Figure 9. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by Sector, Ethiopian Fiscal Year 1984/85
Accounting for over 40 percent of GDP, 80 percent of exports, and 80 percent of the labor force, agriculture remained in 1991 the economy's most important sector (see fig. 9). Ethiopia has great agricultural potential because of its vast areas of fertile land, diverse climate, generally adequate rainfall, and large labor pool. Despite this potential, however, Ethiopian agriculture has remained underdeveloped. Because of drought, which has persistently affected the country since the early 1970s, a poor economic base (low productivity, weak infrastructure, and low level of technology), and the Mengistu government's commitment to Marxism-Leninism, the agricultural sector has performed poorly. For instance, according to the World Bank, between l980 and l987 agricultural production dropped at an annual rate of 2.l percent, while the population grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent. Consequently, the country faced a tragic famine that resulted in the death of nearly 1 million people from l984 to 1986.
During the imperial period, the development of the agricultural sector was retarded by a number of factors, including tenancy and land reform problems, the government's neglect of the agricultural sector (agriculture received less than 2 percent of budget allocations even though the vast majority of the population depended on agriculture), low productivity, and lack of technological development. Moreover, the emperor's inability to implement meaningful land reform perpetuated a system in which aristocrats and the church owned most of the farmland and in which most farmers were tenants who had to provide as much as 50 percent of their crops as rent. To make matters worse, during the 1972-74 drought and famine the imperial government refused to assist rural Ethiopians and tried to cover up the crisis by refusing international aid. As a result, up to 200,000 Ethiopians perished.
Although the issue of land reform was not addressed until the l974 revolution, the government had tried to introduce programs to improve the condition of farmers. In 1971 the Ministry of Agriculture introduced the Minimum Package Program (MPP) to bring about economic and social changes. The MPP included credit for the purchase of items such as fertilizers, improved seeds, and pesticides; innovative extension services; the establishment of cooperatives; and the provision of infrastructure, mainly water supply and all-weather roads. The program, designed for rural development, was first introduced in a project called the Chilalo Agricultural Development Unit (CADU). The program later facilitated the establishment of similar internationally supported and financed projects at Ada (just south of Addis Ababa), Welamo, and Humera. By l974 the Ministry of Agriculture's Extension and Project Implementation Department (EPID) had more than twenty-eight areas with more than 200 extension and marketing centers. Although the MPPs improved the agricultural productivity of farmers, particularly in the project areas, there were many problems associated with discrimination against small farmers (because of a restrictive credit system that favored big landowners) and tenant eviction.
Imperial government policy permitting investors to import fertilizers, pesticides, tractors and combines, and (until 1973) fuel free of import duties encouraged the rapid expansion of large-scale commercial farming. As a result, agriculture continued to grow, albeit below the population growth rate. According to the World Bank, agricultural production increased at an average annual rate of 2.l percent between l965 and 1973, while population increased at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent during the same period.
Agricultural productivity under the Derg continued to decline. According to the World Bank, agricultural production increased at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent between 1973 and 1980 but then decreased at an average annual rate of 2.1 percent between l980 and l987. During the same period (l973-87), population increased at an average annual rate of 2.6 percent (2.4 percent for 1980- 87). The poor performance of agriculture was related to several factors, including drought; a government policy of controlling prices and the free movement of agricultural products from surplus to deficit areas; the unstable political climate; the dislocation of the rural community caused by resettlement, villagization, and conscription of young farmers to meet military obligations; land tenure difficulties and the problem of land fragmentation; the lack of resources such as farm equipment, better seeds, and fertilizers; and the overall low level of technology.
President Mengistu's 1990 decision to allow free movement of goods, to lift price controls, and to provide farmers with security of tenure was designed to reverse the decline in Ethiopia's agricultural sector. There was much debate as to whether or not these reforms were genuine and how effectively they could be implemented. Nonetheless, agricultural output rose by an estimated 3 percent in 1990- 91, almost certainly in response to the relaxation of government regulation. This modest increase, however, was not enough to offset a general decrease in GDP during the same period.
Of Ethiopia's total land area of l,22l,480 square kilometers, the government estimated in the late 1980s that l5 percent was under cultivation and 5l percent was pastureland. It was also estimated that over 60 percent of the cultivated area was cropland. Forestland, most of it in the southwestern part of the country, accounted for 4 percent of the total land area, according to the government. These figures varied from those provided by the World Bank, which estimated that cropland, pastureland, and forestland accounted for l3, 4l, and 25 percent, respectively, of the total land area in l987.
Inaccessibility, water shortages, and infestations of disease-causing insects, mainly mosquitoes, prevented the use of large parcels of potentially productive land. In Ethiopia's lowlands, for example, the presence of malaria kept farmers from settling in many areas.
Most agricultural producers were subsistence farmers with small holdings, often broken into several plots. Most of these farmers lived on the highlands, mainly at elevations of 1,500 to 3,000 meters. The population in the lowland peripheries (below l,500 meters) was nomadic, engaged mainly in livestock raising.
There are two predominant soil types in the highlands. The first, found in areas with relatively good drainage, consists of red-to-reddish-brown clayey loams that hold moisture and are well endowed with needed minerals, with the exception of phosphorus. These types of soils are found in much of Ilubabor, Kefa, and Gamo Gofa. The second type consists of brownish-to-gray and black soils with a high clay content. These soils are found in both the northern and the southern highlands in areas with poor drainage. They are sticky when wet, hard when dry, and difficult to work. But with proper drainage and conditioning, these soils have excellent agricultural potential.
Sandy desert soils cover much of the arid lowlands in the northeast and in the Ogaden area of southeastern Ethiopia. Because of low rainfall, these soils have limited agricultural potential, except in some areas where rainfall is sufficient for the growth of natural forage at certain times of the year. These areas are used by pastoralists who move back and forth in the area following the availability of pasture for their animals.
The plains and low foothills west of the highlands have sandy and gray-to-black clay soils. Where the topography permits, they are suitable for farming. The soils of the Great Rift Valley often are conducive to agriculture if water is available for irrigation. The Awash River basin supports many large-scale commercial farms and several irrigated small farms.
Soil erosion has been one of the country's major problems. Over the centuries, deforestation, overgrazing, and practices such as cultivation of slopes not suited to agriculture have eroded the soil, a situation that worsened considerably during the 1970s and 1980s, especially in Eritrea, Tigray, and parts of Gonder and Welo. In addition, the rugged topography of the highlands, the brief but extremely heavy rainfalls that characterize many areas, and centuries-old farming practices that do not include conservation measures have accelerated soil erosion in much of Ethiopia's highland areas. In the dry lowlands, persistent winds also contribute to soil erosion.
During the imperial era, the government failed to implement widespread conservation measures, largely because the country's complex land tenure system stymied attempts to halt soil erosion and improve the land. After 1975 the revolutionary government used peasant associations to accelerate conservation work throughout rural areas. The 1977 famine also provided an impetus to promote conservation. The government mobilized farmers and organized "food for work" projects to build terraces and plant trees. During 1983-84 the Ministry of Agriculture used "food for work" projects to raise 65 million tree seedlings, plant 18,000 hectares of land, and terrace 9,500 hectares of land. Peasant associations used 361 nurseries to plant 11,000 hectares of land in community forest. Between 1976 and 1985, the government constructed 600,000 kilometers of agricultural embankments on cultivated land and 470,000 kilometers of hillside terraces, and it closed 80,000 hectares of steep slopes for regeneration. However, the removal of arable land for conservation projects has threatened the welfare of increasing numbers of rural poor. For this reason, some environmental experts maintain that large-scale conservation work in Ethiopia has been ineffective.
Until the l974 revolution, Ethiopia had a complex land tenure system. In Welo Province, for example, there were an estimated 111 types of land tenure. The existence of so many land tenure systems, coupled with the lack of reliable data, has made it difficult to give a comprehensive assessment of landownership in Ethiopia. However, the tenure system can be understood in a rudimentary way if one examines it in the context of the basic distinction between landownership patterns in the north and those in the south.
Historically, Ethiopia was divided into the northern highlands, which constituted the core of the old Christian kingdom, and the southern highlands, most of which were brought under imperial rule by conquest. This north-south distinction was reflected in land tenure differences. In the northern provinces--particularly Gojam, Begemdir and Simen (called Gonder after 1974), Tigray, highland Eritrea, parts of Welo, and northern Shewa--the major form of ownership was a type of communal system known as rist (see Glossary). According to this system, all descendants (both male and female) of an individual founder were entitled to a share, and individuals had the right to use (a usufruct right) a plot of family land. Rist was hereditary, inalienable, and inviolable. No user of any piece of land could sell his or her share outside the family or mortgage or bequeath his or her share as a gift, as the land belonged not to the individual but to the descent group (see Glossary). Most peasants in the northern highlands held at least some rist land, but there were some members belonging to minority ethnic groups who were tenant farmers.
The other major form of tenure was gult (see Glossary), an ownership right acquired from the monarch or from provincial rulers who were empowered to make land grants. Gult owners collected tribute from the peasantry and, until l966 (when gult rights were abolished in principle), exacted labor service as payment in kind from the peasants. Until the government instituted salaries in the twentieth century, gult rights were the typical form of compensation for an official.
Other forms of tenure included samon, mengist, and maderia land. Samon was land the government had granted to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in perpetuity. Traditionally, the church had claimed about one-third of Ethiopia's land; however, actual ownership probably never reached this figure. Estimates of church holdings range from l0 to 20 percent of the country's cultivated land. Peasants who worked on church land paid tribute to the church (or monastery) rather than to the emperor. The church lost all its land after the 1974 revolution. The state owned large tracts of agricultural land known as mengist and maderia. Mengist was land registered as government property, and maderia was land granted mainly to government officials, war veterans, and other patriots in lieu of a pension or salary. Although it granted maderia land for life, the state possessed a reversionary right over all land grants. Government land comprised about 12 percent of the country's agricultural land.
In general, absentee landlordism in the north was rare, and landless tenants were few. For instance, tenancy in Begemdir and Simen and in Gojam was estimated at about 2 percent of holdings. In the southern provinces, however, few farmers owned the land on which they worked. Southern landownership patterns developed as a result of land measurement and land grants following the Ethiopian conquest of the region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After conquest, officials divided southern land equally among the state, the church, and the indigenous population. Warlords who administered the occupied regions received the state's share. They, in turn, redistributed part of their share to their officers and soldiers. The government distributed the church's share among the church hierarchy in the same manner. Officials divided the rest between the traditional leaders (balabats--see Glossary) and the indigenous people. Thus, the loss of two-thirds of the land to the new landlords and the church made many local people tenants (gebbars). Tenancy in the southern provinces ranged between 65 and 80 percent of the holdings, and tenant payments to landowners averaged as high as 50 percent of the produce.
In the lowland periphery and the Great Rift Valley, the traditional practice of transhumance and the allocation of pastoral land according to tribal custom remained undisturbed until after World War II. These two areas are inhabited by pastoralists, including the Afar and Isa in eastern Eritrea, Welo, and Harerge; the Somali in the Ogaden; the Borana in Sidamo and Bale; and the Kereyu in the Great Rift Valley area of Shewa. The pastoral social structure is based on a kinship system with strong interclan connections; grazing and water rights are regulated by custom. Until the l950s, this pastoral life remained largely undisturbed by the highlanders, who intensely disliked the hot and humid lowland climate and feared malaria. Beginning in the l950s, however, the malaria eradication programs made irrigation agriculture in these areas possible. The government's desire to promote such agriculture, combined with its policy of creating new tax revenues, created pressure on many pastoralists, especially the Afar and the Arsi (a division of the Oromo). Major concessionaires, such as the Tendaho Cotton Plantation (managed until the 1974 revolution by the British firm Mitchell Cotts) and the Wonji Sugar Plantation (managed by HVA, a Dutch company), acquired large tracts of traditional Afar and Arsi grazing land and converted it into large-scale commercial farms. The loss of grazing land to these concessions significantly affected traditional migration patterns for grazing and water.
In the northern and southern parts of Ethiopia, peasant farmers lacked the means to improve production because of the fragmentation of holdings, a lack of credit, and the absence of modern facilities. Particularly in the south, the insecurity of tenure and high rents killed the peasants' incentive to improve production.
By the mid-l960s, many sectors of Ethiopian society favored land reform. University students led the land reform movement and campaigned against the government's reluctance to introduce land reform programs and the lack of commitment to integrated rural development. By l974 it was clear that the archaic land tenure system was one of the major factors responsible for the backward condition of Ethiopia's agriculture and the onset of the revolution. On March 4, l975, the Derg announced its land reform program. The government nationalized rural land without compensation, abolished tenancy, forbade the hiring of wage labor on private farms, ordered all commercial farms to remain under state control, and granted each peasant family so-called "possessing rights" to a plot of land not to exceed ten hectares.
Tenant farmers in southern Ethiopia, where the average tenancy was as high as 55 percent and rural elites exploited farmers, welcomed the land reform. But in the northern highlands, where communal ownership (rist) dominated and large holdings and tenancy were exceptions, many people resisted land reform. Despite the special provision for communal areas (Article l9 of the proclamation gave peasants in the communal areas "possessing rights" to the land they were tilling at the time of the proclamation) and the PMAC's efforts to reassure farmers that land reform would not affect them negatively, northerners remained suspicious of the new government's intentions. The reform held no promise of gain for most northerners; rather, many northern farmers perceived land reform as an attack on their rights to rist land. Resistance intensified when zemecha (see Glossary) members campaigned for collectivization of land and oxen.
Land reform had the least impact on the lowland peripheries, where nomads traditionally maintained their claims over grazing lands. The new proclamation gave them rights of possession to land they used for grazing. Therefore, the nomads did not perceive the new program as a threat. However, in the Afar area of the lower Awash Valley, where large-scale commercial estates had thrived, there was opposition to land reform, led mainly by tribal leaders (and large landowners), such as Ali Mirah, the sultan of Aussa.
The land reform destroyed the feudal order; changed landowning patterns, particularly in the south, in favor of peasants and small landowners; and provided the opportunity for peasants to participate in local matters by permitting them to form associations. However, problems associated with declining agricultural productivity and poor farming techniques still were prevalent.
Government attempts to implement land reform also created problems related to land fragmentation, insecurity of tenure, and shortages of farm inputs and tools. Peasant associations often were periodically compelled to redistribute land to accommodate young families or new households moving into their area. The process meant not only smaller farms but also the fragmentation of holdings, which were often scattered into small plots to give families land of comparable quality. Consequently, individual holdings were frequently far smaller than the permitted maximum allotment of ten hectares. A l979 study showed that around Addis Ababa individual holdings ranged from l.0 to l.6 hectares and that about 48 percent of the parcels were less than one-fourth of a hectare in size. Another study, of Dejen awraja (subregion) in Gojam, found that land fragmentation had been exacerbated since the revolution. For example, during the pre-reform period, sixty-one out of 200 farmer respondents owned three or four parcels of land; after the reform, the corresponding number was 135 farmers.
The second problem related to security of tenure, which was threatened by increasing pressure to redistribute land and to collectivize farms. Many peasants were reluctant to improve their land because they were afraid that they would not receive adequate compensation for upgrades. The third problem developed as a result of the military government's failure to provide farmers with basic items like seeds, oxen, and fertilizer. For instance, one study of four communities in different parts of Ethiopia found that up to 50 percent of the peasants in some areas lacked oxen and about 40 percent did not have plows.
In l984 the founding congress of the Workers' Party of Ethiopia (WPE) emphasized the need for a coordinated strategy based on socialist principles to accelerate agricultural development. To implement this strategy, the government relied on peasant associations and rural development, cooperatives and state farms, resettlement and villagization, increased food production, and a new marketing policy.
Planting cotton in ht eAwash Valley. Courtsey United Nations.
Food distribution point at Senafe, 1988. Courtsey International Committee of the Red Cross (T. Gassman)
Articles 8 and l0 of the l975 Land Reform Proclamation required that peasants be organized into a hierarchy of associations that would facilitate the implementation of rural development programs and policies. Accordingly, after the land reform announcement, the government mobilized more than 60,000 students to organize peasants into associations. By the end of l987, there were 20,367 peasant associations with a membership of 5.7 million farmers. Each association covered an area of 800 hectares, and members included tenants, landless laborers, and landowners holding fewer than ten hectares. Former landowners who had held more than ten hectares of land could join an association only after the completion of land redistribution. An umbrella organization known as the All-Ethiopia Peasants' Association (AEPA) represented local associations. Peasant associations assumed a wide range of responsibilities, including implementation of government land use directives; adjudication of land disputes; encouragement of development programs, such as water and land conservation; construction of schools, clinics, and cooperatives; organization of defense squads; and tax collection. Peasant associations also became involved in organizing forestry programs, local service and production cooperatives, road construction, and data collection projects, such as the l984 census.
Starting in l976, the government encouraged farmers to form cooperatives. Between l978 and l98l, the PMAC issued a series of proclamations and directives outlining procedures for the formation of service cooperatives and producers' cooperatives. Service cooperatives provided basic services, such as the sale of farm inputs and consumer items that were often rationed, the provision of loans, the education of peasant association members in socialist philosophy, and the promotion of cottage industries.
The producers' cooperatives alleviated shortages of inputs (because farmers could pool resources) and problems associated with the fragmentation of landholdings. The government ordered the creation of these cooperatives because of its belief that small farmers were inefficient and were unable to take advantage of economies of scale.
The producers' cooperatives developed in three stages. The first stage was the melba, an elementary type of cooperative that required members to pool land (with the exception of plots of up to 2,000 square meters, which could be set aside for private use) and to share oxen and farm implements. The second stage, welba, required members to transfer their resources to the cooperative and reduce private plots to l,000 square meters. The third stage, the weland, abolished private land use and established advanced forms of cooperatives, whose goal was to use mechanized farming with members organized into production brigades. Under this system, income would be distributed based on labor contributions.
The government provided a number of inducements to producers' cooperatives, including priority for credits, fertilizers, improved seed, and access to consumer items and building materials. According to the ten-year plan, more than half of the country's cultivated land would be organized into producers' cooperatives by l994.
Despite the incentives, farmers responded less than enthusiastically. Farmers saw the move to form cooperatives as a prelude to the destruction of their "family farms." By l985/86 there were only 2,323 producers' cooperatives, of which only 255 were registered. Some critics argued that the resistance of farmers caused the government to formulate its resettlement and villagization programs.
A major component of the government's agricultural policy since the l974 revolution has been the development of large- scale state farms. After the l975 land reform, the Derg converted a majority of the estimated 75,000 hectares of large, commercial farms owned by individuals and cooperatives into state farms. Since then, the government has expanded the size of state farms. In l987/88 there were about 2l6,000 hectares of state farmland, accounting for 3.3 percent of the total cultivated area. The ten-year plan indicated that state farms would be expanded to 468,000 hectares by l994, accounting for 6.4 percent of the cultivated land.
The primary motive for the expansion of state farms was the desire to reverse the drop in food production that has continued since the revolution. After the l975 land reform, peasants began withholding grain from the market to drive up prices because government price-control measures had created shortages of consumer items such as coffee, cooking oil, salt, and sugar. Additionally, increased peasant consumption caused shortages of food items such as teff (see Glossary), wheat, corn, and other grains in urban areas. The problem became so serious that Mengistu lashed out against the individual and petit burgeois tendencies of the peasantry and their capitalist mentality on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of military rule in September l978. Mengistu and his advisers believed that state farms would produce grain for urban areas and raw materials for domestic industry and would also increase production of cash crops such as coffee to generate badly needed foreign exchange. Accordingly, state farms received a large share of the country's resources for agriculture; from 1982 to 1990, this totaled about 43 percent of the government's agricultural investment. In l983 state farms received 76 percent of the total allocation of chemical fertilizers, 95 percent of the improved seeds, and 8l percent of agricultural credit. In terms of subsidies, between l982/83 and l985/86 the various state farm corporations received more than 90 million birr in direct subsidies. Despite the emphasis on state farms, state farm production accounted for only 6 percent of total agricultural output in l987 (although meeting 65 percent of urban needs), leaving peasant farmers responsible for over 90 percent of production.
The stress on large-scale state farms was under attack by Western donors, who channeled their agricultural aid to the peasant sector. These donors maintained that experiences elsewhere in Africa and in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had shown that state farms were inefficient and a drain on scare resources.
The policy of encouraging voluntary resettlement went back to 1958, when the government established the first known planned resettlement in Sidamo. Shortly after the 1974 revolution, it became Derg policy to accelerate resettlement. Article l8 of the l975 Land Reform Proclamation stated that "the government shall have the responsibility to settle peasants or to establish cottage industries to accommodate those who, as a result of distribution of land . . . remain with little or no land." Accordingly, in l975/76 there were eighty-eight settlement centers accommodating 38,8l8 households. The government conducted most of these resettlement programs under the auspices of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) and the Ministry of Agriculture. By l982 there were ll2 planned settlements populated by more than l20,000 people. The settlements were concentrated mainly in the south and southwest. In l984 Addis Ababa announced its intention to resettle l.5 million people from the drought-affected northern regions to the south and southwest, where arable land was plentiful. By l986 the government had resettled more than 600,000 people to three settlement areas. More than 250,000 went to Welega; about l50,000 settled in the Gambela area of Ilubabor; and just over l00,000 went to Pawe, the largest planned resettlement in Gojam and largely sustained by Italian financial support. In addition, another 78,000 went to Kefa, Shewa, and western Gonder.
In mid-l986 the government halted the resettlement program, largely to fend off the negative reaction from the international community. But in November l987 the program resumed, and in March l988 Mengistu spoke of the need to move at least 7 million people. He claimed resettlement would resolve the country's recurring drought problem and would ease population pressure from northern areas where the land had been badly overused. Western donors and governments, whom Addis Ababa expected to help with the program, remained apprehensive of the government's intentions, however. Some believed that the plan to resettle l.5 million people by l994 was unrealistic, given the country's strained finances. Others argued that resettlement was a ploy to depopulate areas of resistance, weaken the guerrillas' support base, and deny them access to recruits, particularly in Eritrea and Tigray. Additional arguments against resettlement included charges of human rights violations, forced separations of families, and lack of medical attention in resettlement centers, which resulted in thousands of deaths from malaria and sleeping sickness.
Although many of these charges were valid, some criticisms may have been unfounded. For instance, the claim that the resettlement was a ploy to depopulate the rebel areas may not have been valid, given that by 1986 only l5 percent of the 600,000 resettled peasants were from Tigray and none were from Eritrea. More than 80 percent of those resettled were from Welo and Shewa.
In l985 the government initiated a new relocation program known as villagization. The objectives of the program, which grouped scattered farming communities throughout the country into small village clusters, were to promote rational land use; conserve resources; provide access to clean water and to health and education services; and strengthen security. Government guidelines stipulated that villages were to house 200 to 300 households, with l00-square-meter compounds for each family.
In 1985 Addis Ababa established a national coordinating committee to oversee the villagization plan's implementation. By March l986, about 4.6 million people in Shewa, Arsi, and Harerge had been relocated into more than 4,500 villages. Although the government had villagized about l3 million people by l989, international criticism, deteriorating security conditions, and lack of resources doomed the plan to failure. Nevertheless, Mengistu remained committed to the villagization concept.
Opponents of villagization argued that the scheme was disruptive to agricultural production because the government moved many farmers during the planting and harvesting seasons. There also was concern that villagization could have a negative impact on fragile local resources, particularly on water and grazing land; accelerate the spread of communicable diseases; and increase problems with plant pests and diseases. In early 1990, the government essentially abandoned villagization when it announced new economic policies that called for free-market reforms and a relaxation of centralized planning.
The effect of the PMAC's land reform program on food production and its marketing and distribution policies were among two of the major controversies surrounding the revolution. Available data on crop production show that land reform and the various government rural programs had a minimal impact on increasing the food supply, as production levels displayed considerable fluctuations and low growth rates at best (see table 13, Appendix).
The most important cash crop in Ethiopia was coffee. During the l970s, coffee exports accounted for 50 to 60 percent of the total value of all exports, although coffee's share dropped to 25 percent as a result of the economic dislocation following the l974 revolution. By l976 coffee exports had recovered, and in the five years ending in l988/89, coffee accounted for about 63 percent of the value of exports. Domestically, coffee contributed about 20 percent of the government's revenue. Approximately 25 percent of Ethiopia's population depended directly or indirectly on coffee for its livelihood.
Ethiopia's coffee is almost exclusively of the arabica type, which grows best at altitudes between l,000 and 2,000 meters. Coffee grows wild in many parts of the country, although most Ethiopian coffee is produced in the southern and western regions of Kefa, Sidamo, Ilubabor, Gamo Gofa, Welega, and Harerge.
Reliable estimates of coffee production in Ethiopia were unavailable as of mid-1991. However, some observers indicated that Ethiopia produced between l40,000 and l80,000 tons annually. The Ethiopian government placed coffee production at l87,000 tons in l979/80, 233,000 tons in l983/84, and l72,000 tons in l985/86. Estimates for l986/87 and l987/88 were put at l86,000 and l89,000 tons, respectively. Preliminary figures from other sources indicated that coffee production continued to rise in 1988/89 and 1989/90 but registered a sharp decline of perhaps as much as one-third during 1990/91. About 44 percent of the coffee produced was exported. Although the potential for local coffee consumption was high, the government, eager to increase its hard-currency reserves, suppressed domestic consumption by controlling coffee sales. The government also restricted the transfer of coffee from coffee-producing areas to other parts of the country. This practice made the price of local coffee two to three times higher than the price of exported coffee.
About 98 percent of the coffee was produced by peasants on smallholdings of less than a hectare, and the remaining 2 percent was produced by state farms. Some estimates indicated that yields on peasant farms were higher than those on state farms. In the 1980s, as part of an effort to increase production and to improve the cultivation and harvesting of coffee, the government created the Ministry of Coffee and Tea Development, which was responsible for production and marketing. The ten-year plan called for an increase in the size of state farms producing coffee from l4,000-l5,000 hectares to 50,000 hectares by l994. However, given the strain on the government's financial resources and the consistently declining coffee price in the world market, this may have been an unrealistic goal.
The decline in world coffee prices, which began in 1987, reduced Ethiopia's foreign-exchange earnings. In early 1989, for example, the price of one kilogram/US$0.58; of coffee was by June it had dropped to US$0.32. Mengistu told the 1989 WPE party congress that at US$0.32 per kilogram, foreign-exchange earnings from coffee would have dropped by 240 million birr, and government revenue would have been reduced by l40 million birr by the end of l989. Such declines not only hampered the government's ability to implement its political, economic, and social programs but also reduced Addis Ababa's capacity to prosecute its war against various rebel groups in northern Ethiopia.
Before the revolution, pulses and oilseeds played an important role, second only to coffee, in Ethiopia's exports. In EFY l974/75, pulses and oilseeds accounted for 34 percent of export earnings (about l63 million birr), but this share declined to about 3 percent (about 30 million birr) in EFY l988/89 (see table 14, Appendix). Three factors contributed to the decline in the relative importance of pulses and oilseeds. First, the recurring droughts had devastated the country's main areas where pulses and oilseeds were produced. Second, because peasants faced food shortages, they gave priority to cereal staples to sustain themselves. Finally, although the production cost of pulses and oilseeds continued to rise, the government's price control policy left virtually unchanged the official procurement price of these crops, thus substantially reducing net income from them. The Ethiopian Pulses and Oilseeds Corporation, the agency responsible for exporting two-thirds of these crops, reported losses in EFY l982/83 and EFY 1983/84. In EFY l983/84, the corporation received export subsidies of more than 9 million birr. Subsequently, production of both crops failed to improve; by 1988 the output index, whose base year was 1972 (100), was 85.3 for pulses and 15.8 for oilseeds. Given the country's economic and political problems and the ongoing war in the north, there was little prospect of improvement.
Cotton is grown throughout Ethiopia below elevations of about l,400 meters. Because most of the lowlands lack adequate rainfall, cotton cultivation depends largely on irrigation. Before the revolution, large-scale commercial cotton plantations were developed in the Awash Valley and the Humera areas. The Tendaho Cotton Plantation in the lower Awash Valley was one of Ethiopia's largest cotton plantations. Rain-fed cotton also grew in Humera, Bilate (in Sidamo), and Arba Minch (in Gamo Gofa).
Since the revolution, most commercial cotton has been grown on irrigated state farms, mostly in the Awash Valley area. Production jumped from 43,500 tons in l974/75 to 74,900 tons in l984/85. Similarly, the area of cultivation increased from 22,600 hectares in l974/75 to 33,900 hectares in l984/85.
Fruit stall in Addis Ababa. Courtsey Paul Henze
Ethiopia's major staple crops include a variety of cereals, pulses, oilseeds, and coffee. Grains are the most important field crops and the chief element in the diet of most Ethiopians. The principal grains are teff, wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, and millet. The first three are primarily cool-weather crops cultivated at altitudes generally above l,500 meters. Teff, indigenous to Ethiopia, furnishes the flour for injera, an unleavened bread that is the principal form in which grain is consumed in the highlands and in urban centers throughout the country. Barley is grown mostly between 2,000 and 3,500 meters. A major subsistence crop, barley is used as food and in the production of tella, a locally produced beer.
Sorghum, millet, and corn are cultivated mostly in warmer areas at lower altitudes along the country's western, southwestern, and eastern peripheries. Sorghum and millet, which are drought resistant, grow well at low elevations where rainfall is less reliable. Corn is grown chiefly between elevations of l,500 and 2,200 meters and requires large amounts of rainfall to ensure good harvests. These three grains constitute the staple foods of a good part of the population and are major items in the diet of the nomads.
Pulses are the second most important element in the national diet and a principal protein source. They are boiled, roasted, or included in a stew-like dish known as wot, which is sometimes a main dish and sometimes a supplementary food. Pulses, grown widely at all altitudes from sea level to about 3,000 meters, are more prevalent in the northern and central highlands. Pulses were a particularly important export item before the revolution.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church traditionally has forbidden consumption of animal fats on many days of the year. As a result, vegetable oils are widely used, and oilseed cultivation is an important agricultural activity. The most important oilseed is the indigenous niger seed (neug), which is grown on 50 percent or more of the area devoted to oilseeds. Niger seed is found mostly in the northern and central highlands at elevations between 1,800 and 2,500 meters. Flaxseed, also indigenous, is cultivated in the same general area as niger seed. The third most important oilseed is sesame, which grows at elevations from sea level to about l,500 meters. In addition to its domestic use, sesame is also the principal export oilseed. Oilseeds of lesser significance include castor beans, rapeseed, groundnuts (peanuts), and safflower and sunflower seeds. Most oilseeds are raised by small-scale farmers, but sesame was also grown by large-scale commercial farms before the era of land reform and the nationalization of agribusiness.
Ensete, known locally as false banana, is an important food source in Ethiopia's southern and southwestern highlands. It is cultivated principally by the Gurage, Sidama, and several other ethnic groups in the region. Resembling the banana but bearing an inedible fruit, the plant produces large quantities of starch in its underground rhizome and an above-ground stem that can reach a height of several meters. Ensete flour constitutes the staple food of the local people. Taro, yams, and sweet potatoes are commonly grown in the same region as the ensete.
The consumption of vegetables and fruits is relatively limited, largely because of their high cost. Common vegetables include onions, peppers, squash, and a cabbage similar to kale. Demand for vegetables has stimulated truck farming around the main urban areas such as Addis Ababa and Asmera. Prior to the revolution, urbanization increased the demand for fruit, leading to the establishment of citrus orchards in areas with access to irrigation in Shewa, Arsi, Harerge, and Eritrea. The Mengistu regime encouraged fruit and vegetable production. Fresh fruits, including citrus and bananas, as well as fresh and frozen vegetables, became important export items, but their profitability was marginal. The Ethiopian Fruit and Vegetable Marketing Enterprise (EFVME), which handled about 75 percent of Ethiopia's exports of fruits and vegetables in l984-85, had to receive government subsidies because of losses.
Ethiopia's demand for grain continued to increase because of population pressures, while supply remained short, largely because of drought and government agricultural policies, such as price controls, which adversely affected crop production. Food production had consistently declined throughout the 1980s. Consequently, Ethiopia became a net importer of grain worth about 243 million birr annually from l983/84 to l987/88. The food deficit estimate for the l985/89 period indicated that production averaged about 6 million tons while demand reached about 10 million tons, thus creating an annual deficit of roughly 4 million tons. Much of the food deficit was covered through food aid. Between l984/85 and l986/87, at the height of the drought, Ethiopia received more than l.7 million tons of grain, about l4 percent of the total food aid for Africa. In addition, Ethiopia spent 341 million birr on food purchases during the l985-87 period.
Livestock production plays an important role in Ethiopia's economy. Estimates for l987 indicated that livestock production contributed one-third of agriculture's share of GDP, or nearly l5 percent of total GDP. Hides and skins constituted the second largest export earner, averaging about l5 percent of the total export value during the period l984/85 to l988/89; live animals averaged around 3 percent of the total value of exports during the same period.
Although varying from region to region, the role of livestock in the Ethiopian economy was greater than the figures suggest. Almost the entire rural population was involved in some way with animal husbandry, whose role included the provision of draft power, food, cash, transportation, fuel, and, especially in pastoral areas, social prestige. In the highlands, oxen provided draft power in crop production. In pastoral areas, livestock formed the basis of the economy. Per capita meat consumption was high by developing countries' standards, an estimated thirteen kilograms annually. According to a l987 estimate, beef accounted for about 5l percent of all meat consumption, followed by mutton and lamb (l9 percent), poultry (l5 percent), and goat (l4 percent).
Ethiopia's estimated livestock population of about 78.4 million in l988 was believed to be Africa's largest. There were approximately 31 million cattle, 23.4 million sheep, l7.5 million goats, 5.5 million horses and mules, l million camels, and 57 million poultry. Livestock was distributed throughout the country, with the greatest concentration in the highlands, where more than 90 percent of these animals were located. The raising of livestock always has been largely a subsistence activity.
Ethiopia has great potential for increased livestock production, both for local use and for export. However, expansion was constrained by inadequate nutrition, disease, a lack of support services such as extension services, insufficient data with which to plan improved services, and inadequate information on how to improve animal breeding, marketing, and processing. The high concentration of animals in the highlands, together with the fact that cattle are often kept for status, reduces the economic potential of Ethiopian livestock.
Both the imperial and the Marxist governments tried to improve livestock production by instituting programs such as free vaccination, well-digging, construction of feeder roads, and improvement of pastureland, largely through international organizations such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank. The Mengistu regime also opened veterinary stations at Bahir Dar, Buno Bedele, and Debre Zeyit to provide treatment and vaccination services.
Cattle in Ethiopia are almost entirely of the zebu type and are poor sources of milk and meat. However, these cattle do relatively well under the traditional production system. About 70 percent of the cattle in l987 were in the highlands, and the remaining 30 percent were kept by nomadic pastoralists in the lowland areas. Meat and milk yields are low and losses high, especially among calves and young stock. Contagious diseases and parasitic infections are major causes of death, factors that are exacerbated by malnutrition and starvation. Recurring drought takes a heavy toll on the animal population, although it is difficult to determine the extent of losses. Practically all animals are range-fed. During the rainy seasons, water and grass are generally plentiful, but with the onset of the dry season, forage is generally insufficient to keep animals nourished and able to resist disease.
Most of Ethiopia's estimated 41 million sheep and goats are raised by small farmers who used them as a major source of meat and cash income. About three-quarters of the total sheep flock is in the highlands, whereas lowland pastoralists maintain about three-quarters of the goat herd. Both animals have high sales value in urban centers, particularly during holidays such as Easter and New Year's Day.
Most of the estimated 7 million equines (horses, mules, and donkeys) are used to transport produce and other agricultural goods. Camels also play a key role as pack animals in areas below l,500 meters in elevation. Additionally, camels provide pastoralists in those areas with milk and meat.
Poultry farming is widely practiced in Ethiopia; almost every farmstead keeps some poultry for consumption and for cash sale. The highest concentration of poultry is in Shewa, in central Welo, and in northwestern Tigray. Individual poultry farms supply eggs and meat to urban dwellers. By 1990 the state had begun to develop large poultry farms, mostly around Addis Ababa, to supply hotels and government institutions.
Ethiopia's many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs and its approximately 960 kilometers of Red Sea coastline are fertile fishing grounds. However, fishing contributed less than l percent of GDP in l987. The ten-year plan in l983/84 estimated that the country had the potential to produce more than 92,000 tons of fish--66,000 tons from the Red Sea and the remaining 26,000 tons from lakes and rivers. But actual production in l983/84 was estimated at 600 to l,200 tons.
Fresh fish are consumed along the Red Sea coast, in Asmera, and in the vicinity of the Great Rift Valley lakes. Outside these areas, however, the domestic market for fish is small. Two factors account for this low level of local fish consumption. First, fish has not been integrated into the diet of most of the population. Second, because of religious influences on consumption patterns, the demand for fish is only seasonal. During Lent, for example, Christians who abstain from eating meat, milk, and eggs consume fish.
There was considerable commercial fishing activity in the Red Sea prior to l974, chiefly consisting of private foreign companies that exported most of their catch after processing the fish onshore. For instance, in l970 private companies exported about 9,l40 tons of fish. After the l974 revolution, most commercial fishing companies left Ethiopia, which reduced fish exports.
The Mengistu regime encouraged the establishment of fishery associations and cooperatives along the Red Sea coast and in the Great Rift Valley lakes area. In l978 the government established the Fish Production and Marketing Corporation (FPMC) to help improve the Ethiopian fish industry. The following year, the Ministry of Agriculture created the Fisheries Resources Development Department to help improve fish breeding, control, and marketing. The FPMC received loans from the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank and aid from the European Economic Community (EEC) to purchase various types of transportation equipment and to establish modern shops and cold storage.
In late 1990, the Red Sea Fishery Resources Development Project, which is managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), received funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Capital Development Fund to purchase motor boats, fishing nets, and other accessories for five fishermen's cooperatives in Aseb. The government hoped this equipment would help increase production and eventually enable the five cooperatives to extract 450 tons of fish annually. Nevertheless, the 1988/89 fish production of sixty tons fell by more than half in 1989/90 because of security problems in the area.
In the late nineteenth century, about 30 percent of the country was covered with forest. The clearing of land for agricultural use and the cutting of trees for fuel gradually changed the scene, and today forest areas have dwindled to less than 4 percent of Ethiopia's total land. The northern parts of the highlands are almost devoid of trees. However, about 4.5 million hectares of dense forest exist in the southern and southwestern sections of the highlands. Some of these include coniferous forests, found at elevations above l,600 meters, but a majority of the forestland consists primarily of woodlands found in drier areas of the highlands and in the drier areas bordering the highlands.
Lumber from the coniferous forests is important to the construction industry. The broadleaf evergreen forests furnish timber that is used in construction and in the production of plywood. The woodlands are a major source of firewood and charcoal. Certain trees--boswellia and species of commiphora--are of special economic significance. Both grow in the arid lowlands and produce gums that are the bases for frankincense and myrrh. A species of acacia found in several parts of the country is a source of gum arabic used in the manufacture of adhesives, pharmaceutical products, and confectionery. The eucalyptus, an exotic tree introduced in the late nineteenth century and grown mainly near urban areas, is a valuable source of telephone and telegraph poles, tool handles, furniture, and firewood. It is also a major source of the material from which fiberboard and particleboard are made.
Data on forestry's contribution to the economy are not readily available, largely because most GDP tables aggregate data on forestry, fishing, and hunting. In l980/81 forestry accounted for 2.5 percent of GDP at constant l960/61 factor cost and 5.4 percent of the share attributable to the agricultural sector.
Before 1974 about half of the forestland was privately owned or claimed, and roughly half was held by the government. There was little government control of forestry operations prior to the revolution. The l975 land reform nationalized forestland and sawmills, which existed mostly in the south. The government controlled harvesting of forestland, and in some cases individuals had to secure permits from local peasant associations to cut trees. But this measure encouraged illegal logging and accelerated the destruction of Ethiopia's remaining forests. To ensure that conservation activity conformed with government policy and directives on land use, reforestation programs were organized through the Ministry of Agriculture or district offices that planed, coordinated, and monitored all work. The local peasant associations lacked decision-making authority.
Reforestation programs resulted in the planting of millions of seedlings in community forests throughout Ethiopia. A variety of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which had to organize their activities through the local peasant association, supplemented government efforts to rehabilitate Ethiopia's forests. However, critics maintain that both systems caused communal resources to be developed at the expense of private needs. As a result, reforestation programs did not perform well. Seedling survival rates varied from as low as 5 to 20 percent in some areas to 40 percent in others, largely because of inadequate care and premature cutting by peasants. In late 1990, Addis Ababa was in the process of launching the Ethiopian Forestry Action Plan (EFAP) to improve forestry conservation, increase public participation in reforestation projects, and prevent further depletion of existing forest resources. It remained to be seen whether this plan would improve the state of Ethiopia's forests.
Private traders and the Agricultural Marketing Corporation (AMC), established in l976, marketed Ethiopia's agricultural output. The AMC was a government agency whose objective was to influence the supply and price of crops. It purchased grain from peasant associations at fixed prices. The AMC set quotas of grain purchases to be delivered by peasant associations and cooperatives and also bought from private wholesalers, who were required to sell half of their purchases at predetermined prices. State farms sold their output to the AMC. Although the AMC had agents in all regions, it was particularly active in the major cereal- producing regions, namely, Gojam, Shewa, Arsi, and Gonder. In 1981/82, out of the AMC's purchases of 257,000 tons of grain, Gojam accounted for 32 percent of the purchases, and Arsi, Shewa, and Gonder accounted for 23, 22, and l0 percent, respectively. The government's price controls and the AMC's operations had led to the development of different price systems at various levels. For instance, the l984/85 official procurement price for 100 kilograms of teff was 42 birr at the farm level and 60 birr when the AMC purchased it from wholesalers. But the same quantity of teff retailed at 81 birr at food stores belonging to the urban dwellers' associations (kebeles--see Glossary) in Addis Ababa and sold for as much as l8l birr in the open market. Such wide price variations created food shortages because farmers as well as private merchants withheld crops to sell on the black market at higher prices.
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