The recent drought experienced in Ethiopia and the greater part of the Horn of Africa was said to be the worst the region has experienced in the past 60 years. Millions of people were at risk of starvation and malnutrition led to a large number of deaths. Reports indicate that between 1998 and 2012, the annual average number of populations in need of emergency food assistance stood at approximately 6 million. This number increased even more in times of drought as was experienced between 2000 and 2003 where the drought led to approximately 11 million people seeking food aid.

Adanech participating in the conference

Adanech participating in the conference

Ethiopia’s population as of 2011, stood at over 84,000,000. With a long history of food insecurity as a result of the persistent droughts, low productivity as well as minimal diversification of the food crops grown, it seems to have learnt from its misery and is currently making headway in the agricultural sector in a bid to ensure that its people are freed from the chains of famine.

Barley, wheat, maize and sorghum make up most of Ethiopia’s grain productions which is 75% of its agricultural output. 95% of the output is produced by small-holder farmers. It is also the highest cereal producer in the larger East African region as of 2010 followed closely by Uganda and Kenya. In 2011/12, 18.8 million tones of cereals were produced by small-holder farmers.

The Regional Director for Africa, United Nations Millenium Campaign (UNMC), Mr. Charles Abugre, during the Growing the Harvest conference at the Jumuia Conference Centre stated that instances where land has been grabbed by foreigners especially sparsely populated lowlands have been cited and this has hindered the agricultural opportunities for Ethiopia.

Only one-fourth of its 54 million hectares of arable land is cultivated. Ethiopia has over 700 districts commonly known as woredas. 85 % of its population derives its livelihood from agriculture which majorly comes from agricultural output produced by the small-scale farmers.

Charles who was representing Mr. Ato Haile Kibret a National Economist, Policy Advisory Unit, UNDP-Ethiopia says that Ethiopia however, has been able to make great strides in the agricultural sector.

Mr. Gichira and Bishop Vincent Obulengo deliberating

Mr. Gichira and Bishop Vincent Obulengo deliberating

“Ethiopia has many nomadic pastoralists and they have tremendous potential to transform their country to become one of the largest shoe producers in Africa. Recently, massive resources have been dedicated for extension officers. The government has been able to get over 35,000 agricultural extension workers as well as massive investments in the healthcare in a bid to have a healthy workforce. Aproximately 40,000 midwife nurses have been hired in view of interconnecting public institutions for investments in the agricultural sector.

Some of the delegates wondered how Ethiopia had been able to connect the food security improvement to their education system for longevity.


“Previously, agriculture was taught in high schools but currently, it has been introduced in the lower levels and this has taught the young populations that agriculture and food security ought to be everyone’s concern and not just adults,” stated Ms Adanech Beyenne, a delegate from Ethiopia.


Ethiopia’s government has been very  supportive in introducing programmes like the Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI).These have been cited as transformational as they seek to ensure that growth in the agricultural sector is experienced at all levels.

Production and safety nets programmes have been developed to ensure that there is food and nutrition security as well as ensuring that there is increased productivity as well as processing of both grain and animal products.

Faustine Wabwire- Bread of the World - participating in the forum.

Faustine Wabwire- Bread of the World - participating in the forum.

The Woredas and cooperatives have been fundamental as support mechanisms for farmer’s as well small-scale farmers working hand in hand with the large scale farmers. The fact that the small scale farmers are organizing themselves very well to ensure that their commodities have markets as well as managing the volatile prices goes to show just how this country is making headway in ensuring that agriculture is top agenda to avert the perennial drought.

Faustine Wabwire from the Bread of the World sought to understand how Ethiopia funds its long term sustainability programmes and to what extent they are funded by eternal sources.

“In the past 10 years, Ethiopia has been largely independent and very little aid came their way despite being one of the countries that have utilised aid properly,” stated Charles.

Demelash Megersa however, stated that budgets and finances were political issues and that there were different parameters on how to allocate resources. He says that the school feeding programme is one of the initiatives that depended on donor assistance and agencies like the UNICEF have been in the forefront to spearhead them.

The Productive Safety Nets Programme (PSNP) was officially launched in 2005 for five years to support 4.5 million people who were in dire need of food in six regions – Amhara, Tigray, Oromiya, Dire Dawa and Harari.

In 2006, the programme expanded to provide support to 6.7 million people in the six regions, as well as a further half a million people. Initially launched in 192 woredas, the program currently reaches 292 chronically food insecure woredas in 8 of the country’s 10 regions. This is equivalent to roughly 10% of the total population.  The PSNP’s are currently at their second phase and it is touted as the largest social protection program in Sub-Saharan Africa outside of South Africa with an annual budget of over 500 million USD.

Demelash making a point

Demelash making a point

2007 saw the most beneficiaries approximated to be 9,000,000. In 2012 over 7 million benefitted while in 2011 close to 8,000,000 benefitted.

Even with these strides towards food security, there are still deficits as the food produced cannot feed the growing population. The food grown domestically can only feed between 65-67 % of the population while the gap is covered by imports.

Successes of the PSNP’s is something the rest of the Sub-Saharan region can learn from as currently, Ethiopia boasts to have supported over 10 million people, which is about 14% of the

total population as well as other food security transfer programs.

The General Secretary of the OAIC, Reverend Nicta Lubaale says that Ethiopia’s model should be emulated and the fact that they have said they will not pass on poverty to the next generation was commendable. That it was important for other countries to realise that policy and politics go hand in hand and that the principle of public participation should be encouraged.

Charles believes that if governments were serious about revenue collection, then the revenue would be allocated to address socio-economic issues that many countries are still grappling with.

He cites many African elites as being too short-sighted wanting to just benefit themselves and their families and counting how many cars and houses they own while the rest of the people cannot even afford a meal a day and that there is a need for the political leadership to stand up to be counted for the change they advance.

The Ethiopian state has largely been seen as an autocratic state yet it is performing better that the democratic ones.

“The system should be organised so that the people in the rural areas can shape their own development agenda and not just the vocal civil societies in the cities,” he added.

Nathaniel Obunike a farmer from Nigeria notes that governments are fond of laying down “beautiful statistics” which are not helpful.

Nathaniel Obunike from Nigeria making a point

Nathaniel Obunike from Nigeria making a point

“What the Ethiopian government is doing should be emulated. Recently in Nigeria, they allocated a lot of money, 152 billion dollars to support women farmers. The question that many asked is how are they going to be sure that the women shall get the money? All they do is talk big and the politicians eventually share the money. They care more about being featured in the Forbes magazine as having big mansions in Europe. We need to stand up and demand for what is rightfully ours. If people are poor, they have no time to speak up for their rights,” he stated.

Tanzania’s delegates say that their main problem is that they are not united to move an agenda forward.

“We have tried to do a lot of farming but halfway down the line, they dry up. We have tried to plant cotton which is profitable but during other seasons, we do not plant. But what we have learnt in this conference, will help us to encourage out fellow countrymen that through case studies like Ethiopia’s, we can also make headway,” stated one delegate.

Deo Wabwire from Uganda on the other hand states that local radio stations neither inform nor educate farmers on anything important.

“What these stations do is engage in politics throughout and it is rare for them to discuss anything on food security. The rural people mostly depend on the radio to be informed since they cannot afford televisions or newspapers, but these stations are failing them,” he stated.

In the next few years, Ethiopia might just be the supplier for food to the rest of the Sub-Saharan region. The commendable lessons from this country need to be emulated by the African governments to avert the perennial food shortages in the Horn of Africa region.

Fiona Imbali,

OAIC Communications.

One Response Comment

  • Free Games  September 16, 2015 at 4:41 am

    This article describes Care Ethiopia’s experiences of a destocking programme in Ethiopia, and the lessons they learned for future similar interventions


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