Posts filed under ‘Food’
By Martha van der Wolf
ADDIS ABABA — The United Nations Development Program has released its 2013 Human Development Index. Despite recent economic growth, Ethiopia is still near the bottom of the index.
Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index 2013, unveiled by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, on Friday.
The Index is part of the Human Development Report that is presented annually and measures life expectancy, income and education in countries around the world.
Since 2000, Ethiopia has registered greater gains than all but two other countries in the world – Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. But it still ranks close to the bottom of the Index.
However, Samuel Bwalya, an economic advisor for UNDP, says that not only the ranking is important.
“I think what matters in the index is how you’re moving, your own human development progress within the country, so you’re moving from 0.275 to 0.378, that movement is what matters,” said Bwalya. “It means that your country is making progress in human development. Now the ranking depends on how other countries are also faring.”
This year’s Human Development Report focuses on the major gains made since 2000 in most countries in the global South.
UNDP believes sub-Saharan Africa can achieve higher levels of human development if it deepens its engagement with other regions of the South.
But those countries must overcome many challenges, such as low life expectancy, high levels of inequality and the growing threat for environmental disasters that could halt or reverse the recent gains in human development.
Bwalya says that government policies are central to human development in Ethiopia:
“The most important is to continuously commit to two policy arenas: the economic program in the country is robust and the government should have continuous commitment to development,” he explained. “The second is that it should continue the social protection program that has been so important in reducing poverty.”
While the Human Development Report and Index celebrate improvements across the developing world, a hard fact remains – 24 out of the 25 lowest ranked countries are on the African continent.
By Laurie Mazur for the Wilson Center
Certainly, the landlocked East African nation faces outsized challenges. One in ten Ethiopians is chronically food insecure, and nearly one in five go hungry in drought years. With almost half its people under the age of 15 and an average fertility rate of nearly five children per woman, Ethiopia’s population is the fifth fastest-growing in the world.
Given these challenges, does continued rapid population growth consign impoverished Ethiopians to chronic hunger? Some, in the spirit of Thomas Robert Malthus, would answer yes. Malthus famously argued in the 19th century that human numbers would inevitably outstrip food supply, because population grows geometrically while food supply can only increase arithmetically. Others, inspired by Ester Boserup, contend the opposite is true: population growth spurs invention that keeps supply ahead of demand.
A closer look at Ethiopia shows that neither the Malthusians nor the Boserupians quite get it right. The connections between population and food security are extraordinarily complex. Numbers matter, but so do other dynamics, such as migration and age structure. And context is paramount: the right policies are essential to encouraging – and reaping the benefits from – positive demographic trends, but those policies must be tailored to local circumstances.
Contrasts and Contradictions
Ethiopia is a land of stunning contrasts and seemingly contradictory truths.
Most Ethiopians live in brutal poverty, their per capita income among the lowest in the world. And yet, Ethiopia is one of the so-called “African lions:” its economy grew at a brisk 7.5 percent last year, more than twice the rate of emerging economies as a whole.
Ethiopia is a nation where small farmers struggle to eke out a living on tiny, degraded plots of land: in the densely populated highlands, roughly half the land is significantly eroded. Yet Ethiopia is also the target of aggressive “land grabs.” Since 2008, the government has leased or sold nearly 10 million acres of prime farmland in the less-populated lowlands to investors from China, India, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, according to Human Rights Watch.
How do we reconcile these contrasts?
First, national averages are of limited use in a country like Ethiopia, with its diverse topography and staggering inequities. Geographically, Ethiopia’s regions are as distinct as, say, Arizona and Minnesota – and the outlook for environmental quality and food security vary accordingly. There are also huge disparities between rural and urban Ethiopians. To understand the relationship between population dynamics and food security, then, it is helpful to remember that there are many Ethiopias.
It is also helpful to set aside any preconceived notions about population and food.
Malthusians argue that population growth inevitably leads to hunger, as the resource “pie” is divided into ever smaller slices. The most obvious flaw in this theory is that technology has thus far allowed the size of the pie to increase. Another is that food and other resources are not distributed equitably; some people get much larger servings than others. The pie as a whole may be big enough for everyone, but only the slices of the poor continue to shrink.
The Malthusian narrative doesn’t fit Ethiopia, where the areas with the highest population densities are not usually the hungriest. In The Demographic Transition and Development in Africa: the Unique Case of Ethiopia, Charles Teller found that “high density can either increase vulnerability or strengthen resilience,” depending on a host of other factors, including technology, infrastructure, education, urbanization, and effective implementation of population and development policy.
On the other hand, Boserupians would contend that population growth can actually diminish hunger, by forcing societies to modernize agriculture and improve productivity. But realities on the ground in Ethiopia don’t fit that narrative, either.
Tewodaj Mogues of the International Food Policy Research Institute said in an email, “The [Ethiopian] government’s various attempts at increasing agricultural intensification have not been very successful, therefore continued population growth creates substantial pressure on the land, especially in Ethiopia’s northern highlands.”
Of course, agriculture is modernizing in Ethiopia, but the benefits don’t necessarily accrue to the nation’s hungry. In the western lowlands, where land grabs are underway, tens of thousands of small farmers have been removed from their land to make way for agribusiness. According to Oxfam International, Ethiopia now supports the export of fruit, vegetables, and flowers worth $220 million a year. Those exports boost the nation’s foreign exchange, but they may also undercut the food security of poor farmers and reduce production for the domestic market. One displaced farmer told Human Rights Watch, “We want you to be clear that the government brought us here…to die….They brought us no food, they gave away our land to the foreigners so we can’t even move back.”
Beyond Malthus and Boserup
If the Malthusian and Boserupian explanations fall short, what are the root causes of hunger in Ethiopia, and how might they be addressed?
Mogues cited several “deep determinants” of hunger, including geography (for example, rugged mountainous terrain and a changing climate) and institutions (a broad term that includes the rule of law, governance, policies, investments and property rights). Many small farmers in Ethiopia lack secure land tenure, for example, which removes incentives to improve the land and discourages them from seeking employment off the farm, lest their land be taken away. The government’s ineffective aid to small farmers and concessions to agribusiness also fall under this heading.
Population dynamics matter too, especially at the household level. Mogues observed that high fertility rates affect food security in several ways:
In Ethiopia, women in rural areas play a key role in agricultural production, food purchases, non-production activities in the agriculture value chain, and in home preparation of food. Thus, high fertility rates mean that women are less able to devote time to these agricultural activities as they need to allocate more time and resources to child rearing, which has food security implications above and beyond the fact that produced or purchased food will have to be shared with household members in a larger household.
Age structures are also important. Nearly half of the Ethiopian people are “dependents” – under age 14 or over 65. This high dependency ratio diminishes productivity in agriculture and other sectors, because a lower share of the population is in the workforce.
Finally, migration – or the lack of it – plays a role. Government policies aimed at keeping ethnic groups in their home regions suppresses migration to cities and more productive rural lands. Freer migration could reduce pressure on overworked land, allow more appropriate division of labor, and energize development.
A Comprehensive Approach
How can the government and donors address the myriad causes of hunger in Ethiopia? With a “comprehensive approach to food security that includes attention to the full spectrum of population dynamics and geographic distribution,” said Charles Teller in an interview.
That means a robust safety net for the most vulnerable, integrated with ongoing programs to bolster nutrition and health. It means flexible migration policies and stronger rural-urban linkages, coupled with better planned urban development.
It also means agricultural policies that help small farmers improve their productivity, rather than displacing them. According to Ethiopian development expert Fantu Cheru, those policies can include foreign direct investment, as long as the government negotiates terms of engagement that are transparent and fair. For example, the proceeds from cash crops should be invested in improving production of staple foods through extension services, infrastructure, and better equipment for poor farmers.
And it means policies that support – and capture the benefits from – the transition to lower fertility. That demographic transition could improve food security in Ethiopia by freeing up women’s time and lowering the dependency ratio. But the transition is not automatic; it requires supportive policies, such as girls’ education, employment opportunities for women, and enforcement of laws against child marriage.
Importantly, it requires access to family planning and reproductive health services. Today, just 27 percent of married Ethiopian women use modern contraception. One in four have an “unmet need” for family planning – they wish to prevent or delay pregnancy but are not using an effective method of contraception. Addressing that unmet need would have important benefits for women and their families, and it could also help fight chronic hunger.
In this land of contrasts and contradictions, the causes of food insecurity are numerous and complex. Neither Malthus nor Boserup could fully capture that complexity, but both perspectives offer insight on the limitations of current policy – and help point the way to a less hungry future.
Laurie Mazur is a consultant on population and the environment for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program and director of the Population Justice Project.
Sources: CIA, Central Statistical Agency (Ethiopia), Food and Agriculture Organization, Human Rights Watch, Journal of Peasant Studies, MEASURE DHS, Overseas Development Institute, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, Rodrik (2002), Teller (2011), The Economist, The Global Mechanism, UN Population Division, U.S. Geological Survey, United Press International, World Bank.
Photo Credit: “Early morning in Lalibela,” courtesy of flickr user Dietmar Temps
THE NUMBERS: World unemployment totals, ILO estimates -
2007 171 million
2008 176 million
2009 197.7 million
2010 197.3 million
2011 197.2 million
WHAT THEY MEAN:
Is it correct to say that a thing which goes up must then come down? In the case of unemployment, perhaps yes, but only slowly. America’s case is an example: In January 2008, 7.7 million American men and women were out of work; by January 2009 the total had jumped to 12 million; it then continued to climb to its peak of 15.2-million (or 9.9 percent) by April 2010. Since then the tide of joblessness has receded – to 14.4 million in December 2010 and 13.1 million (or 8.5 percent) as of December 2011. Thus it is taking much longer to retrieve the jobs than it took to lose them.
How does this look in global context? The American circumstances are not, in fact, at all unusual. The ILO’s gloomy Global Employment Trends 2012, released in mid-January, estimates worldwide unemployment at 197.2 million – still more than 27 million above the decade’s low point of 171 million in 2007, and only a shade below the 197.7 million of crisis-stricken 2009. The OECD likewise, as it looks in more detail at its 34 wealthy and middle-income member countries, finds unemployment peaking at 45 million in 2009 and declining only to 44.7 million since. The ILO’s forecast for the coming year is uninspiring:
“The baseline projection shows no change in the global unemployment rate, which would lead to an additional 3 million unemployed around the world, giving a total of 200 million in 2012.”
So: unemployment is beginning to come down from the crisis peaks in the United States, even if less rapidly than one would hope. Abroad, it’s nearly as high as ever.
Data sources – world, rich-country, and United States -
Droughts are common in the Somali peninsula, but only an exceptional one produces famine. For instance, the Horn of Africa drought of 1984 did not produce famine in Somalia, while the Ethiopian population was devastated. The latter country suffered famine because the military government of the time was engaged in a civil war, and did not come to the rescue of its people. Ten years earlier, in the mid-1970s, there was a prolonged drought, known as “dabadeer” ["the long-tailed"], in several parts of Somalia. Fortunately, this drought did not lead to mass starvation because the Somali government moved quickly to assist the people. They mobilised the population and sought the assistance of international allies to deliver food and water to the needy.
Somalia’s last major famine was in 1992 and was not caused by drought. Nearly 300,000 innocent people starved to death because of sectarian politics. The epicentre of that famine was in Bay, one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions, and starvation was induced by warlords who used food as a weapon against farmers and pastoralists.
Marauding gangs had invaded the region after the collapse of the Somali state in 1991 and looted farmers’ harvests. The country’s major warlord wanted to capture the region, so did not allow food aid to reach the desperate population. Reports told of unimaginable suffering long before TV images of ruined lives reached millions around the world. It was only then that US president George HW Bush decided to send US troops to the country to enable food to reach the indigent population.
The climatic record show that droughts frequently occur in the Somali peninsula, but have not produced famines over the past fifty years, until 2011. However, the UN and other international actors have been arguing about the devastating drought in the area for nearly a year, while only a handful of scholars and activists were alarmed by the creeping famine. What thoughtful people must ask is: “Why famine now?” Raed more: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/07/2011726135256169831.html
A human rights group has accused the Ethiopian government of leasing some of its most productive farmland
BY Joe DeCapua (VOA)
A human rights group has accused the Ethiopian government of leasing some of its most productive farmland to foreign companies. Survival International said the Omo River region is the traditional homeland of some 90-thousand indigenous people. The group said Malaysian, Italian and Korean companies are buying leases; and that large areas are being cleared for state-run plantations. “The government announced that it was going ahead with the huge sugar cane plantation known as the Kuraz Project. We know that there are leases given out to other foreign companies. For example, an Italian company, which is leasing 30,000 hectares to grow palm oil,” Fiona Watson, Survival International’s field and research director. Allegations Survival International said the government has failed to consult the indigenous people, who would be affected. “Leasing of their land without their knowing about it,” said Watson, “is going to create enormous problems for them.” The government rejected the group’s allegations. Spokesman Simon Bereket said it was official policy to inform and consult with local populations. “That is the normal practice in Ethiopia,” he said, “mandated by the constitution to be discussed by all peoples.” Bereket called the group’s accusations “baseless.” He added, “As far as I know the indigenous people are very supportive of the government. These are indigenous people who had been neglected for centuries, never been considered to be Ethiopians. It’s only now or last 20 years that their identity has been recognized and protected.” Watson said the projects threaten to destroy the way of life for the indigenous people near the Omo River. “By and large, the tribal peoples of the Omo Valley are self-sufficient people, who have perfected techniques to live reasonably well in what is a difficult environment. If the leases go ahead…they’re going to lose all the ability to be self-sufficient.” Many are nomadic cattle herders. Others rely on the seasonal flooding of the Omo River to deposit silt on the farmland, making it more fertile. Read more: http://www.voanews.com/english/news/africa/decapua-ethiopia-land-28jul11-126333328.html
BLOATED bellies with stick arms and legs; huge eyes staring out of skeletal heads; gaunt mothers trying to suckle babies on withered breasts. The world thought it might never see such scenes again. Famine in Africa, absent for many years, appeared to have gone the way of diseases for which we now have cures or vaccines.
Yet, after the worst drought in 60 years, more than 10m people in the Horn of Africa need emergency food aid. Livestock have been annihilated. Hundreds of thousands of people are streaming into refugee camps in search of help. Malnutrition rates in some areas are five times more severe than the threshold aid agencies use to define a crisis. Many children are already dying of starvation.
The areas most affected by the drought are northern Kenya, south-eastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia and Djibouti. The region’s last two rainy seasons were meagre. Rivers and boreholes are running dry, crops failing, traditional grazing land turning to dust. Up to 60% of cattle and goat herds, the main assets for many of the worst-affected people, have perished, their corpses and skeletons littering the plains.
Read more Here: http://www.economist.com/node/18929467
Source: The economist
By Mark Tutton, for CNN
East Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in more than 60 years, with as many as 10 million people at risk.
The drought has led to crop failures and food shortages in parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, and now a refugee crisis looms as people leave their homes to escape hunger.
The U.N. says thousands of Somalis are leaving their country, ending up in parched and overcrowded refugee camps.
Dadaab in Kenya is the world’s largest refugee camp. Intended for 90,000 people, the U.N. says there are now more than 380,000 there.
And things look set to get worse. “All the predictions show seasonal rains are far away and the situation will deteriorate — we have not even reached the peak of the crisis,” said Dr. Unni Krishnan, disaster coordinator for children’s development organization plan international. Read more about this news here: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/07/08/east.africa.drought/
By Matt Wade
In a year already marked by natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies, another tragedy is unfolding in the Horn of Africa. Failed crops and high global food prices have triggered severe food shortages across Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti. The UN warns that more than 10 million people are threatened by the worst drought to hit the region in six decades.
As village wells dry up and livestock perish, tens of thousands are leaving their homes in search of food and water. More than 360,000 people have taken shelter at Dadaab, the world’s biggest refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border, and there are fears that could soon swell to 500,000. Aid officials have not yet declared a famine but they warn the crisis threatens to turn into a catastrophe. Images
of malnourished children and parched African landscapes now being broadcast from the region are reminiscent of the great Ethiopian famine of 1984 which shocked the world and transformed the international aid sector. It also spawned a new style of celebrity activism. The 1984 Band Aid single Do they know its Christmas and the Live Aid concerts in July 1985 raised about $150 million. But the fund-raising power of African crises has waned since the mid-1980s. World Vision Australia has been running an appeal for the Horn of Africa since January but the response has been disappointing. Less than 40 per cent of the fund-raising target has been met.
”Back in 1984 the shocking pictures really grabbed people’s attention, but it doesn’t mobilise people in the same way any more,” one aid worker said. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/now-is-not-the-time-for-donor-fatigue-20110708-1h6mc.html#ixzz1RWiTXLP9
By THOMAS MOUNTAIN
Ethiopia is on another arms buying spree as millions of Ethiopians starve due to the worst drought in 60 years. According to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi Ethiopia is purchasing 200 battle tanks from Ukraine for over $100 million. Was it a coincidence that the day before Meles’ announcement, the British foreign aid office announced a $60 million “emergency food aid donation” to Ethiopia?
Why you might be excused for asking, does Ethiopia need 200 tanks? There isn’t any realistic chance of any of Ethiopia’s neighbors invading Ethiopia, considering Ethiopia already has the largest best equipped army in Africa. One of the primary reasons Ethiopia needs 200 tanks is to conduct its counterinsurgency campaigns against the ethnically based armed uprisings slowly engulfing much of the country. From the Ogaden in the south east, to Tigray in the north to Gambella in the west, and now it is reported, even spreading to much of Oromia in the south west, the Ethiopian regime needs to be able to crush its own people and the latest installment of armor is long over due. It is already 11 years since Ethiopia invaded Eritrea and in the process lost its best armored divisions, including at least 2 in one day long disaster called the Battle of Tsorona. Tanks work well against lightly armed guerilla fighters and even better when it comes to crushing civilian uprisings, something those in the western and UN “aid” agencies are fully cognizant of. Now that Ethiopia has become a source of “peacekeepers” in Sudan some of these Ethiopian tanks may be used to uphold Pax Americana on the North-South Sudanese border which includes Sudan’s oil fields. As the western media once again turns a blind eye Ethiopia spends $100 million on tanks all the while millions of Somali”s starve in Ethiopia’s Ogaden.
NAIROBI, Kenya – A civil rights activist says police have tear gassed several hundred protesters marching toward the offices of Kenya’s president and prime minister to demand action over a growing hunger crisis. Images of children with skinny, malnourished bodies are becoming commonplace in this corner of Africa. Thousands of families walk for days in search of food in a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet. Hundreds already have died. Dinah Awuor Agar, the president of a group of low-wage workers known as the People’s Parliament, said Thursday that the demonstrators were holding a peaceful procession when riot police confronted them. Agar said police chased down demonstrators, beat them with batons and arrested them despite the fact Kenya’s new constitution allows peaceful demonstrations. Charles Owino, a police spokesman, says police dispersed the protesters because the demonstration is illegal. Read the full article here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/07/501364/main20077547.shtml