Ethiopia: Food security and the Meles legacy
|Publication Date||22 August 2012|
|Cite as||IRIN, Ethiopia: Food security and the Meles legacy, 22 August 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/50b8de9f2.html [accessed 21 January 2018]|
"There is little doubt that the Productive Safety Net Programme was a pioneering effort to redress the food insecurity that long characterized many areas of Ethiopia," said Daniel Maxwell, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in the US. "It was one critical component of the effort to reduce chronic poverty in Ethiopia."
Christopher Barrett, who teaches applied economics at Cornell University, said: "When the Horn of Africa experienced a horrendous drought last year, it wasn't Ethiopia that experienced famine. The productive safety nets programme launched by his [Meles'] government has generally done a good job of improving standards of living for the least well off Ethiopians and is being studied and emulated by other countries in the region. While there remains much to be done, the progress in Ethiopia during his rule is very palpable and will hopefully continue through a peaceful transition to new leadership."
However, in 2008 food prices soared beyond the point of affordability for those enrolled in the PSNP and the numbers on food aid ballooned.
"One of the flaws of the PSNP was that the cash being offered to the people was too small to help them graduate from the programme," said Mousseau. "The other was it was not supported by other investments needed to help uplift the people from poverty such as infrastructure and access to markets to make any significant impact on their livelihoods."
The Ethiopian Commodity Exchange
This opened in 2008 with the aim of helping small farmers gain access to market information and bring buyers and sellers under one roof.
"Mr Meles believed that we had to be transparent and not cater to any narrow interest of big commercial farms," said Gabre-Madhin. The exchange, which trades in four commodities - maize, coffee, sesame and beans - provides real-time market information to farmers via a mobile phone text message service and a free phone-in facility.
According to Gabre-Madhin, farmers' share of the final export price of coffee rose from 35-38 percent to 65-70 percent.
Land "grabs" and forced relocations
The government dismissed critics of its large scale land-leasing policy – part of a five year Growth and Transformation Plan - insisting the millions of dollars of foreign investment involved would create jobs, improve domestic agricultural expertise and reduce both poverty and the country's chronic food insecurity.
According to a paper by the Oakland Institute, the policy led to the forcible relocation of indigenous communities to villages in the Gambella and Benishangul regions, where they were told they would be taught new techniques to produce food. Their land is being leased out by the government to multinationals in Saudi Arabia and India. The Institute's research showed that more than three million hectares of land had been leased out to investors.
"In recent years, the Meles regime has shifted its focus to big commercial enterprises at the cost of the local indigenous communities and even the pastoral population in the Afar region," said Mousseau.
This prompted an Ethiopian economist, Aklog Birara, living in the US to lodge a protest with the Indian government in May this year.
"Today, Ethiopia is an 'empty womb'. Millions of hectares of its most fertile farmlands and the waters and rivers that give them sustenance are given away in a scheme that we can only characterize as 'farmland colonization by invitation.' Indian companies are taking over for 25 to 99 years duration at the invitation of Mr Meles' government," he wrote.
Dawit Alemu, an agricultural economist with the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research believes commercial farming has contributed to the country's booming growth. "Moreover, huge irrigation projects linked with hydropower are under implementation, which are expected to ensure food security in the very near future." But such projects have also come under fire from activists who claim they threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people.
"Now, the question is whether we will have a person who will ensure the implementation and finalization of all these efforts that have started," added Dawit.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]