Posts filed under ‘Nature’
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
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
Ker Than for National Geographic News
Ethiopia has announced that it will construct a controversial multibillion-dollar Nile River dam that could supply more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity for itself and its neighbors, including newcomer South Sudan. The project—the Grand Millennium Dam—has sparked worries about environmental and human costs and is refocusing attention on the country’s troubled history with large dams.
At a public ceremony in March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi laid the cornerstone for the new dam, a hydroelectric power plant that will span a section of the Blue Nile River in the country’s Benishangul-Gumuz region. The Blue Nile originates in Ethiopia’s Lake Tana and is one of two major tributaries of the Nile, the world’s longest river.
When completed in 2015, the Grand Millennium Dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa. It will also create the country’s largest artificial lake, with a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters of water—twice the size of Lake Tana in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. In late June, Ethiopia announced that it would build four additional dams on the Blue Nile that will work in conjunction with the Grand Millennium Dam to generate more than 15,000 megawatts of electricity. The cost of the four new dams has not been disclosed, but the Grand Millennium Dam is estimated to cost about $4.7 billion.
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
Reuters) – The worst drought in 60 years in the Horn of Africa has sparked a severe food crisis and high malnutrition rates, with parts of Kenya and Somalia experiencing pre-famine conditions, the United Nations said on Tuesday. More than 10 million people are now affected in drought-stricken areas of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda and the situation is deteriorating, it said. “Two consecutive poor rainy seasons have resulted in one of the driest years since 1950/51 in many pastoral zones,” Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told a media briefing.
“There is no likelihood of improvement (in the situation)until 2012,” she said. Food prices have risen substantially in the region, pushing many moderately poor households over the edge, she said. A U.N. map of food security in the eastern Horn of Africa shows large swathes of central Kenya and Somalia in the “emergency” category, one phase before what the U.N. classifies as catastrophe/famine — the fifth and worst category. Child malnutrition rates in the worst affected areas are more than double the emergency threshold of 15 percent and are expected to rise further, Byrs said. High mortality rates among children are reported, but she had no figures for the toll. Drought and fighting are driving ever greater numbers of Somalis from their homeland, with more than 20,000 arriving in Kenya in just the past two weeks, the U.N. refuge agency UNHCR said on Friday. It voiced alarm at the dramatic rise, noting the average monthly outflow had been about 10,000 so far this year. Almost half the Somali children arriving in refugee camps in Ethiopia are malnourished, and those arriving in Kenya are little better, Byrs said. U.N. humanitarian appeals for Somalia and Kenya, each about $525 million, are barely 50 percent funded, while a $30 million appeal for Djibouti is just 30 percent funded, she said.
June 21 (Bloomberg) –Ethiopia expects the World Bank to decide this week whether to provide an additional $60 million of funding for an irrigation project in its Nile Basin, a Water and Energy Ministry official said. The Washington-based lender provided $100 million since 2008 to support the Nile Basin Irrigation and Drainage Project, Hayalsew Yilma, program coordinator at the ministry, said in an interview yesterday in the Addis Ababa, the capital. “We are negotiating with the bank for additional funding,” Hayalsew said. “It’s going to be presented to the bank’s board on June 23.” The project aims to
irrigate 20,000 hectares (49,421 acres) of land to help transform subsistence farmers in the area in northwestern Ethiopia into sellers of surplus crops. Studies are being conducted on the potential for an additional 97,000 hectares to be irrigated.
Ethiopia’s five-year growth plan aims to increase the amount of irrigated land fivefold to about 10,000 hectares by mid-2015, Hayalsew said. Bank funding may be forthcoming “as long as the projects do not cause significant harm to downstream countries,” he said. As much as 2.2 million hectares of Ethiopia’s 3.7 million hectares of irrigable land is in the Nile Basin, according to the ministry. Increasing irrigation may boost food security in Africa’s second-most populous nation. About 3 million Ethiopians currently receive emergency assistance and another 7.8 million get food or cash under an aid program to support them, the United Nations said in April. “Countries like Ethiopia are no longer looking at food security, poverty, and climate change separately,” World Bank spokesman Heather Worley said in an e-mailed response to questions on June 17. “Climate-smart agriculture and irrigation practices are key to solving food security issues and increasing crop yields.”
–Editors: Paul Richardson, Karl Maier.
By AislinnLaing, Johannesburg
The eruption of the Nabro volcano close to the east African country’s border with Ethiopia came at around midnight local time on Sunday and was preceded by a series of earthquakes, the most powerful with a magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter scale. Plumes of ash were sent eight miles upwards into the air. The ash cloud has already seen the cancellation of flights to Eritrea and neighbouring Ethiopia, and is expected to cause severe disruption in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel, to the north. Mrs Clinton arrived in Ethiopia today to address a meeting of the 53-member of the African Union and meet with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. But amid warnings that the Ethiopia’s aviation authorities were considering closing Addis Ababa’s main airport as the ash cloud headed to the capital, she cancelled a media briefing and flew home 24 hours early. An official travelling with Mrs Clinton said they had been forced to make a snap decision or risk being stranded.
by Erica Westly
The highlands of southwestern Ethiopia should be ideal for growing coffee. After all, this is the region where coffee first originated hundreds of years ago. But although coffee remains Ethiopia’s number one export, the nation’s coffee farmers have been struggling.
The Arabica coffee grown in Ethiopia and Latin America is an especially climate-sensitive crop. It requires just the right amount of rain and an average annual temperature between 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to prosper. As temperatures rise — Ethiopia’s average low temperature has increased by about .66 degrees F every decade since 1951, according to the country’s National Meteorological Agency — and rains become more variable, Ethiopian coffee farmers have suffered increasingly poor yields. Last year was especially bad, with exports dropping by 33 percent. Some have moved their coffee trees to higher elevations, while others have been forced to switch to livestock and more heat-tolerant crops, such as enset, a starchy root vegetable similar to the plantain. Read more here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/27/coffee-threatened-beetles-warming
By Julio Godoy (Paris)
Africa is heading towards a bright economic future, according to a new book co-authored by the former director of the French state agency for economic cooperation and released recently in Paris.
In the book ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’ (‘The African Age’), Jean-Michel Severino, until last April director of the French state agency for economic cooperation, and his co-author Olivier Ray, argue that sub-Saharan Africa has started the new millennium in far better economic and social conditions that generally assumed.
To support their thesis that ‘Africa is rushing towards affluence’, as Severino put it in an interview, the authors use the most recent economic and social data, showing rapid economic growth, high investment and sinking poverty.
‘The vision that we in Europe have of Africa — of a continent frozen in poverty and disease — is simply wrong,’ Severino declared. ‘On the contrary, today’s sub-Saharan Africa is a region of high economic growth, with numerous business opportunities. Sub-Saharan Africa is now a high speed train rushing towards affluence and prosperity.’
Severino recalled that since the beginning of the century, the sub-Saharan African economy ‘has grown by a yearly average rate of 5.5 percent, against only 1.35 percent in the euro zone’.
Severino quoted a recent study by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which shows that African poverty ‘is falling rapidly’.
The NBER paper, by the distinguished economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin and his research assistant Maxim Pinkovskiy, predicts that if ‘the present trends continue, the millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people with incomes less than one dollar a day will be achieved’ by 2015.
‘We are not nursing dangerous illusions about Africa,’ Severino told IPS.
All regional indicators, from demographic growth to foreign investments, from urbanisation to participation in international trade, aided by political stability, support the thesis that Africa is steadily moving towards prosperity.
Severino explained that the demographic evolution in the region is now marked by a simultaneous fall in the birth rate and a continued, more moderate population growth.
‘By the year 2050, Africa will count some two billion inhabitants, with 60 percent of them living in cities,’ Severino said. ‘Such a conjunction of urbanisation and demographic growth has historically always led to development, by improving productivity, by creating large markets, by stimulating domestic demand, with positive spill-over effects for the countryside.’
Severino calls this ‘the demographic dividend’ and adds it to the considerable improvement in African state finances, due to the massive writing off of foreign debts and to increases in tax revenues.
Investment too, both state and private, has been steadily growing since the mid-1990s. High prices of commodities and raw materials further help to consolidate this strongly growing collective African economy.
In addition, Africa possesses a significant energy potential. ‘Africa exploits less than seven percent of its hydroelectric potential. The continent also disposes of a large energy potential in wind, sun, biomass and other renewable resources, practically untouched,’ he said.
Severino also considered the People’s Republic of China’s growing economic investments and links with sub-Saharan Africa as another indicator substantiating the thesis of the region’s economic take-off.
At the same time, Severino noticed no single African economic model, strictly speaking. ‘But there are several common factors, such as political stability, sound public finances, investments in infrastructure and relatively high rates of savings and investments.’
Severino cautioned that climate change constitutes a major threat for Africa: ‘The inter-tropical zones are going to be the most affected by climate change. Because the region is very poor, its vulnerability to climate change is even higher.’
Rain patterns have already changed, leading to people remarking that ‘there is no rainy season anymore’. Such changes damage agriculture. In addition, climate change can increase deforestation, with skyrocketing mitigation costs, Severino added.
Some French commentators and economic analysts have praised ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’ as ‘the most passionate book on Africa published (in France) in recent years’ and as ‘offering an innovating view on Africa’.
Other analysts adopt a more critical stance on the book’s optimistic diagnosis.
Bakary Traoré, researcher at the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, regretted that the book ‘does not refer to the consequences of the global economic crisis on African development, or to the challenge of bewildered youth that continues to suffer educational deficits and the consequences of atomised societies.’
Similarly, Traoré regretted that the ‘absence of a welfare state and the inadequacy of political debate allow religion to take on a crucial role in public questions beyond its pure confessional function’. Such subjects, Traoré said, are not discussed in ‘Le temps de l’Afrique’.
Traoré underlined that Severino’s analysis offers an ‘updated reading of the changes taking place in Africa at the moment, and points to the powerful endogenous factors contributing to economic growth.
‘However, Severino and Ray ignore essential questions shaping Africa’s future: The permanent crisis in education; the management of Africa’s strategic market of agriculture; the use of the fiscal and savings resources of the region; and the quality of social protection and assistance.’
All these factors, Traoré said, must be analysed in depth to conceive ‘sound public policies that could transform the present momentum in the region into a steady force to drive African development’.
© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
By Dan Morrison
This post is part of a special National Geographic news series on global water issues.
I was standing inside a colonial-era circuit house in a sprawling, malarial city called Malakal in southern Sudan. I had come to see a man about a river, but the man, an Egyptian hydrologist, wasn’t talking.
“It is forbidden,” he said solemnly, “to speak of the Nile.”
I pointed towards the window. “But it’s right there,” I said. This was, after all, a measuring station of the Egyptian water ministry, one of several it maintained in Sudan and Uganda to track the volume of the world’s longest river.
The hydrologist didn’t need to look out the window. He knew where the Nile was–he’d devoted his life to its study. But there was nothing he could say to a stranger about something so important to his nation’s survival. I might have had better luck inquiring about Tehran’s nuclear program. Read more…http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/08/can-uganda-and-ethiopia-be-water-bankers-for-egypt.html
Source: National Geographic News