Engida Mersha And Vijendra K Boken

In Ethiopia, 85% of the population is engaged in agriculture (CSA, 1999). Agriculture supplies a significant proportion of the raw materials for the agro-industries, and accounts for 52% of the gross product and 90% of the export earnings. A wide range of climatic, ecological, and socioeconomic diversities influence Ethiopian agriculture. The dependency of most of the population on rain-fed agriculture has made the country's economy extremely vulnerable to the effects of weather and climate, which are highly variable both temporally and spatially. If rains fail in one season, the farmer is unable to satisfy his needs and pay his obligations (tax, credit, etc). Farmers remain in the bottom line of poverty and lead a risky life. Moreover, due to climatic change and other human-induced factors, areas affected by drought and desertification are expanding in Ethiopia (NMSA, 1996a; WMO, 1986).

There are three major food supply systems in Ethiopia (IGADD, 1988; Teshome, 1996): crop, livestock, and market-dependent systems. Crop-based systems are practiced principally over the highlands of the country and comprise a very diverse range of production, depending on altitude, rainfall, soil type, and topography. Any surplus above the farmer's need is largely dependent on, for example, good weather conditions, absence of pests and diseases, availability of adequate human and animal power. Failure of rains during any cropping season means shortage of food supply that affects farmers and others. The livestock system constitutes about 10% of the total population, which is largely based in arid and semiarid zones of the country. This system is well adapted to highly variable climatic conditions and mainly depends on animals for milk and meat and is usually supplemented by grains during nondrought years. Approximately 15% of the Ethiopian population is market dependent and is affected by the preceding two food supply systems. Its food supply (grain, pulses, and oil seeds) has been facing serious shortages due to recurring droughts. People's purchasing power determines access to food in the market-dependent food supply system.

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