Finding the Roots of Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

In a region where most households lack adequate resources, researchers set out to pinpoint the exact determinants of food insecurity

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"Ethiopia," write the authors of a new paper in Agricultural and Food Economics, “is one of the poorest countries in the world.” They note that 90 percent of the population live in rural areas, where food insecurity is commonplace.

Many factors could be to blame. Wars frequently ravage farming towns. Public policy is limited to nonexistent. And, as if this weren’t enough, droughts are frequent and severe. Soil degradation is extensive, lowering productivity and making farmers more vulnerable to the droughts.

In response to punishing conditions, some farmers adopt land-management technologies, trying to conserving soils susceptible to high rates of erosion; some, of course, do more of this than others, and success rates vary. Households also differ in terms of systems and technologies employed, soil quality, farm size, family size, access to markets and aggregated per-capita production.

In the presence of so many variables, researchers set out to analyze which factors caused food insecurity. From a sample of 215 households in the Teleyayen sub-watershed region, they collected data using structured survey questionnaires, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews. Data revealed that 79.1 percent of the sample households were experiencing food insecurity, and offered insight into why.

Among food-insecure households, the household heads skewed younger, and female-headed homes were more likely to be food-insecure. Smaller farms also skewed insecure. But these characteristics, along with level of policy support, land distribution, topography, soil fertility and erosion, ultimately were not proved to significantly influence the food-security state of households.

Contrastingly, binary logistic regression revealed the key determinants of food insecurity among sample households to be: “shortage of farmland, poverty, recurrent drought and climate change, shortage of rainfall, and land degradation.”

By: Erica Gordon-Mallin, BMC


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