Ethiopia is a predominantly subsistence economy. Famine is inevitable in a subsistence economy during bad years due to inadequate surplus. For instance, migratory herders do not farm and consequently depend entirely on their herds for food. They store their savings in the form of cattle. Thus, when a drought hits pastoralist areas, animals die first and then the herders are devoured by starvation and famine. During the last 24 years, droughts have occurred in Ethiopia a number of times. There has been no mention of famine though, thanks to the continued supply of American food aid.
Ethiopia does not have to rely on American food aid for its survival. It is endowed with rich agricultural potential. By exploiting its enormous agricultural resources, Ethiopia can feed its rapidly growing population. Agriculture has been Ethiopia’s mainstay for centuries. If developed, it can be the country’s reliable source of economic prosperity and national security. However, Ethiopia is still struggling with its selfish and restrictive feudal tradition, which gives the ruling elite and the state a monopoly over landownership. Peasants still live like serfs working the land they don’t own. There is no free movement of labor and capital because of ethnic barriers. As a result of all these, the rural sector is undeveloped and undercapitalized.
Ethiopia’s regimes are more alike than different. They refused to privatize land to the peasantry and the rest of the population. Consequently, it became difficult to capitalize the agricultural sector and generate sufficient surplus to provide a buffer against starvation and famine in critical times. In Ethiopia, no regime can survive without eliminating the threat of famine. The United States cannot stay in the Horn of Africa indefinitely and continue to foot the bills for Ethiopia’s food deficit. America’s so-called strategic alliance with the TPLF/EPRDF regime can end.
Ethiopia will continue to live under the threat of famine unless the rural sector is capitalized and unless the TPLF/EPRDF regime is avoided.
By: Syit DA