Ethiopia experienced a severe food crisis and famine during 1983-85. In the peak famine year about 8 minion people were affected by famine in different parts of the country, and estimates indicate that about 1 minion people perished owing to the famine and related problems. Consequently, a number of causative factors have been proposed by different authors. Various hypotheses have been advanced to explain what went wrong in Ethiopia during the mid 1980s to result in such a devastating famine. The general view is that the food availability decline (FAD) and food entitlement famine (FEF) are the two altinative causes of the mid 1980s famine. To cast light on this baffling debate on the mid 1980s famine causation in Ethiopia, this thesis surveyed the FAD and FEF situations during the mid 1980s in Ethiopia, and the factors that led up to them. Thus, in the light of the hypotheses, this thesis considers the relative importance of the two in contributing to the mid 1980s famine. The two hypotheses are reviewed and evaluated critically. The FAD and FEF themselves result from different long-term and short-term factors by taking into account alternative approaches of assessment. This thesis presents the results of both the secondary and primary data to venture into such factors.
Food production declined by 37 percent at the national level in the peak famine year of 1984.85 compared with 1982. 3. Production declined in many regions. For the Wollo region, the decline was 75 percent. These figures hint the presence of the FAD at both the national and regional levels. The more pronounced regional decline suggests the regional concentration of famine in the mid 1980s in Ethiopia. The FAD can be attributed to different long-term and short-term factors. But the underlying irony is that food production decline during the period was precipitated by recurrent significant rain failures (droughts) that affected the dominant rainfed agricultural production areas in the country. Structural problems and the problems of land and environmental degradation in the famine-prone northern highlands also reflected their influence on the long-term vulnerability to shocks. The civil war in the north seriously affected food production and distribution, particularly in those areas under rebel control. The policy apects were not favourable either. In Ethiopia the agricultural policy in the 1970s and 1980s discriminated against the dominated private peasant farms. This neglect of a dominant agricultural group contributed to the low agricultural production and productivity. The private farmers were also forced to deliver foodgrains oil a quota basis at the Government fixed low prices, whilst buying the few inputs available at relatively high prices. This worsened the private farmers terms of trade and led to a disincentive.
The FEF causation aspect is discussed by focusing on the Government’s foodgrains movement and trade restriction policy, market integration, the foosgrain price trends during the famine years, and the relative price of foosgrain and other disposable assets. The empirical findings indicate that these factors were not favourable, and adversely affected the food grain supply reaching certain areas. These factors also significant contributed to eroding the purchasing power of the market dependent during the famine years and hence adversely affected the people’s food entitlement. A comparison is made between the FAD and the FEF in one of the severely affected Wollo region and its two districts. The finding is that the rate of the FEF was greater than then FAD for the peak famine year of 1984/85. But the gap between the two was not significant, indicating that the importance of both the FAD and FEF explaining Ethiopia’s famine in the mid 1980s. The presence of a structured food deficit within certain regions during the national normal production level rendered existing food production and distribution policies inadequate.
The excess mortality not only casts on the success and effectiveness of public response to the famine of the mid 1980s in Ethiopia, but also increases the uncertainty about their long-term famine mitigation capabilities. The empirical results indicated that both the household coping strategies the public responses failed to prevent the food shortages from developing into famine. The political will, responsibility and prioritisation also showed food security and famine mitigation are considered at the national, region, and household levels. These scenarios basically embrace: (a) how to increase the meagre agricultural surplus at both the national and local level, and (b) how the vulnerable can get a sustainable access to any available food, when trapped in an endemic situation of insecure food supplies caused by a low resource based and the natural (environmental) constraints. Thus, we present the impact of and implication of the FAD and FEF ( and factors behind them) on the long-term tendencies in achieving the securities of food supplies.