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“The productivity of Ethiopian agriculture is among the lowest in the world - around 1.2 tons per hectare.” (World Bank).  Most Ethiopians are ‘sub-subsistence' farmers and more than eight out of ten Ethiopians depend on agriculture as their main livelihood.

Agriculture is the core of the Ethiopian economy.  It accounts for about 40 per cent of GDP, provides approximately 70 per cent of raw material required by the industrial sector, generates 90 per cent of export earnings and accounts for 85 per cent of employment.

However, Ethiopian farmers do not produce enough food to meet consumption requirements and Ethiopia remains the world's most food aid dependent country.  Even in a year of record harvest, 42% of Ethiopians consumed less than the recommended daily allowance of 2,200 kcal. 

In one of the world's poorest countries, where about 44 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line, more than 12 million people are chronically or at least periodically food insecure.  Most of them live in rural areas.

Ethiopian agriculture is dominated by a subsistence, low input-low output, rain-fed farming system.  It is plagued by periodic drought, soil degradation caused by inappropriate agricultural practices and overgrazing, deforestation, high population density, undeveloped water resources and poor transport infrastructure, making it difficult and expensive to get goods to market.

  Our Response

In partnership with rural communities IDP works to implement projects in pasture regeneration, agricultural development and the provision of veterinary services.

We support local farmers in their efforts to improve agricultural production by:

  • providing vegetable seeds and basic, modern agricultural tools,
  • promoting the use of organic fertiliser,
  • encouraging rainwater harvesting and
  • introducing small-scale irrigation systems by providing simple pumps and hoses in those areas with access to ground water.
  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.

  An Agrarian Society in a Land of Drought ...