Business and Economics

Ethiopia: A Historical Overview of the Political Ecology of Food Insecurity/Famine
Tadesse Kidane-Mariam, Ph.D.

Food insecurity/famine and drought have become signifying narratives in public discourse on Ethiopian development and environmental management. The recurrent nature of the problem of food insecurity and famine in a country with a significant and diverse resource base and a relatively large and hard-working population has baffled academic-oriented researchers, politicians, development practitioners, the international community and the broader public. The overriding explanation for the situation has been rooted in the linkage between drought and failure of the country’s agricultural systems to withstand the shock from the natural calamity. Based on archival research, participant observation and long years of active engagement in development planning in Ethiopia, I argue that the privileging of ecological factors over political economy structures, demographic change and institutional arrangements has contributed to the failure of successive governments to deal with the problem in an effective and sustainable manner. I argue that notwithstanding the contribution of climatic aberrations, the problem of food insecurity and famine in Ethiopia is largely a product of the failure of the political economy structures and institutional arrangements of successive governments. Hence, sustainable solutions to the problem lie in improving governance, changing the technological base of agricultural production, democratizing land access and management and promoting participatory sustainable development.

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