia?
• Food insecurity in rural areas of Ethiopia is
largely associated with:
– asset ownership,
– headship of the household,
– age of the household head and disability.
• Food insecure groups are depicted in table 5.1.
• Table 5.1: Classification of Food Insecure Groups in RURAL ETHIOPIA
Resource poor households
Landless or land-scarce
Poor non-agricultural households
Newly established settlers
Less resource poor households vulnerable to shocks, especially drought
Farmers and others in drought-prone areas
Those vulnerable to economic shocks
Example. in low potential areas
• In view of its relatively recent on set in
epidemic proportions, another groups of
households who have become food insecure as
a result of HIV and AIDS (loss of potential
income as a result of death of a family member,
a growing incidence of female-headed
households and increasing number of orphans,
breakup of families) in the country are not
much studied and put in the above
• These groups of households are likely to be
found everywhere in the country.
Causes of Low food production and food insecurity in
• The principal causes of inadequate food
production and increasing food insecurity in
Ethiopia among others include:
– inadequate and variable rainfall,
– soil degradation,
– transport and infrastructure,
– poor nutrition and health, and
– high population growth
1. Inadequate and Variable Rainfall
• The major cause for food insecurity in Ethiopia
is highly correlated with the decline in food
• Because of persistent dominance of rain-fed
traditional agriculture, the economy is prone
to sharp and frequent fluctuations due to
changes in weather condition.
• Decline in agricultural output due to unfavourable
climatic conditions often affect millions and drives
them to the brink of death from starvation.
• Lack of adequate rainfall, in association with the
changing pattern of rainfall, has been a major
contributing factor to increasing risk of
experiencing food crop shortfalls and food
• Drought also causes substantial loss of animals,
which are the source of livelihood for pastoralists
in the lowland.
• When drought occurs and results to animal lose,
pastoralist will be in a tremendous problem to re-
build their food base.
2. Soil Degradation
• The combination of high plateaus, deep river
valleys, sporadic torrential rainfall, centuries of
deforestation and poor cultivating techniques have
resulted in serious to severe soil loss in some parts
• So as to feed large number of families in a
subsistence economy, farmers are compelled to
practice over cultivation, overgrazing, and
expansion of cultivable land at the expense of the
forest and pasture.
• These eventually cause degradation of the natural
resource base and declined productivity thus
exacerbating poverty and food insecurity.
• The soil, in some parts of Ethiopia, has lost
some biological productivity and physical
properties needed for optimal plant growth,
and in particular moisture retention has been
• Use of manure for fuel, instead of putting it
back on land, has exacerbated the situation.
• For decades, Ethiopia has suffered from
internal conflicts, which have caused large
number of people to flee their lands or, in
some cases, to be forcefully relocated.
• Loss of life was high.
• Furthermore, the conflict diverted the scarce
financial resources to the war rather than
being available for socio-economic
4. Transport and Infrastructure
• An estimated 75% of farms are more than a half
day walk from an all weather road.
• The average road density is estimated to be about
21 km per 1000 km2 of land, which is about 0.43
km per 1000 population.
• The very low proportion of villages that can be
reached by all weather roads compel farmers to
transport their products by pack animals or by
themselves to market their products.
• This severely constrains the total farm production
that can be physically marketed, and adds
substantially to the costs of farm inputs.
• Furthermore, it makes delivery of food aid to
drought plagued areas extremely difficult.
5. Poor Nutrition and Health
• Ethiopia’s population is among the most
nutritionally deprived in the world as a result of
chronic under nutrition combined with health and
• This leads to reduced ability to work, early fatigue
and increased susceptibility to disease.
6. High Population Growth
• The rate at which agricultural food production
grows is far behind the rate at which population
• As a result, the agricultural sector is not playing its
basic role, the role of supplying food to the
Food Security Strategy of Ethiopia
• The food insecurity challenge facing Ethiopia
requires an all-round and systematic approach.
• It requires identifying the problems in the food
system, which involves production, distribution,
marketing and consumption.
• The overall objective of the strategy is to address
both the supply and demand sides of the food
equation: availability and entitlement respectively
• While the rural development policies and
strategies would focus on ensuring national food
self-sufficiency, the overall objective of the food
security strategy is to ensure food security at
– increasing the availability of food through
– ensuring access to food for food deficit
– Strengthening emergency response capabilities.
1. Increasing Domestic Production (Supply
• Domestic production is the first and main source
of food entitlement for most of the Ethiopian
farming community in terms of direct
consumption of food.
• The surplus is sold to the non-farming and even to
the farming community.
• This implies that increasing the production and
productivity of food in a sustainable manner could
address the problem of food shortages in Ethiopia.
• The increase in production would be made to
provide employment generally for the landless
and unemployed rural communities.
• This increase in agricultural production will also
benefit the domestic agricultural processing
enterprises by supplying raw materials and
serve as source of additional employment.
• For food insecure areas, production based
entitlement of food will be encouraged through
augmenting the supply increases to be
obtained from both crop and livestock
• Utmost attention is given to increasing
agricultural production (crop and livestock) in
all agro-ecological zones of the country.
• The on-going extension program is being re-
oriented to address the specific problems of
moisture adequate, moisture deficit and pastoral
• There is also a need to sustain and deepen the
yield increase obtained through the extension
program which points to strengthening of
• Increasing attention will be paid to promoting
irrigation schemes to create a condition for year
round agricultural activity and diversifying much
higher value added enterprises even in adequate
• To compliment this, efforts are geared through
the extension system to identify and promote
appropriate technologies to undertake for
household-based water harvesting and
• Conservation based agriculture and irrigation
development would be the critical elements of
• Researching and supplying appropriate crop and
livestock production inputs and technologies for
moisture deficit areas: short cycle livestock like
poultry, sheep and goats as well as development
of drought tolerant, short cycle and relatively high
yielding varieties that fit to the farmers'
requirements, will be the priority
• Another aspect of the strategy for dealing with
problems of moisture deficit food insecure and
degraded high lands is effecting resettlement in
suitable and uncultivated areas voluntarily within
each regional state.
• Animal disease, drought and unfavorable terms of
trade are at the heart of threats of the livelihoods
of pastoral communities.
• Thus, improving their livestock production and
marketing system, water and pasture
development, developing schemes towards
diversifying income sources would help
strengthen their economic base and thereby
2. Ensuring Access to Food (Demand Side)
• Food insecure farming households as well as the
non-farming community get some and/or all of
their food from the market.
• The former need it to supplement its own
production while the later use it as the only source.
• To purchase food from the market, households
need sufficient income that can cover at least their
minimum food and non-food requirements.
• However, many households in the drought prone
and moisture deficit as well as urban areas lack
sufficient income to meet their basic needs.
• The demand side measures outlined in the
Ethiopian food security strategy are discussed
a. Micro and Small Scale Enterprises
• The envisaged market led agricultural
development is expected to lead to large-scale
direct and indirect growth in non-farm
incomes and employment.
• To this effect, utmost efforts will be exerted to
initiate, promote and strengthen micro-and
small-scale enterprise development through
industrial extension services.
• These developments are believed to create
additional employment opportunities in the
b. Improving the Food Marketing System
• The policy of the government regarding agricultural
marketing and distribution is to encourage the
participation of the private sector and cooperatives to
improve the efficiency of the system.
• On the marketing front, business enterprises are
expected to play significant roles in stabilizing prices as
well as reaching farmers who are far from agricultural
• To benefit from all these policy measures, the food
security strategy emphasizes on measures related to
establishment of market stabilization schemes (for
prices of strategic food crops) along with agricultural
price and market information system.
• This will facilitate the distribution of food from
surplus to deficit areas and thereby improve trade-
based entitlement and reduce food cost (increase
• The government will perform only regulatory and
supporting functions to create a conducive
business environment through appropriate fiscal
• Substantial improvements in the provision of
market information would be sought to improve
integration of markets, which help reduce costs of
food marketing and distribution.
• The on-going effort in the construction of main
and rural roads, the rural travel and transport
programs coupled with promotion of
competition in the transportation, trade,
processing and distribution of food would help
further reduce costs of marketing and
• This would also help reduce input costs, which
are key to enhancing agricultural productivity.
Strengthening farmers' cooperatives would also
be an important element of the food security
strategy in improving the rural marketing and
c) Supplementary Employment and
Income Generating Schemes
• Off-farm income generating activities would
help supplement own production for a
considerable number of farmers as coping up
mechanism during periods of food shortages.
• The public Employment Generation Schemes
(EGS) and Food For Work could be initiated by
public or private operators or even jointly and
will be linked with development priorities of
• This would in turn help contribute to soil
conservation, construction of roads, small-scale
irrigation, water supply and sanitation.
• This would contribute to increase food
production, reduce real rural food prices and
improve health conditions.
• It would also help improve environmental
protection and natural resource conservation.
• These schemes may help create conducive
environment towards linking relief assistance
to long-term developmental efforts.
d) Targeted programs
• Targeted programs are primarily aimed at
transferring resources aimed at both developing
capacity for self-provisioning and support
vulnerable groups, who would not be capable of
self-provisioning during the short and medium
• Developing capacity is aimed at providing inputs
(seed and fertilizer), small agricultural tools and
implements to resource poor farmers (food
insecure) and extending small loans to destitute
women to help them develop sustainable
• The later scheme evolves cash transfers to orphans,
the aged and handicapped or self-targeting food
subsidies for particular vulnerable groups.
• Improved credit services for food insecure rural
and urban households are envisaged in order to
address both supply and demand side problems.
• The Food security strategy also envisaged
improving rural financing systems aimed at
catering the needs of micro and small-scale
enterprises as well as small resource poor
• Measures will be taken to strengthen and expand
rural micro financing institutions and cooperatives
to provide banking services especially in those
food insecure areas.
• Cooperatives are also expected to play significant
role in this respect.
Nutrition and Health Intervention
• Along side the government's initiatives
towards developing alternative income
generating and price support schemes,
targeted interventions are also envisaged in
areas of health and nutrition in rural areas.
5.5.2 Emergency Capabilities
• Efforts to strengthen the emergency
capabilities of the government including
monitoring, surveillance, and early warning
arrangement, building the capacity of food and
relief distribution, strategic reserves of food
grains, and its analysis of the international food
trade and aid situation will continue.
• The methods used to judge the on set of food
insecurity will be articulated and further fine-
• A strategy for strengthening response
capability in case of emergency would build
on the successful experience gained while
implementing safety net programs, which was
intended to help thousands of poor, food
insecure, and highly vulnerable households
during a period of high economic and political
stress coupled with drought incidences.
• The purpose and size of strategic reserve
under favorable conditions would also be re-
assessed, depending upon the cost of holding
stock and the possibility of exports.
Institutional Strengthening, Networking, and
• Building the capacity of regional governments in
general and Woreda administration in particular is
high on the agenda.
• This would help regional governments modernize
their communities for development, provide
support to development projects and programs,
create conductive environment for the private
sector to contribute to the development of the
regions, as well as completely providing economic
and social services to communities.
• District level decentralization capacity building
component of the National Capacity Building
Program is meant to address this.
Food Security Assistance
• It is planned to switch from food aid in kind
towards cash to purchase food grains from
the domestic market and augment the stocks
of food security reserve at good times.
• This would help create effective demand via
stabilization of prices during years of bumper
harvest (price decline) in surplus areas.
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