Floriculture in EthiopiaEthiopia, often associated with its rich history, diverse culture and stunning landscapes, is also making a name for itself in the global floriculture industry. This emerging sector has not only created jobs and economic opportunities but has also played a significant role in poverty alleviation in Ethiopia. 

The Growth of Floriculture in Ethiopia

Floriculture, the cultivation of flowers and ornamental plants for commercial purposes, is a burgeoning industry in Ethiopia. The country’s favorable climate, with mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine, makes it an ideal location for year-round flower production. Ethiopia has become one of the leading African exporters of cut flowers, with roses being the primary export. The floriculture industry in Ethiopia has grown significantly over the past two decades. Between the years 2021 and 2022, Ethiopia exported $541 million worth of flowers. 

The nation’s proximity to Europe, one of the largest markets for cut flowers, has been a key advantage. Moreover, the Ethiopian government has actively promoted the sector by offering incentives to investors and flower growers, including tax breaks and land leases at competitive rates, providing a vital route to poverty alleviation in Ethiopia. 

Job Creation and Economic Impact 

One of the most notable impacts of the floriculture industry in Ethiopia has been the creation of employment opportunities. Thousands of people, particularly women and youth, have found jobs in flower farms across the country. These jobs range from farm laborers to skilled positions in flower production, grading, packaging and logistics. This influx of employment has provided a lifeline for many Ethiopians living in poverty, offering a source of stable income and the chance to improve their living conditions. 

In addition to job creation, the floriculture industry has contributed significantly to Ethiopia’s economic growth. It has become a major export earner, generating foreign exchange revenue that supports the country’s balance of payments. Floriculture generates about 80% of Ethiopia’s earnings from horticulture. 

This influx of foreign currency has allowed Ethiopia to finance vital imports and investment in other sectors, which, in turn, has a positive ripple effect on the economy and the livelihoods of its citizens. 

Smallholder Flower Farming 

While large commercial flower farms dominate the floriculture industry in Ethiopia, there is also room for smallholder participation. Small-scale flower farming has provided opportunities for rural households to supplement their income. These small-scale farmers, often women, cultivate flowers alongside traditional crops, helping diversify their sources of income and reduce their vulnerability to economic shocks and climate variability.

Challenges and Concerns 

Despite the positive impact of the floriculture industry on poverty alleviation, there are concerns that must be addressed. One of the main challenges is the potential environmental impact. The intensive cultivation of flowers requires significant amounts of water and energy, which could strain local resources and contribute to environmental degradation if not managed sustainably. 

It is crucial for the Ethiopian government and the industry to prioritize environmentally friendly practices. Moreover, labor conditions and workers’ rights have been a subject of concern in some flower farms. There have been reports of long working hours and inadequate wages, particularly for women laborers. Ensuring fair labor practices and protecting the rights of workers must remain a priority for the floriculture industry’s sustainable development.


Ethiopia’s floriculture industry is a shining example of how agriculture-based economic sectors can be a catalyst for poverty alleviation in Ethiopia. The growth of this industry has created jobs, boosted exports and contributed to economic development. However, it is essential to strike a balance between economic growth and sustainability, ensuring that the industry benefits both investors and the communities it operates in. 

As the floriculture sector in Ethiopia continues to expand, it presents an opportunity for the government, investors and stakeholders to collaborate on building a robust and sustainable industry that not only enhances the country’s economic prosperity but also helps lift more Ethiopians out of poverty. By addressing environmental concerns and labor issues while promoting inclusive growth, Ethiopia can make the most of its floral bounty in the years to come.

– Genevieve Martin
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Houses in EthiopiaA new company called Kubik has developed a smart and ecological way to help build affordable plastic houses in Ethiopia and Africa more broadly. Kubik uses recycled plastic waste to create more sustainable and inexpensive building materials that can be used to create homes, schools, factories and more. Kubik recently received a combined investment of $3.34 million to expand their plastic houses business into Ethiopia, where there exists an enormous housing crisis. Hence, Kubik has the potential to go a long way in helping alleviate the housing crisis in Ethiopia and beyond while at the same time helping to create a more sustainable and ecological way of living. 

The Housing Crisis in Ethiopia

Ethiopia, like much of Africa, is facing rapid urbanization, which means that populations in large cities like Addis Abbas are growing at high rates. At the same time, as more and more people move into cities, there is an increasing demand for housing in these cities because people need to find a place to live. 

However, in Ethiopia, the rate at which people are moving into large cities per year far exceeds the rate at which new affordable houses are being built. More specifically, the housing demand is currently estimated to be more than 1 million in Ethiopia with current rates projecting an estimated net of 200,000 more houses needed each year to account for the growing population. Because of this, there is an ongoing housing crisis in which many people are forced to live in small government-owned houses made of mud and wood that leave people susceptible to dangerous diseases and other health problems or in some cases, force people into homelessness. 

Kubik’s Solution

Started by Kidus Asfaw and Penda Marre after seeing how school classrooms were made from plastic materials in Côte d’Ivoire, Kubik was initially founded with the intention of helping create more classrooms in Côte d’Ivoire. However, after seeing the potential that plastic had to be used as a building material, Afshaw and Marre soon shifted the focus of Kubik to providing cheap building materials that could be used to build affordable plastic houses and other important infrastructure such as public bathrooms, schools and eco-friendly factories. 

More specifically, Kubik accomplishes this goal by selling the plastic building materials it makes to real estate developers who use its plastic building materials to build houses at a less expensive cost. In fact, plastic building bricks are often around 40% cheaper than cement of which most ordinary housing bricks are made. 

Ecological Benefit

Although the primary benefit of Kubik’s plastic building materials is its ability to provide more affordable houses in places that urgently need them, they also offer a number of ecological benefits that contribute to protecting the planet as well as improving people’s overall health. First, Kubik’s plastic building materials emit approximately 500% less carbon dioxide than traditional building materials such as cement. Hence, houses made from Kubik’s plastic materials will help significantly in the effort to halt global warming. 

Additionally, Kubik is helping contribute to solving a significant plastic waste problem that is present in many African countries including Ethiopia which produces almost 400,000 tons of plastic waste annually. However, 96% of existing plastic waste does not get recycled. Not only can large amounts of plastic waste significantly disrupt ecosystems and harm marine animals, but because plastic takes so long to decay, plastic waste is often burned to release incredibly harmful chemicals into the air that can cause numerous associated health risks including respiratory problems. 

Kubik helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste and the problems associated with it by focusing on solely using plastics that would not otherwise be made into recyclable products in the production of their building materials. 


Ethiopia faces an ongoing affordable housing crisis as well as a crisis in the rapidly increasing build-up of plastic waste that can damage the environment and people’s health. Although Kubik cannot completely solve either of these two issues alone, the efforts go a long way in mitigating the effects of both by providing an innovative and creative way to turn unused plastic waste into materials used to make affordable plastic houses in Ethiopia. Furthermore, Kubik may serve as an inspiration to future entrepreneurs to develop creative methods that will help solve societal problems such as affordable housing and excessive plastic waste. 

– Athan Yanos
Photo: Unsplash

Health Care Workers in EthiopiaThere is a lack of health care workers in Ethiopia, particularly in the areas with the highest poverty rates. This has significantly impacted the availability and caliber of health care services, thereby aggravating public health issues. Trading Economics reports, “Physicians (per 1,000 people) in Ethiopia was at 0.1059 in 2020, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources.” The country has one of the lowest health care worker-to-population ratios.

Inadequate Wages and Training Institutions

Ethiopia has around 30 recognized medical schools as of 2013. This is not enough to satisfy the needs of the nation in terms of health care. There is also the problem of low wages for medical staff. A 2018 Global Health Action article reports, “In multiple job holding, staff [members] augment basic salaries by engaging in a wide range of academic and non-academic activities within and outside their home institutions. How the practice is viewed and judged varies. Many recognize and understand the underlying reasons.” According to a World Bank report, blaming medical workers for looking elsewhere for additional income is hard considering the low wages they receive.

Migrating Professionals

Inadequate pay and unfavorable working conditions, along with the lack of resources to properly treat patients, are the main factors driving the exodus of health care professionals. According to Reuters, “The doctors identified 117 deaths and dozens of complications, including infections, amputations and kidney failure,” which was due to “shortages of essential medicines and equipment.” These unfortunate trends suggest that increasing pay and benefits, better workspaces and tools and professional training opportunities could encourage qualified health care employees to stay back.

Another strategy could involve encouraging health care professionals who have left the nation to return. According to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, an estimated 2,000 Ethiopian medical experts leave the nation every year. A 2012 study reports that “around 53% of medical students hoped to migrate upon graduating, particularly to the United States [U.S.] and Europe.” The government may address this by providing incentives like tax rebates and debt forgiveness programs to medical professionals to return and work in the Ethiopian health care system.

Ongoing Efforts

The Ministry of Health of Ethiopia launched the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy in August 2022, as highlighted in a high-level advocacy workshop organized by the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Nonhlanhla Diamini, Deputy WHO Representative to Ethiopia, emphasized the organization’s commitment to ensuring the right to good health and well-being for every Ethiopian. The successful implementation of strategies like the National Health Equity Strategy could be crucial in attaining this goal, and WHO is ready to collaborate with the Ministry of Health and other partners to make it a reality.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges of a shortage of health care workers and inadequate resources in the Ethiopian health care system, efforts are underway to address these issues. The launch of the Five-Year National Health Equity Strategy is indicative of the government’s commitment to equitable access to quality health care for all Ethiopians. Collaborative initiatives with organizations like WHO aim to strengthen the health care workforce, improve working conditions and incentivize the return of skilled professionals, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for the population.

– Lorraine Lin

Photo: Flickr

HIV:AIDS in EthiopiaSituated along the eastern coast of the Horn of Africa, sits the populous nation of Ethiopia. Like many nations in the sub-Saharan region, Ethiopia has been heavily impacted by the tide of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, commonly known as HIV/AIDS. Modern advancements in education, health care and prevention seek to eradicate the disease’s devastating impact.

History of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia

The first documented case of HIV was in June 1981 in Los Angeles, California. In 1984, doctors discovered HIV in Ethiopia as well. About two years later, the first case of AIDS appeared in Ethiopia as well, propelling the country into an epidemic.

In 1986, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS was under 1% of the population, but it grew steadily until it reached 4.4% by 2003. Meanwhile, rates in the nation’s capital, Addis Ababa, and other urban areas, towered above the country’s overall average for adults aged 15-49 years old. The estimated prevalence in these cities peaked in 1996, reaching 15.6% in Addis Ababa and 12.7% in urban areas. AIDS has been the leading cause of death in adult Ethiopians since 2006.

Impact of Poverty

Ethiopia is rich in agricultural resources. Yet, many Ethiopians struggle with poverty. Up to 78% of the population earns an income of less than $2.00 per day.

Poverty is concentrated in Ethiopia’s urban areas, where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS averages 3%, compared to the national rate of 1%. The impoverished population of Ethiopia’s cities often has neither the education nor the resources to combat diseases such as HIV/AIDS, contributing to its spread. HIV/AIDS only perpetuates poverty, as household, community, regional and sectoral costs are magnified by the sheer expense of care.

For the average Ethiopian, managing HIV/AIDS is a monumental expense, and poverty can make it nearly impossible to survive.

HIV/AIDS Numbers in Ethiopia Today

As of 2021, an estimated 610,000 Ethiopians were living with HIV/AIDs: 360,000 women, 210,000 men and 42,000 children. There were 12,000 deaths nationwide, contributing to the staggering figure of 280,000 children orphaned from HIV/AIDS-related deaths.

Despite this, progress has been made against the tide of HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia. Although thousands still suffer from the disease in 2023, foreign and domestic aid efforts are combatting the issue of inaccessible education and care. In addition, 84% of people with HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia know their status, and 78% are on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

ART is especially vital in mitigating HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia, as it suppresses the HIV virus, decreases its transmission and slows its progression to AIDS. Funding for free and comprehensive access to ART allows hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians to suppress their viral load and live healthily with HIV. Ethiopia is looking toward universal access to ART, which would allow HIV+ Ethiopians of all socio-economic backgrounds to receive care.

The Future

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has invested nearly $3 billion to help Ethiopia combat the disease over the past 15 years, alongside the U.S.’ goal to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic by 2030, paints a positive future outlook for Ethiopia.

PEPFAR’s ultimate goal for Ethiopia is to establish that 95% of Ethiopians living with HIV know their status, have access to ART and can achieve viral load suppression within the next 10 years. Additionally, it will ensure economic stability and child care for people suffering from HIV/AIDs.

On May 23, 2023, Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy announced the approval of an additional $112 million for outreach for HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.

In the 1980s-2000s, Ethiopia struggled to control the epidemic. HIV+ Ethiopians living in poverty, especially in urban areas, struggled to afford the cost of living with the disease. However, through international and domestic endeavors, HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia has become more manageable, spurring hope for eventual eradication.

– Char Nieberding
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the only African nation to never have experienced colonization, excluding the brief occupation by Mussolini during WWII. This rich lineage goes back further than any anglo-sphere country. From the images of the 1980s-90s famine to the current genocidal crisis in the Tigray region, Westerners may see poverty in Ethiopia, along with most of Africa, through a calamitous lens. While this view threatens to tokenize the pain of a people, it also has the potential to prompt radical change.

In recent years, Ethiopia has made headlines with its record economic growth and industrial advancement. Still, Amnesty International reports that more than 5.2 million people are currently in need of food aid in Tigray, the province at the epicenter of news coverage. Alongside the charges of human rights violations, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already challenging situation. More than 22 million people are living below the poverty line with a 27% poverty rate expected only to rise. The fear of Ethiopian suffering being ignored on a global stage is what resonates in most reports from the area. However, unification through global affairs makes room for a conversation about geopolitical positions. Civil War, poor health services and global shelving continue to hurt Ethiopians and keep the country in constant economic struggle.

Growth in the Private Sector

The widespread famine of the mid-1980s shocked the world with images of Ethiopia’s hunger-ridden communities. As the country developed in the aftermath, the rate of poverty reduction in rural areas remained mild, moving from 30% to 26%. In contrast, urban development led to poverty falling from 26% to 15% in the same period. From 2004 to 2016, the blooming of business and subsequent decrease in urban poverty ensued. By 2015, the Ethiopian government was following economic leaders like China and South Korea in expanding government policy to encourage private business and development. As the private sector expands and more companies look to Ethiopia for cheap labor, poverty has started to drop. The country sought to meet China’s jaw-dropping achievement of lifting more than 800 million people out of poverty and decided to expand infrastructure, education and health through borrowing from state banks and foreign aid.

For a decade the economic growth rate was 10%. Buildings were cropping up all over the country’s capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s proximity to global markets in Europe and Asia makes it a realistic option for manufacturers of textiles that have started to set up shops in the region. This made Ethiopia one of the fastest-developing African nations and sparked global recognition of the country’s goal of reaching middle-income status for its citizens by 2025.

The Situation in Tigray

A racialized civil war occurred after president Abiy Ahmed postponed the election due to take place in August 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tigrayan government said this was fundamentally unconstitutional, Abiy responded by withdrawing funding to the region and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) answered with violence. Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries saw this as a political opportunity to get back at Tigrayians for an age-old border dispute.

As a result, ethnic cleansing has devastated communities. Alongside the brutal harm inflicted on the Tigrayan ethnic group, an 18-month-long internet blackout followed in the Northern part of Ethiopia, which is home to more than 7 million people. On November 28 and 29, a massacre of 800 people occurred in Aksum but was underreported due to the communication disconnect. Even the Tigrayian language is becoming a barrier as it is nonexistent on Google Translate. Silos have burned down and mass rapes have already become history.

War deprives people of basic resources that are essential to survival. In a country already struggling to win the fight against poverty, a fight among brothers is not helping anyone. Yet, in a hopeful twist, the Tigrayan rebels released a statement this week saying they are ready for peace talks in a rush to find diplomatic answers to the crisis. This came after last month’s fighting left many marred; again violence erupts and those responsible vacate the spotlight leaving the people without a solution, only scars.


Spreading awareness of poverty in Ethiopia is one way to get acknowledgment that leads to holding people accountable. The media does not always cover countries like Ethiopia, but they are important. To help showcase Ethiopia and other countries on the global stage, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez proposed the Ethiopia Stabilization, Peace and Democracy Act in 2021. This Act will allow the U.S. to help end the civil war and may help the country thrive through financial, technical and diplomatic support, while also seeking accountability for crimes against humanity in Ethiopia.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Ethiopia
Ethiopia could become the first low-income sub-Saharan African country to achieve one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eliminating poverty by 2030. Tremendous efforts have occurred to reduce poverty in Ethiopia. The poverty rate fell from 44% in 2000 to 23.5% in 2015. An estimated four Ethiopians escape poverty every minute. Infrastructure developments and continued growth in the agriculture and service sectors helped bolster the nation’s economy and improve living conditions for its people.

Extensive Infrastructure Developments Underway

The Government of Ethiopia (GOE) has heavily involved itself in the development of its economy. Infrastructure projects, such as roads, national parks, power production and distribution, airports and railways have bolstered growth and created jobs. The Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway is a major international railway that received its inauguration in 2018 that runs from the capital, Addis Ababa, to the port city of Djibouti. The railway remains an important mode of transportation for passengers and freight. Aschale Tesfahun, a political science lecturer at Dire Dawa University, noted that “[his] life has become easier because of this train, but it’s also a major advantage for all Ethiopia.”

Even external investors, such as Zhang Huarong, find developing African countries like Ethiopia to be lucrative opportunities. Huarong emigrated from China to create a shoe business in Ethiopia. He employs more than 7,500 locals who produce footwear for companies such as Guess and Nine West. His goal is to create 100,000 jobs for Ethiopians. External investors providing jobs for the local population is one way of indirectly reducing poverty in Ethiopia. China has created more than 3 million jobs on the African continent in markets such as manufacturing, trade, real estate, services and construction.

Energy Sector

Another important contributor to Ethiopia’s real GDP increase is energy production and distribution, which has averaged about 10% growth between 2006 and 2018. Ethiopia struggles to provide electricity as its population is more than 100 million people. The nation is creating more hydropower plants to keep up with the fast-growing economy and plans to increase power production from 4,500 MW to 5,000 MW by 2022. Hydropower plants generate about 90% of power in Ethiopia.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has been under construction since 2011 and is expected to be the largest dam in Africa. The power source will generate 6,450 MW of electricity and functions as a major factor in the economic growth of Ethiopia. It is also anticipated to export 400 MW of electricity to Tanzania and 400 MW to Kenya. About 30% of Ethiopians have access to electricity, yet the dam and several hydropower projects will provide a larger portion of the country with power.

Model for Successful Development

Ethiopia serves as an excellent model to other impoverished countries for poverty reduction and successful economic development. Poverty in Ethiopia reduced by half within 20 years. Infrastructure developments and external investors, particularly China, have furthered its progress in improving its economy and progressing with 1.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—reducing poverty.

Other developing African countries could learn from the failures and successes Ethiopia has endured while becoming a leader in Africa’s development and innovation. For example, Ethiopian Airlines is the fastest growing and most profitable passenger and cargo carrier in Africa. The airline expresses that infrastructure development is a significant driver in developing an economy, especially when there is room for growth. The former head of the U.N. office in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu, stated that Ethiopia’s fast development “reflects the bold ambition and the political commitment of the leadership.”

Final Challenge

The last challenge Ethiopia faces is transitioning from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-based economy. Although the idea is simple, execution sometimes includes decades of evolving and continued external investment from investors that might be blind or wary to potential future profitability. Structural changes to the Ethiopian economy are necessary for further progress in reducing poverty in Ethiopia. With government initiatives, such as improving access to clean water and sanitation services, the economy will continue to grow and eliminate poverty in Ethiopia.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Food Security in EthiopiaFood security in Ethiopia is largely dependent on climate. This is what makes the 2011 Horn of Africa drought so devastating. The drought left 4.5 million Ethiopians in need of emergency food aid. Another drought in 2017 hit, putting another 8.5 million at-risk of hunger. In efforts to combat Ethiopia’s food insecurity, five organizations are working to provide various forms of food aid.

5 Organizations Working to Improve Food Security in Ethiopia

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
    In recent years, the FAO has been collaborating with the Ethiopian Government to execute the Country Programming Framework (CPF). The CPF is a 5-year program to address crop production, livestock and fisheries, and sustainable natural resource management to combat food insecurity. In the case of crop production, crop productivity per unit of land is low due to pests, diseases, as well as the limited use of crop-boosting technologies. In response, the FAO has promoted the use of crop intensification, diversification and pest management practices.
  2. TechnoServe
    TechnoServe has been working to help Ethiopians increase the production of food and cash-based crops. This work is especially helpful for small landholders who make up 95 percent of Ethiopia’s agricultural GDP. TechnoServe’s impact involves teaching farmers techniques such as intercropping maize with beans to increase productivity. The nonprofit is also aiding forest-coffee producers to gain access to premium markets, which offer higher prices for their products. The coffee grown in the Gabrebeco Forest is not only distinct in taste from other brands, but it also serves as an important source of income for impoverished communities. However, this coffee is often sold as a low-grade bulk product, limiting the economic power of Ethiopians. This Coffee Initiative, however, is estimated to save 150,000 hectares of the forest and allow 10,000 farmers to earn higher incomes, mitigating Ethiopia’s food insecurity.
  3. USAID
    USAID’s Feed the Future initiative which focuses on helping the vulnerable gain access to markets. The plan has three main focuses: growth based food security, helping the vulnerable access markets and implementing economic regulations. To do so, USAID is looking to increase the value of products such as maize, wheat, coffee, sesame, chickpea, honey, potato, livestock and poultry. Feed the Future is also working to kickstart enterprises by providing access to both technical and credit support. Again, USAID’s initiative would not only increase the food supply but also improve the economic status of Ethiopians to purchase food as well.
  4. The Hunger Project
    In efforts to help, the Hunger Project developed the Epicenter Strategy to mobilize Ethiopians so that they may meet their own needs. The Epicenter Strategy involves the establishment of epicenters, a coalition of 5,000 to 15,000 people who work to become leaders and initiate change on a local level. In addition to leadership skills, Ethiopians learn about nutrition, improved farming methods, micro-financing, as well as water and sanitation. Epicenters also provide information on composting and environmentally sound irrigation methods like drip irrigation. All of these will help to improve agricultural output and increase food security.
  5. Farm Africa
    Farm Africa has led several climate-smart based agriculture methods. For instance, many farmers tend to rely on rainfall as a source of water for their crops. However, this method is unreliable given the droughts the nation has faced. In response, Farm Africa has provided small farmers with water lifting motor pumps, giving farmers a year-round supply of water. In addition, droughts decrease the available food supply for livestock. To protect the surrounding land, Farm Africa has also been encouraging the implementation of rangeland management cooperatives. Doing so also helps farmers to work with local government officials to develop long-term resource management plans.

While there is still much more work to be done, each of these organizations has made great strides in addressing food security in Ethiopia.

– Iris Goa
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in EthiopiaThe Horn of Africa continues to be a part of the world that suffers from food insecurity as a result of drought and conflict. Ethiopia, a core part of this region and its issues, has over 7.8 million people who are food insecure. This is attributed to the cumulative effect of worsening food production over the years and long-lasting regional conflicts that have exacerbated living conditions. The issue is particularly detrimental for the population dependent on subsistence farming and the nomadic community.

The top 10 facts about hunger in Ethiopia listed above cover relevant facts that cover the historical impact of food insecurity and the current challenges.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Ethiopia

  1. Thirty-four years ago the most catastrophic famine hit Ethiopia painting the nation in the image of poverty, drought and hunger in such a huge way that the government to this day works on reversing this perception. However, this proves difficult because three decades had passed from this moment, and the United Nations announced that 15 million people will need food aid in 2015.
  2. The general trend of increase in food insecurity is caused mainly by the weather. Low rainfalls during the past few years have led to disastrous harvests. Even at times when rain returns in some areas, the ramifications of the lack of rain is proving to be a prolonged crisis.
  3. Other elements that contribute to the issue of hunger are also mostly natural factors such as the decrease in land size and quality, animal and plant diseases and the destruction of vegetation and wild products.
  4. There are several actions being taken by governmental and nongovernmental entities to tackle the high level of food insecurity in Ethiopia, that have brought notable progress. These actions include food aid, an increase in productivity and in land cultivated, improvement of seeds and irrigation.
  5. The harsh effects of famine and drought resulting in prolonged periods of food insecurity, especially in the rural areas are directly related to the high level of poverty as more than half of the population lives on less than $1 a day. In addition, considering that 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas where birth rates are high and smallholder farming is the base of the economy, weather changes affect production immensely and the population in these areas is not able to cope with the situation.
  6. The political and economic instability that intricately creates regional conflicts is a huge factor for food insecurity. Although the droughts cause a decrease in food production, it is largely the human factors such as ineffective response to this occurrence that causes famine and starvation.
  7. The prolonged effects that don’t account for the immediate disaster of food insecurity are child malnutrition that causes Ethiopia a loss of 16.5 percent of GDP each year. This is reflected in the fact that 40 percent of children in Ethiopia suffer from stunting. This condition also accounts for 1.1 years less in school education that eventually reduces the workforce.
  8. Aid for the famine and other issues in the country, such as severe droughts in 2016 and 2017 and heavy rainfalls that caused the flooding in 2018, is continuous. Organizations such as the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Food for the Hungry, Relief Society of Tigray and World Vision and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) aim to support the food-insecure population through long-term development interventions.
  9. Despite the gravity of food insecurity challenges Ethiopia is making an effort to eradicate hunger by addressing the low smallholder farmer productivity through policies that allow big investments in agricultural research and development, especially in the aspects of making improved seeds and breeds available along with better farming practices. Moreover, there have been efforts to give prompt access to high-quality inputs such as effective fertilizers.   
  10. Zero Hunger is one of the United Nation’s Global Goals that is particularly critical for countries like Ethiopia who not only struggle with the challenges of climate change that affect food production but also with political groups working to expand the famine and only offer resettlement as a solution.

Africa has witnessed drastic changes as a result of its fast-growing economies and improved agricultural production that has cut the number of undernourished people in the continent by half. Therefore, despite the hurdles that Ethiopia has faced in the past in meeting food demands, meeting the Sustainable Development Goal, which means the end all forms of hunger and malnutrition by 2o3o, is not an unreachable goal.

However, it will require a lot of work in smallholder farmers coping with weather changes such as droughts and flooding augmented by assistance from governmental and nongovernmental entities to bring a long-term solution.

– Bilen Kassie

Photo: Flickr

USAID in Ethiopia
Ethiopia once had some of the highest poverty rates in the world. Since 2000, the poverty level in Ethiopia has been steadily decreasing due to agricultural and economic growth and education.

Although progress is being made towards creating a secure and sustainable future for a majority of Ethiopians, 34 percent of Ethiopians are still living in poverty and facing challenges such as having adequate food to feed their families. Thankfully, organizations such as USAID in Ethiopia and various programs are positively providing solutions to the poverty cycle. 

Productive Safety Net Program

Based on the successes of the Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development program (GRAD) that ran from 2011 to 2016, the government of Ethiopia continues to address food insecurity through the fourth phase of the rural Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP 4).

Through USAID’s Feed the Future Ethiopia program, Livelihoods for Resilience is a program that supports PSNP 4 by addressing farming, agricultural and other non-work-related problems keeping Ethiopians without a secure food source. 

Livelihoods for Resilience

Livelihoods for Resilience is another five-year program that’s been in existence from 2016 to 2021. The goal is to continue the successes of GRAD by educating communities on finance, business, agriculture, climate change and gender equality.

With a $48 million budget, Livelihoods for Resilience is led by CARE, a U.S.-based charity organization that partners with local organizations to implement the most effective strategies for positive change in communities. These efforts can then lead to a secure and sustainable future for those working their way out of poverty.

The VESA Model

The foundation for GRAD and Livelihoods for Resilience is a community-based education model — Village Economic and Social Associations (VESAs). Through VESAs, communities are educated in finance, business and agricultural trainings.

The VESA model allows a large number of people to be helped and educated at a low cost. With the goal of increasing sustainable skills and income, VESAs proved successful as 80 percent of GRAD participants graduated from government-sponsored safety net programs.

Financial security and savings are a new and foreign concept to many families living in poverty. Livelihoods for Resilience makes sure financial and business education are at the core of VESAs to ensure families possess a secure and sustainable future.

Nature and Crop Loss

The unpredictable nature of Ethiopian weather can wipe out entire crops and ruin farmer’s income in an instant. By providing half of all participants with new agricultural training and better seeds and working with agro-dealers to provide families with the inputs necessary to make lucrative changes, GRAD reduced weather-related crop loss by 40 percent.

By distributing seed vouchers with women’s names on them after El Nino hit, women were able to easily replant crops after droughts wiped out their previous ones.

Saving through VESAs is a safe, low-risk way for poor families to invest. Gradually, families pay off loans as they make more money from small businesses or farming while they continue to invest financially in a secure and sustainable future.

Benefits of the GRAD Program

GRAD participants’ savings increased by 12 percent and their assets doubled by increasing family savings and building the family’s assets.  Income for family’s using the GRAD program went up on average of $353 a year. In fact, some family’s incomes rose by nearly $1,000.

In addition to business and farming tips, families also learn how to safely feed infants, and about gender equality and food insecurity. Also, 77 percent of GRAD participants were able to save their money in VESAs and get access to loans. Livelihoods for Resilience supports 5,000 VESAs and 350 youth VESAs.

Promoting and Possessing Gender Equality

Gender equality is a key factor in Livelihoods for Resilience. By promoting gender equality, GRAD empowers women to make the same wages as men. GRAD believes that poverty reduction processes cannot be truly made until women are providing just as much income and decision-making as the men in the house. Not only does gender equality raise the income for the family, but it also creates a community built upon respect and understanding.

In addition to women leadership training, men are taught how to be respectful and change behaviors damaging to the family and themselves.  Not only were women able to make more decisions in the house by seven times what they previously had, but the number of women who were able to make a living increased by ten times its prior.

USAID in Ethiopia

Programs like GRAD and Livelihoods for Resilience give poor communities the reigns for creating a secure and sustainable future. By educating communities on gender equality, smart agriculture and livestock practices and business, families now have the tools they need to become independent from government assistance — no matter what the future holds.

Although families and communities continue to graduate from government assistance programs like PSNP 4, the importance of USAID in Ethiopia will remain until all families have the tools necessary to sustain their lives out of poverty.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Coffee market in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has spent the past 30 years moving forward from a famine of biblical proportions by expanding an unlikely market. The coffee market in Ethiopia has experienced recent growth, improving both the economy and the lives of people in coffee production.

Ethiopia is currently the fifth largest coffee producer in the world, with over two million coffee farmers. With close to half of its coffee production exported, the country contributes about nine percent of the world’s total coffee production.

However, Ethiopia’s past is marked by tragedy. In 1984, BBC reporters Michael Buerk and Mike Wooldridge brought the Western world’s attention to the “biblical famine” devastating the country. More than one million Ethiopians perished due to this tragedy, and over eight million were affected.

Coffee holds great social and cultural value in Ethiopia due to its significance in the economy. The recent growth in the coffee market in Ethiopia has helped over 15 million people who directly or indirectly derive their livelihoods off of coffee production, according to the USDA.

Duromina: Coffee Farmers Invest in Local Communities

A direct example of this is the success of a coffee cooperative in southwestern Ethiopia, which has received a premium price for its internationally sold coffee. The coffee cooperative is named, Duromina, which means “to improve their lives.”

Generations of farmers had been growing coffee in this area for generations, earning a meager income. But in 2010, over 100 local coffee farmers came together to form Duromina in order to improve their lives.

Duromina skyrocketed, making good money for all of its farmers. With the new income, the farmers decided to invest their money into their community.

The nearby river often swells, making it impossible to get to the nearest clinic from their community. To fix this problem, the farmers invested in a bridge so everyone could have access to the clinic at all times and would not hurt themselves trying to cross the flooded river. After building the bridge, the farmers then invested in their homes and their children’s future.

The transformation Ethiopia went through is evident not only within communities, but also in the copious amounts of lush green farmlands and forests where there were once drought-stricken dustbowls. Individuals who saw Ethiopia 30 years ago are astonished and inspired by the improvements, according to World Vision.

– Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr