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    Home >> Social Studies >> Famine In Ethopia

    Famine In Ethopia

    Miha Alam

    ·   The famine hit Ethiopia in 2009. There are many economic, political, socio-economic, environmental and demographical causes of the famine. Ethiopia is ranked 171 out of 178 on the HDI. It is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Due to low income poor Ethiopians cannot buy food even if it is available. Overpopulation, poor economy, poor governance, traditional agricultural methods etc led to the silent famine in Ethiopia.

    ·   Harsh environment led to famine. It is located in the eco-climatic and bio-graphic zone stretch. 2009 was la nina which is when the temperature of the sea across the Eastern Pacific Ocean will be lower than 3-5 degrees Celsius. There are typically dry period. Because of this, there was shortage of arable land in order to produce food for the population which resulted in famine. Lack of incentive of advancing in technology is one of the causes of lack of food production.

    ·   Ethiopia has poor farming techniques. Soil structure and fertility was maintained by slash and burn procedure, applying animal dung as fertilizers. The unfertilized soil particles lack cohesion and are eroded by wind and water. This is due to many reasons such as poor governance, increased dependency on food aid, soil degradation, poverty (illiteracy).

    ·    Ethiopia has a poor economy. GNI was 343.9. Ethiopia could not keep up with the fair trade of international food trade when the global prices of producing and the transporting food dramatically increased due to the unstable and weak economy. Ethiopia’s economy is based on agriculture which accounts for 50% of GDP. Their main export is coffee. Ethiopia took loan of 50 million $ from the IMF and thus, Ethiopia became a part of international trade market. Having cheap food caused the local markets to get undermined and lose farms. Since 85% of the population were farmers, they lost jobs thus, lack of food production and famine.

    ·   Poor governance led to unstable economy because of debt and selling lands to international firms. Ethiopia cannot use the monetary funds from IMF to subsidize industries which will result in lower price, invest in public services etc. They can only use it to pay the debt. To make money easily, the government allowed firms from Saudi Arabia, India and China to lease land. This resulted in displacement of people. Only 15, 000 people got reallocated. The government couldn’t fulfill their promises of having better lives, healthcare, education and drinking water. On top of that, the government denies that there is a famine. The prime minister said “drought…not famine!” and claims that 150, 000 metric tons of food are in the government’s reservoirs.

    ·   Population growth is another factor which caused the famine. Ethiopia is Africa’s 2nd most populous country.  The growth rate was 2.7 in 2009. In 2010, 6.2 million were threatened by hunger and malnutrition. The population pyramid shows that the birth rate is high and the death rate is high as well. There is over population in Ethiopia because poor people have more babies as not many babies survive. There are a lot of still births. Many babies catch diseases and due to lack of medical care, the disease becomes severe and die. Thus, they keep on trying. The more the number of babies, the more they can generate income by begging or other means. Even though new tool for agriculture was provided by the government, there was famine because the population growth just kept on increasing. Since the population was rapidly increasing, the amount of food aid was not adequate. Thus, there was dwindling flow of foreign food aid. Due to the harsh soil (not rich soil), Ethiopians could not grow food in time, and thus due to the increase in population, the scarcity of resources just kept on increasing and therefore the famine increased. Due to over population, there is shortage of land because of subdivision and redistribution of land holdings to inadequate size. There is little incentive for farmers to improve such small plots, which they don’t own. Over population led to over grazing which lead to erosion. 28% of land is degraded. 50-100 tones of topsoil are eroded each year. This again leads to famine due to lack of arable land.

    ·   Overpopulation, lack of fertile land, lack of governance, poor and unstable economy and traditional farming methods have all led to the famine. All such causes are integrated as one cause leads to several other causes. There has been progress in terms of development made in Ethiopia. The GDP improved by 10.1% in 2010 which is significant. There is a lot of debate going on whether the solution to the famine is the production of organic crops or genetically modified crops. I think the poor governance and over population are the main causes which trigger other causes. Thus, the best solutions would be solutions which limit growth rate and improve governance so that they no longer trigger the other causes. 

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