By Stephen Devereux
Agriculture and social protection are inextricably interconnected in Ethiopia. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for most Ethiopians, but is also a major source of poverty and food insecurity. In terms of agricultural policy, the government’s belief in agriculture as the backbone and main source of economic growth is reflected in its view that land is the ultimate ‘safety net’ for rural households, who should therefore be prevented from selling it. In terms of social protection, the fact that farmers are the main recipients of food aid has fuelled the government’s fear of ‘dependency’ in rural communities, which explains the predominance of public works projects as their preferred delivery mechanism, as well as recent shifts in safety net thinking towards cash transfers rather than food aid, with predictable transfers expected to lead to ‘graduation’ within 3-5 years.