Remarks by H.E. Mr Fisseha Adugna, Ambassador of Ethiopia, on Food Security in Ethiopia since 1984


Panel discussion organised by the Royal African Society, November 2, 2004

School of Oriental African Studies, London


Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


First of all, let me express my sincere gratitude to the Royal African Society for the invitation extended to me to participate in this panel. I would also like to express my thanks to all the panellists for taking the time to contribute their share in this timely discussion focusing on  food security in Ethiopia. I sincerely hope this discussion will positively contribute to the on-going efforts by our country to attain food security for all its citizens.


Twenty years ago our country went through one of the darkest chapters of its history. In 1984 the famine that ravaged the northern part of our country accounted for the death of one million innocent Ethiopians. The Military Government that was in power at the time did not care much about the plight of its people. For them it was a time for consolidation of power, a suitable time to use humanitarian disaster for political ends.


The response by the international community to that human catastrophe, on the other hand, was overwhelming. Many governments, NGOs, charities, civic organisations, musicians, journalists, students and ordinary citizens created a rainbow coalition to respond to the human tragedy that was unfolding in our country. There are so many individuals, both foreigners and Ethiopians who risked their lives to bring this to the attention of the international community. In this regard, let me only mention two individuals - Bob Geldof and Michael Buerk - who have become symbols of human solidarity in a rather unprecedented way, that had never been seen before in such a crisis.


Michael Buerk is one of the panelists today and we Ethiopians are most grateful for what he achieved in saving millions of lives in 1984. Sir Bob Geldof and many of his associates organised Live Aid which has become a unique movement since then. In 1984/5 it brought awareness to the entire world of what was taking place in Ethiopia. Live Aid touched the lives of so many. It has changed the lives of millions. It has become part of our history and we’ll never forget it.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Let me now proceed to the topic of the day : the food security situation in Ethiopia since 1984.


Addressing this situation, I will obviously start from 1991, after the demise of the Derg. There is no point talking about development activities until 1991 because there were none worth mentioning. I believe many of you who are here today do remember what happened between 1984 and 1991 in our country and I don’t think I need to elaborate on that.


In my presentation, I will try to highlight what has been done so far in the food security area in detail and will conclude my remarks by indicating some challenges we face in attaining our goals.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


As you are aware, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its economy is agrarian and 85% of the population lives by means of subsistence agriculture in the countryside. 97% of agriculture in Ethiopia is rain-fed. Our country went through internecine wars that ravaged the country.


Since 1991, the democratic forces that brought an end to the dictatorial rule of the Derg have embarked upon radical transformation in our country. A democratic constitution was adopted and, based on that, two democratic, multi-party elections have taken place. The third national election will take place in May 2005. The conduct of this kind of elections was new in the long history of our country.


On the economic front,  a series of reforms have been underway since 1991. Ethiopia’s Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme was debated at grassroots level by the people and discussed and enriched at all levels of the government administrative structures. After proper consultation with the donor community, it was fully set in motion. The Food Security Programme (FSP) in Ethiopia is one important section of Ethiopia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.


As you know, food security is defined as access for all citizens at all times to sufficient food so that they may lead an active and healthy life. A complex combination of factors has resulted in a sharply increased level of vulnerability to food insecurity for many Ethiopians. These factors include – changes in climate leading to more frequent droughts, widespread land degradation, limited alternative income generation, increased population pressure, poor market integration, lack of access to proper technology and issues related to policies and implementation constraints.


In the last few years, the Ethiopian government has taken the steps that are necessary to create a supportive and enabling policy environment so that these food insecurity challenges can be addressed.


The over-arching policy framework for the food security programme is the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme (SDPRP) that focuses on agriculture as it provides the livelihood of 85% of the population, as well as being the primary source of surplus to fuel growth in other sectors. Within this context, the Federal Food Security Strategy was charted our and it has three components : to increase the supply of food, to improve access to food and to strengthen Ethiopia’s emergency response capabilities.


In addition to this, we have put policies in place that promote good governance, decentralisation of decision-making and greater local empowerment that have also created an enabling environment for the food security programme. To strengthen these efforts, the Government has been undertaking a programme of civil service reform that aims to improve service delivery and the National Capacity Building Programme, which aims to develop institutional and human resource capacities in all sectors of the economy. In agriculture, this is manifested through the Technical Vocational Education and Training Programme (Agri-TVET) which will help train skilled manpower.


Accordingly, 25 Agricultural Colleges were established three years ago and their first graduates, 15,000 extension experts, graduated last summer. They were trained in three disciplines which is crop agriculture, livestock expertise and natural resource and water management. The plan is to have three of them in each kebele i.e. the smallest administrative unit composed of 500 households. In three year’s time (2007) 55,000 extension staff will be trained and dispatched to each kebele in rural parts of Ethiopia.


Two other national policy frameworks, which are critical for the Food Security Programme’s success are the National Policy for Disaster Prevention and Management (NPDPM), and the National Population Policy. Central to these two policies are social safety nets that are intended to provide families with a cushion against food insecurity while, at the same time, creating a foundation of productive assets within the community. The National Population Policy is designed to reduce population pressure, which exacerbates the food security problem.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Ethiopia is now implementing these policies and there are already encouraging results. One of the priorities of the Food Security Programme in Ethiopia is to drastically reduce food insecurity faced by a vulnerable 15 million Ethiopians. Its five-year goal is to attain food security for five million which are enlisted as chronically food insecure, while, at the same time, improving and sustaining the overall food security of an additional ten million people, who live in drought-prone areas and who are at the mercy of good rainfall each year.


In order to implement this programme, the following measures have been taken. Improving productivity is given priority. This includes introducing drought-tolerant technologies and water utilisation management such as irrigation, water harvesting, moisture retention programmes and other extension packages.


Access to productive land is also a priority. In the coming four years, the Government has planned to re-settle 440,000 chronically food insecure households or 2.2 million people. So far 110,000 households have moved to new areas. Out of 56 new settlement sites, 49 have since produced grain beyond their consumption needs and in 7 settlements we have still more work to do towards making them fully successful. It is very much encouraging to witness that hundreds of thousands of people have graduated from food assistance. It is very important to note that re-settlement in Ethiopia is on a voluntary basis and decisions are taken with the involvement of representatives of the communities concerned, NGOs, donors and government experts.


Creating an enabling environment is also necessary. There is a New Coalition for Food Security, as well as the Federal Food Security Steering Committee which is chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and composed of the Government and donors’ representatives to enable them to share a common vision and work closely together. In 2004, the Government allocated more than 200 million dollars of budget for the food security programme from its own resources.


There are also incentives for farmers to increase investment in their land and improve production. The Land Administration Policy which is in the process of being implemented will offer farmers greater security over their land through a certification process that guarantees land use and transfer rights. Indeed, the certification process will be completed next year in the four major regions of the country.


We also have a package for pastoral areas which includes eco-system management, capacity-building, decentralisation and integrated development based on livestock.


As you can imagine, our food security programme is unapologetically ambitious. It aims to address the underlying causes of food insecurity. It recognises that the solution to food insecurity will not be provided only by donors or even by the Government. They can only play a supplementary role. Social mobilisation is a critical element to make the most of the resources of the rural community which is labour and land. People have to have total ownership of the process and the outcome as well. Capacity-building in the rural areas has to be carried on.


There are now 15,000 Farmer Training Centres that help train farmers, disseminate information and conduct research into community needs.


To sum up, food insecurity in Ethiopia is closely linked to poverty. Therefore, the Food Security Strategy has to be a multi-sector strategy that touches upon many different policy areas. It touches on education, which is the other priority of the country. It also touches upon health. It touches upon gender issues, as in Ethiopia women are among those most affected by food insecurity. That is why activities have to be well-integrated and have to be multi-purpose in nature.


Encouraging progress has been made, and we learn more as we go along and do more to reach our goal. Perhaps it will be useful to show some statistics:








It continues that way. However, we fully recognise there is a lot to be done in our country and poverty is still well entrenched. What I want to give you is not a rosy picture but a realistic one. My message is that Ethiopia is doing its level best and there are encouraging results so far. But we have more work to do, we have to perform better until poverty has been reduced and food security has been achieved.


There are still a lot of internal and external challenges to be overcome. In our effort to attain food security we have to address the following challenges.







Our Government is so determined to address these problems and move its development agenda forward.


There are also serious external challenges that pose difficulties for sustainable development in Ethiopia :






It is against all these odds that Ethiopia and the rest of developing countries are fighting to survive. We in Ethiopia, as I have tried to explain in this presentation, have the right policies in place, strive to implement our programmes and have achieved encouraging positive results.


Ethiopia is now on the move. We want our friends to move along with us and encourage Ethiopia to continue its development commitments. That would be acting in a spirit of true friendship, that we would all respect and cherish.


Let me conclude with a quotation from the President of the World Bank, Mr James Wolfensohn, who said the following upon the conclusion of his visit to Ethiopia just 15 days ago.


“Ethiopia’s all round development programme, aimed at attaining food self-sufficiency and the reduction of poverty, could be an example to other African countries.”


I thank you for your attention.