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FoodCrisisin Ethiopia:Droughto0r


Food Crisis in Ethiopia:

Droughtor Poor Economic

drought,theAfarsare involvedin many

conflictswhich are limitingtheirmobility and access to pasturage during the
dry season.


Duringthesecondhalfof 2002,theareas
affectedby both droughtand a fragile
economic situation have spread still
further,reaching the point where the
populationcan no longerliftitselfabove
the povertyline even in good years.As
well as the effecton livestock in the
whole of Harerge and Arsi, farmers
themselvesbegan to sufferfood shortages. This was indeed paradoxical,given
the exceptionalharvestin 2001 of over
12mtonsof cerealsin thecountry.

thepeois affecting
ples of southernEthiopiain 2003,aftera
year of crisis in the Afar and Harerge
regions. For two successive years rain
and the crisisbehas been insufficient
came evidentin May 2002,withunusual
movementsof livestockin the Afar region. This is one of the most neglected
pastoral areas althoughit is crossed by
the strategic highway linking Addis
Ababa to theportof Djibouti.Verysoon Is thisnotyetanotherexampleoffamine
animals began to die in large numbers being 'presented'to theworld as due to
(from 20 to 50% of the cattle herds, so-called naturalcauses with the threeincludingeven camels) and pastoralists fold objectiveof attractinginternational
peripheralrein survivingin a region assistance,?dominating>>
had difficulty
where there was no water. Was the gions in latentrebellion,and unitingthe
spectre of the Ogaden famine of 2000 Ethiopianpeople in the struggleagainst
about to repeatitself?Since the summer naturaldisasters- at the same time as
of 2002, the crisis has struckthe Afar there has been tensions along the
(Brunel,ACF, 2001).The
triangle,which is given over to trans- Eritreanfrontier
humant pastureland, and it then ex- present food crisis will come back in
panded in concentriccirclesto the Afar successivestages,as thenew areas in the
firstto the west,affecting east and south-eastof Ethiopia are afagro-pastures:
the Oromo of Wollo and the Kereyu,a fected.A somewhatartificial?statistical
rivalpastoralgroup along the borderof waltz>>is set in motion,withthegoverntheAwash NationalPark,and thenmore menton one side tendingto blow up the
figures and talking about 15m rural
markedlyto theeast,in Harerge.
while the humanitarian
people affected,
Diminishingwaterand forageresources agencies and donors do their best to
have revivedall the conflictsamong the minimizetheestimates.Nevertheless,
differentgroups of Ethiopian pastora- the end of the firstquarterof 2003, the
lists.In March,theAfarsreturnedto their numbers of the vulnerable population
territorialwarfareagainst the Issa, lo- requiringaid have risento 12.6m(DPPC,
to theeast,while the latter 2003). In fact,thereare abnormallyhigh
cated further
in the south
exercisedheavypressure fromthemore ratesof severemalnutrition
arid zone of Shinile,itselfseverelyaf- of the country,while in some Afardisfectedby the drought.At thesame time, trictsthese figuresare now being hotly
there were increased incidents to the disputed,withthe methodologyused in
west betweenthe Kereyu,the Oromo of these nutritionalsurveys being chalWollo and the Tigrayans,who forsome lenged (DPPC, 2003).
yearsnow have been tryingto appropriate the profitsfromthe salt resourcesof In October 2002, the Ethiopian Prime
the Danakil depression,situated to the MinisterMeles Zenawi warnedtheinternorthofAfarland. Hence,apartfromthe national communitythat a major crisis

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486 ReviewofAfricanPoliticalEconomy

was imminentand referred

to thefamine peasants,who now had to deal withthe
of the sabat saba (77 in Amharic,accord- droughtas well as debtthatcould notbe
ingto theEthiopiancalendar),theyearof paid off,adaptedtheirstrategies.
Most of
the 1984-85famine.Since then,all offi- them now steer clear fromagricultural
cial speeches are studded with refer- innovationwhich,in theireyes,bears all
ences to an absolute catastrophe. the marksof a fool's market.However,
Photographs,sometimesof a previous thefactthattheyare notusingtheinputs
period,have accompaniedthefirstpress that could ensure high yields - either
reports,as it is importantto mobilise because theyhave been excluded from
people throughtheiremotionsand play the programmesbecause of payment
on the Christiantraditionof charity:to default,or because theywish to protect
achieve this,anythinggoes!
themselves from such experimentsbodes ill for the next harvest. Some
Infacttherealityis notso different,
peasantsexhaustedtheirlast reservesby
it is cleverlymanipulatedby thecamera
buyingseeds fromsmalllocal merchants,
lensesthatplaydownhumanresponsibil- and triedto sow themthreetimesa year,
ityand emphasizenaturaldestiny:Ethioin order to make the most of what the
in theworld
pia is oneofthe17 countries
heavens mightprovide. Now thereare
tobea majorfood
manyfarmerswho have no seeds left.
Anotherserious problemis the typical
marketingsystem in Ethiopia, which
The StructuralCauses of the
goes againsttheinterestsof the farmers.
Marketsare highlysegmentedand can
In 2002, after18 monthsof collapse in be schematically
divided into a 'donkey
pricesas a resultofboththe economy',representing
small-scaletradrecordharvestof 2001 and massivefood ing at the local level, and the 6% of the
aid followingthecrisisin theOgaden of traderswho have been able to spread
2000, the peasants had difficulty
build- their activitiesthanks to their lorries.
ing up theirreserves.Worse still,while This is known as the 'Isuzu economy',
theharvestswere good, manyhad to sell fromthenameofthemostcommonsmall
their lorryused in thecountry.All throughthe
ploughingoxen, in order to reimburse year 2002 therehas been a deterioration
thecredits'imposed' by expertsfromthe in thetermsoftrade,affecting
Ministryof Agriculture
workinghand in pastoral nomads whose animals are
glove with the agriculturalinputscom- emaciated and in poor health. Furtherpanies which were partiallylinked to more, the second Saudi embargo on
political circles and enjoyed a virtual livestock imports has had disastrous
monopoly. As part of the 'extension effects,
in theSomali region.'
wereofferedto all the On the other hand, the price of food
peasants, without taking into account productsspiralledspectacularlyas from
the different
agro-ecologicalzones. The the end of the 2001-2002agricultural
pricesofinputswere systematically
fixed season. Peasantswho used to sell partof
at high levels for the hybridseeds and theirharvestat thistime,only did so as
indispensableifthesevarieties theylack storageand conservationfaciliof non-reproductive
cereals are to reach ties, but above all because taxes and
maturity.In otherwords, the so-called creditrepaymentshave to be made in
modernisationagriculturalpolicieswere thisperiod.Whetherthe yearis good or
just anotherway of syphoningoffthe bad, peasants sell at prices that have
hypotheticalrevenuesof the farmersin been driven down by the over-supply
favourofthetown.The experiment
came caused by the rigiditiesof the administo a sudden end and the subsistence trativesystem.Later,these same peas-

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FoodCrisisin Ethiopia:DroughtorPoorEconomicPolicies?

ants have to buy the food necessaryfor

theirsubsistenceat high prices.And, of
course,in periods of crisis,the effectsof
this institutionalizedunequal exchange
systemare even moremarked.The rains
returnedin 2003,which gave some respite to the herdersand engenderedthe
hope forbetterconditionsforthe crops.
However, therewas a dramaticlack of
seeds that
seeds. Only the ?industrial>>
could notbe reproducedby thepeasants,
in otherwords those that came in the
packet>>,were available. Se<<extension
lected and certifiedlocal seeds were
virtuallyunobtainable.Apart fromthe
provisionsof a few agencies like CARE
and the ICRC, which had organized
of adapted
seeds,2theneeds of thepopulationwere
not met. Only seeds of unknownorigin
were available on the marketsat high
prices,withoutany guaranteeof yields.
Already in 2002 some ears of grain
resultingfromthe harvestingof hybrid
seeds were collectedhereand there.
As for revenue fromcash crops, they
sufferedfromthecontinuingdrop in the
internationalprice for coffee,which is
the main exportcrop. On top of this,in
the Harergethe coffeebushes fellvictim
to thefungus-causedcoffeeberrydisease
to treat.Increasing
(CBD) thatis difficult
numbers of peasants have abandoned
coffeein favourof theproductionof qat,
anothercommercialcrop. However, the
price of this alcaloid plant,a 'soft'drug
also deterioratedon the marketbecause
of thedrought,combinedwitha drop in
externaldemand as Somaliland reactivated local productionof qat. And finally,as fromOctober2002,themeasures
taken by the Ethiopian authoritiesto
stop the clandestinetrade in the northeast of the countryhave had severe
repercussionson the incomes of the
population,the greatmajorityof whom
go in forqat.


2003: The 'Green Famine' hits

Southern Ethiopia
In southernEthiopia,therewas a collapse in the productionof the Abyssinian banana, which is essential to the
food securityin the region with the
highestpopulationdensityin the country.It is indeed in thisricheragricultural
region, stretching from Gurage to
Wolayta, that new pockets of famine
have developed, with alarminglyhigh
In May 2003,the
levels of malnutrition.
Swiss Medecins sans Frontieresestimated that some 4,000 childrenwere
formsof malnusuffering
and,as a consequence,MSF opened
centres,while otheragenthreenutrition
cies (World Vision International,Concern and the Catholic Church) have
The highpopulationgrowthin thesouth,
adverse weather conditions impacting
and thenegligenceof the
on agriculture,
authoritiestowards the local people,
mustall bear theirshareofresponsibility
negligencemay pay off,as it enables the
authoritiesto launch the 'famine machine' aimed at donors obsessed with
the post-warsituationin Iraq. Internationalaid which,accordingto Ethiopian
officials,has not done enough, should
now make a new efforton behalf of
southernEthiopia. And the sudden revival of the crisiswhichhas been going
on fora yearhas also highlighted
thatonly assortedcornsoya brand cereApartfromthe
als have been distributed.
beneficiariesof distributions
by the Red
Cross and a fewNGOs possessingstocks
of oil and legumes,veryfew Ethiopians
have balanced food rations.According
in Harerge,
to the CARE representative
this lack of nutritionaldiversification
not altogether unconnected with the
sudden increase in malnutrition
While the Ethiopian authoritiesregularly accuse the donors of not doing
enough, the latter,not withouthypocrisy,are attackingeach other.On one

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488 ReviewofAfrican

side, thereis theUnitedStates,thegreat commercialactivitiesthroughthe regucereal producer, which has delivered lar distribution
of information
about the
715,000tons of cereals,accordingto an going prices.This would help the counembassy communique (May, 2003) - a try to emerge fromthe crisis,but the
charitablespurtthathas completelydis- Ethiopian authoritiesadopt measures
regarded the negative effectsof such thatpointin the oppositedirection.
assistance on the local markets,while
the American cereal producers them- Briefly,this is a crisis that has been
selvesbenefitfromindirectsubsidies.On createdmainlyby poor economicpolithe otherside, the European Union was cies,whatevertheEthiopianofficialssay
accused of not havinggivenwhat it had as theycling,in spiteofeverything,
to the
pledged, although it had adopted a excuse of the calamitousclimaticcauses
approachto so-calledfood of the present crisis. The gaps in the
security,whichwas to pay special atten- information
handed out and an obsestionto the structural
causes of the crisis. sion with quantityhave contributedto
The EU had made local purchases of the real reasons for the crisis being
cereals in zones that had an excess overlooked.And, what is certain,is this
supply,but it did not always have the massive food aid mainlybenefitsa govnecessarymeans. Funds were lackingor ernmentthatis all too happy to acquire
Brusselsdelayed releasingthem,in ad- virtuallyfreestocksof cereals.However,
dition to which the supplies ordered while oil made in the US was largely
locally were not available or were di- available in the marketsup until April
verted from their original destination. 2003, it was woefully lacking in the
The EU also maintains a system for distributedrations.In otherwords this
subsidisingits agricultureto the detri- has been assistance that has mainly
mentof farmersin thesouth.
consisted of cereals, and is more selfinterestedthan generous.
The manipulation and bargainingbetween donors and Ethiopianrecipients
helped to inflatethe statistics,but the Franqois Piguet works for the UN in
severityof the presentcrisisshould not Ethiopia.Translatedfromthe Frenchby
be underestimated.It has many causes, VickyBawtree.
most of themeconomic:in factthe climate was only one factorrevealingthe Endnotes
dysfunctionsand weaknesses of the
Ethiopian economy,particularlyin the 1. Aftera so-calledfeverepidemicin theRift
two dominantsectorsof agricultureand Valley,inSeptember2000theSaudi authorities
imposedan embargoon all imports livestock
livestockfarming.The economyused to fromtheHornofAfrica.Alreadyinof
1998,a first
be linked to the Easternbloc and, in its embargoof 17 monthshad been imposedfor
hurryto adopt the veneer of liberalism similarreasons. Thereis concernabout the
demanded by the major donors,legisla- healthof theseanimals,but in generalSaudi
tionleftplentyof loopholesformanipu- Arabia is tryingto restrictAfricanimports,
favouringanimals originatingin Argentina,
lationand embezzlement.Some say that Australiaand New Zealand,whereinfluential
thereshould be still more liberalismin Saudishaveinvestedinranches.
orderto get rid of theseevils. Indeed it
2. This was mostly the Katomani maize,
would be desirableto give morefreedom developed in Ethiopia and Kenya. It is an
to the small producers,particularlygiv- improved,non-hybridseed that is droughtingthemguaranteesofownershipforthe resistant.Itsyieldsare smallerthanthehybrid
plotsofland theycultivate,whileimpos- varietiesbut it always producessomethingat
inga minimumofregulationon thelarge leastand thepeasantscan thusdisposeoftheir
ownseeds,withoutdependingon themarketor
producers and traders.As a firststep theservicesoftheMinistry
thereshould be greatertransparency

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Sudan: Prospects

Brunel,S (2001),'Ethiopie:unefamineexposee,
de la faim,ACF/PUF,
l'Ogaden', Geopolitique
DPPC (2003),'Updateon current
and additionalfoodrequirements',
Lefort, R (2003), 'Ethiopie, la secheresse
n'expliquepas tout',LeNouvelObservateur,
2010,15 May.
Lutz Mukke (2003),'Der inszenierteHunger',
Die Zeit,Dossier,10 April.
Remi,JPh (2002),'L'Ethiopiefacea unenouvelle
menacede famine'inLeMonde,13November.
Vigneau, F (2003) , 'L'Ethiopie:Manipulation
ou pas, quelle est la realitepour
des chiffres
nous dans tout ca?', APM, departement
Wolde Mariam,M (2003),'The socio-economic
24 April.


Should the IGAD strategysucceed, the

mediatorswill find that they are only
half way up the mountain.Implementing the Agreementwill be at least as
difficultas obtainingthe signaturesof
theprincipals.Should thestrategyfail,it
seems there is no 'plan B' other than
to the de factotoleranceof the
human sufferingand destructionthat
has been the sorrylot of mostSudanese
fortwo decades. Despite the optimism,
the IGAD mediatorsand theirinternationalbackersshould considera 'Plan B'
for both parties until parties resume
talks, that could include among other
options,a no flyzone and Rapid DeploymentForcefortheprotectionof civilians
in thewar zone.

IGAD's Final Push

The IGAD mediatorsare in the stage of

the'finalpush' fora settlement
peace talksresumein Kenya,on 6 Julyfor
three weeks. In parallel there will be
Sudan: ProspectsforPeace negotiationson the marginalisedareas
of Abyei, Nuba and South Blue Nile,
are in the 'North'.The Julytalks
agreewill be on the generalframework
and explorment,focusingon trade-offs
As PresidentOmer al Bashir celebrates ing with the parties their aspirations,
fourteenyears in power, and Dr John fears,greyareas, red lines and probable
Garang marks twentyyears since the guarantees.These talkswill be followed
release of the (first) Sudan People's by a closed session held between the
Liberation Movement (SPLM) Mani- mediators (IGAD Secretariat)and the
festo, mediators and external actors externalactors (principallyUS, Britain
hope thata full peace agreementcan be and Norway) to thrash out the final
reached on 14 August or thereabouts, details of the Draft FrameworkDocufollowingfinalroundsoftalksin Kenya. mentto be presentedto thetwopartiesin
They are banking on a Draft Frame- late July. The plan is that the final
work Agreement,put togetherby the session of the talkswill be essentiallya
IGAD Secretariatwith the full involve- 'take it or leave it' round,withnegotiament and support of the US, Britain, tionpossible onlyover the detailsof the
Norway and other key international settlement.The delegations will then
backers, which can be finalised after take the FrameworkAgreementback to
the forthcomingtalks in July. The theirleaderships,who, it is hoped, will
chances of success in this enterpriseare be ready to sign. It is planned thatthe
relatively good: a FrameworkAgree- only negotiationsleft will be security
ment for Peace in Sudan may well be arrangementsand the three contested
signed in August or earlySeptember. 'marginalised'areas. Proceduralmatters
around the final signingceremonyare
expectedto begin in August.

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