food security
Ethiopia, Africa’s oldest independent country, with roots stretching back to the 2nd century C.E., is also one of the modern world’s poorest countries. Home to Africa’s second largest population, with over 90 million individuals, Ethiopia suffers from widespread food insecurity.

Suffering from devastating droughts and famines in the 1970s and 1980s and a vicious war with Eritrea in the late 1990s, Ethiopia remains largely impoverished today. Two programs created by the Ethiopian government have been coordinated in an attempt to address this issue. The Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) was created in 2005, and the Household Asset Building Program (HABP) was set up in 2010.

Ethiopia’s troubles with food security are strongly related to its high poverty rates. In 2011, the national poverty rate was at 29.6 percent. This, while a drastic improvement from the country’s 38.9 percent poverty rate in 2004, still shows the high level of financial insecurity that over one-fourth of Ethiopians live with.

Furthermore, in 2013 the World Food Programme reported that, “over 7.1 million people were estimated to live in conditions of crisis and emergency” in Ethiopia. While this figure is partially attributed to the conflict in South Sudan, it shows the necessity of promoting food security in a nation where poverty is so rampant.

Food insecurity in Ethiopia is often related to the over-reliance on rainfall-dependent agriculture. The World Bank reports that agriculture in this nation accounts for roughly 45 percent of its GDP and ensures the livelihoods of 80 to 85 percent of the nation.

Due to this, the World Bank reports that, “Any small variation in rainfall…affects the incomes of 30 to 40 million people and can mean hunger for 10 to 15 million people.” Clearly this over-reliance on factors outside the country’s control demonstrates the need for a safety net for the population.

A safety net is exactly what the PSNP provides. It gives out food or cash to roughly seven or eight million Ethiopians chronically suffering from food shortages. PSNP gives out the food or cash for six months a year as wages for work on small local public works projects. These public works projects are decided by the community and are aimed at strengthening economic development in the area.

Along with this, the program gives out food or money to Ethiopians who can’t work due to age, disability or pregnancy. PSNP, initially made available in the regions of Tigray, Amhara, Oromiya and the Southern Nations and Nationalities People’s Region, soon spread to Afar in 2006 and the Somali Region in 2007.

Due to the limited success of PSNP in providing actual food stability and security to the Ethiopians who have access to it, the government also created HABP in 2010. This program is a companion to PSNP and offers agricultural and entrepreneurial advice. It is designed to educate people in hopes that they can learn to create and maintain their own assets, without remaining perpetually reliant on wages from the PSNP.

Both PSNP and HABP receive 1.1 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP for funding. However, a large amount of their finances come from international donors. Notable donors include the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Department for International Development and the World Food Programme.

So far, working together, these programs have shown success in combating the food insecurity that plagues much of Ethiopia. An evaluation by both the Institute of Development Studies and Dadias Consulting Ethiopia show significant improvements in food security in the regions involved from 2010 to 2012. Furthermore, they showed that, in 2010, PSNP and HABP together created food security 2.5 times more than PSNP alone.

Together, these two innovative and interrelated projects, designed to help promote food security and lower Ethiopia’s reliance on foreign aid, are doing just that. Gradually, Ethiopia’s survival is becoming less contingent on foreign food aid and favorable rainfall.

– Albert Cavallero

Sources: The World Bank 1, World Food Programme, Food Security Portal, IFPRI e-Brary, Institute of Development Studies 1, BBC News – Africa, The World Bank 2, Institute of Development Studies 2, IRIN
Photo: FAO