|More than eight out of ten Ethiopians depend on agriculture as their main livelihood, but agricultural production is extremely vulnerable to climatic conditions. The increased incidence and severity of drought have caused major fluctuations in agricultural and economic growth.
Most of Ethiopia's national food requirement is met by domestic agricultural production. Almost 12 million smallholder farmers produce about 95 per cent of agriculture's share of GDP, yet most rural households live in high density, drought-prone and food-insecure districts of the highlands and survive on a daily per capita income of less than US$0.50.
The persistently unreliable rainfall is a major factor in rural poverty. Although Ethiopia gets plenty of rain annually, it either comes too late or ahead of time, or stops short in mid-season. Crops seldom get the amount of water that is required at the right time.
Recurring droughts leave poor farming families without food, causing periodic famines. People lack coping mechanisms for facing drought-induced famines, and contingency planning is inadequate. The situation worsened recently because of sharp increases in the prices of food and fertilizers on world markets, which made it more difficult for poor households in Ethiopia, as elsewhere, to secure adequate food supplies.