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

Poverty in Ethiopia
Like many of the African nations that have gained their independence from a European power, poverty in Ethiopia has been exacerbated by regional conflict that caused widespread poverty to infect communities across the country.

Ethiopia was one of the first countries to claim their independence in 1896 after the Italians were rejected from the nation. Unfortunately, geopolitical conflict continued to plague the nation as the neighboring Eritrea staked a claim to its own independence in the late 20th century. The tension culminated in a border war at the turn of the century.

The social malady that most affects Ethiopia is malnourishment. In 1984, famine struck the nation which required a huge foreign aid response from the Western world. Ever since then, the Ethiopian government has had trouble feeding its large population of over 86 million. The nation remains reliant on Western nutritional support as their developing economy starts to emerge from its fledgling status.

Ethiopia’s GDP per capita began an early improvement in the 1990s, as the country began its recovery from conflict and famine in the 1980s. The Eritrean dispute forced GDP per capita down once again until the mid-2000s. Since then, Ethiopia’s growth has exploded to $541.87 up about 400 percent. The progress in the economy has helped reduce poverty rates significantly.

According to data from the World Bank, poverty in Ethiopia fell from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011. Fertility rate, which is highest in the poorest countries, fell from 7.0 in 1995 to 4.6 in 2011. Undernourishment, one of the biggest issues in Ethiopia, dropped from 75 percent in 1990-1992 to 35 percent in 2012-2014. These are just a few of the signs of an improving society.

Even so, there is still a long way to go. Based on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, Ethiopia ranks 174th out of 187 countries. In order to improve that statistic and further fight hunger, the East African country needs to improve its use of its valuable arable land. The Rural Poverty Portal estimates that “only about 25 percent of its arable land is cultivated.”

Expanding Ethiopia’s agricultural base is, perhaps, the most efficient way of reaching the population spread out over the country. In 2014, it was estimated that over 78 million people live in rural areas, while the remaining are concentrated in urban hubs. Providing better technology for food production and better infrastructure for distribution could be an ideal way to attack malnutrition.

The International Development Research Center conducted a case study called “Ethiopia: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in Ethiopia.” The author, Mike Crawley, investigated deeper into the “simple problem” that plagues the population, “not enough food.” His research found that individual farmers are limited in their production abilities by “too small landholdings, poor agricultural practices, and lack of potable water.”

The solution? Change the way these individual farmers operate so that they can help themselves and their community. The organization’s team sought to convince “farmers to think about whether they could begin to make some positive changes on their own rather than wait for assistance from outside.” The mentality that helping the community is not outside the purview of helping oneself is one that will be essential in the fight against poverty in Ethiopia.

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

EthiopiaEthiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, with 94.1 million people. Poverty has long been an issue for Ethiopia, and while many remain under Ethiopia’s poverty line of earning $1.25 a day or less, the nation has made great strides in the past 10 years to reduce poverty and improve health.

Ethiopia’s economy has been thriving in the recent past. Between 2004 and 2011, the economy grew at a rate of 10.6 percent per year. Ethiopia increased exports in order to help it account for this economic growth, and that has led to more prosperity throughout the country.

This decrease in poverty can also be attributed to strides in agriculture. In 2005, Ethiopia introduced new agricultural practices which resulted in increased production. As The World Bank states, this agricultural growth has allowed for a 4 percent reduction in poverty each year. The use of fertilizer, along with high food prices and good weather, has given poor farmers with access to markets a higher income.

Ethiopia also instituted the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). The World Food Program writes that there are 7.4 million people participating in the PSNP. The program works to end chronic food insecurity through transfers of food or cash (or a combination of both).The PNSP asks that those who are able-bodied in the households who receive their help participate in activities which will help them have more resilient livelihoods and less chance of food insecurity. These activities include building community infrastructure, such as building schools, roads, and hospitals, and rehabilitating land and water resources. The PSNP has helped 1.5 million people who were in poverty to be lifted out of poverty.

Economic growth, an increase in agricultural production, and programs such as the Productive Safety Net Program have paid off. From 2000 to 2011, poverty in Ethiopia declined from 44 percent to 30 percent. As the World Bank says, this “translates to a 33 percent reduction in the share of people living in poverty”.

This decrease in poverty has helped the health of Ethiopians as well. From 2010 to 2015, the level of child mortality has been lowered by two-thirds. The average lifespan has also increased by about an year annually from 2005 to 2011, making an Ethiopian’s lifespan 63. Malnutrition rates have come down as well. 75 percent of the population was malnourished in Ethiopia in 1990, while today it has fallen to 35 percent.

Since 2004, four million Ethiopians have been able to rise above the poverty line. However, there is still work to be done. 25 million people in Ethiopia are still suffering from poverty. The World Bank suggests that in order for the trend of a decrease in poverty to remain, ongoing efforts to promote self-employment have to continue. Firms have to enter Ethiopia, and urban migration has to be encouraged.

Ashrita Rau

Sources: The WFP, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, The Sudan Tribune, Voice of America, BBC

Every day, 1,440 children under the age of five die from water-based diseases. In Ethiopia alone, 58 percent do not have access to clean water. These numbers are gradually increasing as the Horn of Africa faces water shortages and poor sanitation. Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler, both architects, recently devised a solution to alleviate Ethiopia’s sanitation and water crisis.

Six hours each day is the estimated duration of a woman and child’s journey to collect water. This process endangers children by exposing them to harsh climates and removing them from school. Every day a child goes to collect water is a day taken away from school, guaranteeing that the poverty cycle repeats.

Vittori and Vogler’s solution, named WarkaWater, is a bamboo structure that harvests potable water. This revolutionary device collects condensation droplets, which flow through micro-tunnels that lead to a basin at the bottom of the WarkaWater tower. An estimated 25 gallons of potable water can be gathered by the towers each day.

“WarkaWater is designed to provide clean water as well as ensure long-term environmental, financial and social sustainability,” Vittori said.

WarkaWater towers are not made using industrial materials. Vittori believes that locally produced materials will contribute to a better success rate of the WarkaWater towers. These 30-foot tall towers are constructed from local bamboo, rope, wire and fabric. “Once locals have the necessary know how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the WarkaWater towers.”

“Rather than giving money, we want to inspire people to create their own visions and make them reality,” Vogler said. “We believe the fastest way to do this is to build and test an idea fairly quickly and at a low cost.”

WarkaWater towers will eliminate the time Ethiopians spend on retrieving water. This time can be used to improve Ethiopia’s prosperity, ultimately eliminating poverty in this area.

– Natarsha Towner

Sources: Inhabitat, Smithsonian Magazine, UNICEF
Photo: Techno Crazed

Poverty in Ethiopia Poor Facts
Poverty in Ethiopia remains a major concern, but the country has also seen great progress. Ethiopia has the second largest population of all African countries and has only once, for a brief period of time, been colonized. One of Africa’s oldest independent countries, Ethiopia has a rich culture and long history. However, it is currently considered one of Africa’s poorest countries despite a rapid population boom in recent decades. Read how Ethiopia reduced poverty.


10 Key Facts on Poverty in Ethiopia


  1. Ethiopia is located in East Africa and is historically a rich country.
  2. Agriculture accounts for more than half of its economy, and employs 80% of its population.
  3. With an estimated population of 86 million people, 78% of Ethiopians struggle with an income below US$2 a day.
  4. The life expectancy of the average Ethiopian was 59 years old in 2011.
  5. The State Health expenditure is approximately $3 per person in Ethiopia.
  6. For every 1,000 children five years old and younger, there are 166 deaths.
  7. Preventable diseases, including Malaria, account for at least 60% of health problems in the country.
  8. Approximately 34% of the rural population in Ethiopia has access to an improved water source.
  9. Ethiopia’s main exports are coffee, hides, oilseeds, beeswax and sugarcane. Ethiopia’s main source of income comes from its agricultural economy that is often affected by drought.
  10. Almost two-thirds of its people are illiterate.

– Kira Maixner


Source: The World Bank , Merlin USA , BBC
Photo: World Vision

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