From famine to fulfilment
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CTA. 1997. From famine to fulfilment. Spore 72. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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The famines which devastated Ethiopia a decade ago are hopefully a thing of the past, as the country has turned itself around from importer to exporter of grain. A combination of the effects of market liberalization and a period of good rains has...
The famines which devastated Ethiopia a decade ago are hopefully a thing of the past, as the country has turned itself around from importer to exporter of grain. A combination of the effects of market liberalization and a period of good rains has transformed the situation to such an extent that Ethiopia has exported increasing amounts of cereals to Kenya and other neighbouring countries, according to the NGO Sasakawa-Global 2000 which works in Ethiopia. FAO estimates that the cereal harvest in 1996 exceeded 11 million tonnes, up 20% from the year before and double the production at the beginning of the decade. The largest increase came in maize production, which grew by 30% in one year. However, this upturn in the grain supply has had its downside by causing internal prices for grain to slump. Last year the European Union purchased about 5% (100,000 tonnes) of the main season grain crop for food aid and this year the expected purchase will be in the region of 7% (144,000 tonnes). This will be distributed within Ethiopia itself to people too poor to buy it on the open market. The linchpin of the revolution has been the greater availability of fertilizer after the ending of state monopolies, despite the fact that this has by-passed many poorer farmers who cannot afford the fertilizer. However, a policy to target these farmers by providing them with a subsidy for fertilizer, coupled with improved roads which will cut the cost of distribution, should off-set the imbalance between the remoter poor farmers and those closer to urban centres. The cereal surplus has been mainly in maize, and farmers are being encouraged to grow more wheat and tef, the traditional grain crop of the country. Many of the heavy clay soils in the highlands of Ethiopia are under-utilized because they drain slowly and are hard to work. A simple metal implement known as a 'broadbed maker' allows farmers to create raised beds that have good drainage and where wheat will thrive. A workshop that produced a dozen metal implements three years ago sold 12,000 last year. Researchers have been working on a different problem with tef, Ethiopia's most popular cereal. Under normal conditions yields tend to be low because, if fertilized, particularly with nitrogen, the weight of grain causes the crop to fall over before it is harvested. A plant hormone (Moddus) is being used in trials that will both shorten and stiffen the stalks of tef. Noting the improvements already achieved in maize, and those likely to be achieved with wheat and tef, Marco Quiñones, Sasakawa-Global 2000's Country Director in Ethiopia, considers that within the next three to five years, 'Ethiopia could be the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve a broad-based Green Revolution.' Patrick Orr Information Consultant Raitt Orr & Associates Ltd 34 Buckingham Palace Road London SW1W ORE UK
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