The paradox facing agricultural policy in Ethiopia was neatly encapsulated
in this statement by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in 2000: "The agricultural
sector remains our Achilles heel and source of vulnerability.
we remain convinced that agricultural based development remains the only
source of hope for Ethiopia." The reality is that most Ethiopians
continue to struggle to make their living from smallholder farming, despite
low returns, high risks, and the evident inability of agriculture to provide
even a reliable subsistence income, let alone a 'take off' to poverty
reduction and sustainable economic growth. Policy-makers and analysts,
both national and expatriate, have vacillated between arguing for increased
investment in smallholder farming, commercialising agriculture, or abandoning
smallholder agriculture by promoting diversification or urbanisation instead.
It is often remarked that, if Ethiopia can solve the profound challenges
facing its agriculture sector, the lessons will be applicable in many
other parts of Africa.
In terms of policy processes, Ethiopia is unusual within Africa in that
national policy-makers have very clear visions for the agriculture sector,
and have implemented several radical interventions in attempting to realise
these visions. Examples include the villagisation programme (in the 1970s),
a nationwide land redistribution programme (from the mid-1970s to early
1990s), and large-scale resettlement of farmers (in the mid-1980s, and
again since 2003). In the pastoralist areas, the government is convinced
that sedentarisation is the only viable long-term option. At the same
time, people in power in Ethiopia have strongly resisted attempts by external
actors to impose their own visions for agriculture on the sector - Prime
Minister Meles, for instance, is implacably opposed to privatisation of
land, fearful that the inevitable result would be a mass urbanisation
of poverty, as farmers lacking alternative assets would be compelled to
sell their land to survive the next major drought and migrate en masse
to Addis Ababa.
So Ethiopia presents unique opportunities for this Consortium to learn
from and to contribute to, both in terms of the seemingly intractable
problems its agriculture sector faces and in terms of the dynamic and
constantly evolving policy debates that government, donors and other interested
parties are engaged in. Our ambition would be to contribute to moving
these debates forward, through a combination of empirical analysis (and
reanalysis) of existing data, and an innovative participatory methodology
(based on identifying and exploring alternative 'policy scenarios') that
allows diverse perspectives to be heard and reflected in the policy-making
Future Agricultures coordinated an Ethiopian 'National Consultation' in June 2007. See here for for information, presentations and images.
Future Agricultures Ethiopia publications...