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Morning Session, 25 November 2003

The Nexus of natural resources degradation, food security and poverty in the Ethiopian Highlands: Towards sustainable agriculture and rural development, by Alemneh Dejene, FAO

Chairperson: Dr Belay Demissie
Presenter: Dr Alemneh Dejene,
Environment and Natural Resources Service, FAO


These factors interact and lead to a vicious cycle often referred to as "the poverty, food insecurity and natural resources degradation trap". Emphasis was placed on the importance of coming up with an action plan and project ideas that would arrest the deterioration of the natural resources base and the vicious cycle through a multi-sectoral and integrated approach at a community level.

Land and soils: are very basic in securing food and livelihood and providing ecosystem services. According to the Ethiopian Highland Reclamation Study (EHRS) about 66 percent of the soils in Ethiopia are suitable for cultivation (112 m ha) while only 12 percent are utilized. However, soil erosion continues unabated with 1-2 million tons of soil lost each year. This has resulted in loss of top soils and land degradation with a third of the soils having less than 5 cm depth. Nearly 50 percent of the soils have been significantly eroded and 25 percent seriously eroded.

Water resources: Ethiopia is the water tower of the region with 110 billion cubic metres of surface water with an irrigation potential of 3-5 million hectares excluding rainwater harvesting and underground water. Currently, only 150 000 hectares are under irrigation. An urgent focus is required on small-scale schemes and rainwater harvesting.

Forest resources: Deforestation rate stands at 100 000 to 200 000 ha annually. Fuelwood burning contributes as one of the main factors for deforestation with biomass fuels supplying nearly 95 percent of the country's energy market. Fuelwood supply is getting scarce in Ethiopia as the supply source dwindles, being substituted by other forms of biomass fuels like dung, branches/leaves and agricultural residues. In 1986-87, the demand for fuelwood exceeded supply by twofold with 42 million cubic metres while supply remained at 24 million cubic metres. By 2000, demand exceeded by four times reaching 58 million cubic metres while supply dwindled to 11 million cubic metres. The alternative use of dung and crop residues as fuel instead of organic fertilizers affects crop productivity significantly when most farmers cannot afford to buy inorganic fertilizer.

Livestock: Ethiopia has got the largest livestock population in Africa with over 30 million cattle and 42 million sheep and goats. This huge potential is a source of traction, food/income and hedge. Livestock is an integral part of the farming system and is highly linked to land/soil and water resource degradation. This requires a better integration with crops and land-use planning. Improving the current livestock management system should be one of the key lessons and principles as a measure to restoring ecological balance, which is beyond technical treatment.

Efforts will have to focus on arresting current trends of land degradation and in bringing about sustainable development. It is important that planners and decision makers alike avoid a large-scale, top-down and labour-intensive approach and rather adopt localized, small-scale, participatory/farmer-owned and technological-oriented methods. Approaches focusing on tangible benefits are more likely to be successful. It is equally important to understand that the problem attached to sustainable land use/management is so complex that there is no one single solution. An integrated approach is vital which is community based. It is expected that the Workshop findings will come up with specific on-the-ground interventions to address these interrelated and reinforcing problems to overcome the vicious cycle presented in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Overcoming the vicious cycle and attaining a virtuous cycle of "Restoring ecological balance, increasing productivity and reducing vulnerability and attaining SARD"

The diagram above shows that an integrated natural resources management, where communities will be empowered to manage and utilize their resources, provides a broader framework where various stakeholders will interact to restore the ecological balance and generate positive synergies that will enhance productivity in various sectors and reduce vulnerability and overcome the vicious cycle of poverty-food insecurity and natural resources degradation among poor farmers and rural households.

Increasing agricultural productivity (improving well-being) implies the following:

Restoring ecological balance (managing variability) results in:

Reduced vulnerability (stability in yields/income) would contribute to:

An integrated natural resources management approach is proposed to overcome the vicious cycle and lead towards SARD in the Ethiopian highlands. Such an approach will be flexible and driven by the communities' needs and agro-ecological conditions and could include any one of the above components presented in Figure 1 above to attain a virtuous cycle. Some of the strategies and interventions that could bring an upward spiral and lead to the virtuous cycle include activities in soil and land management; water control and management; livestock improvement; agroforestry and alternative rural energy development; watershed management and expanding the livelihood base using local resources. It is also vital to bring close partnerships between extension-research-farmers and community organizations in the development and dissemination of innovations to increase productivity and protect natural resources. Integrating environmental sustainability issues into other sectors and sub-sectors and incorporating indigenous knowledge in the design of technical messages and extension programmes is also important in attaining long-term benefits, which has been often ignored in the past.

GEF Operational programme on sustainable land management (OP #15), by Alemneh Dejene, FAO

Presenter: Dr Alemneh Dejene, FAO on behalf of Mr Wolter Lusige, Program Manager, GEF Secretariat

Dr Alemneh expressed his regrets that Mr Wolter Lusige was not able to attend the Workshop because of other urgent duties. He also thanked Mr Lusige for sending useful information for the preparation of this presentation.

The overall objective of OP#15 is to mainstream land management issues including policies on sustainable development and adopting integrated and sustainable land management practices, including water use. The specific objectives of OP#15 are to:

In addition, it tries to promote synergies across environment and other sectors and scale-up viable, innovative and cost effective land management practices while facilitating the replication and sustainability of projects. The expected output of OP#15 includes:

In preparing the programme/project cycle, the following documents are required:

In line with the above, a major objective of this Workshop is to identify specific project ideas that would be further developed and submitted for funding for GEF and other donors through co-financing arrangements.

Policy implications for sustainable agricultural development in the Ethiopian Highlands, by Ben Sonneveld, Centre for World Food Studies, the Netherlands

Presenter: B.G.J.S. Sonneveld, Centre for World Food Studies (SOW-VU), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Dr Sonneveld's presentation highlighted the policy implications for a sustainable agricultural development in Ethiopia that secures the food supply for future generations and protects the environment through control of soil degradation. The presentation underscored the serious threat posed by widespread soil degradation (mainly due to water erosion) and is undermining agricultural production, which is the mainstay of the economy, employing 86 percent of the labour force. The Highlands carry close to 90 percent of the total 64 million people and the population will double by 2030 to approximately 120 million due to the high demographic growth rate of 2.7 percent annually. This puts the Ethiopian Highlands under considerable pressure, especially as employment in non-agricultural sectors is restricted and further expansion of the cultivated area is limited, mainly due to soil and climate constraints. Unless urgent actions are taken to control soil degradation, Ethiopia might face a perilous situation in the coming decade when degraded soils become incapable of producing enough food.

The current poverty level of rural households and economic conditions do not allow for a large-scale application of purchased inputs that could compensate the loss of nutrients and ameliorate the physical damage caused by soil erosion. Consequently, agriculture is extremely dependent on natural conditions and cannot support further deterioration of soil productivity. Thus the presentation focused in evaluating both constraints and opportunities for soil conservation policies in Ethiopia and their impact on the national food security. It is largely based on the Sonneveld and Keyzer study entitled "Land under pressure: soil conservation concerns and opportunities for Ethiopia", in which they used a spatial optimization model (Figure 1) to calculate food production and income under alternative scenarios of soil conservation, migration and development of non-agricultural sectors at the national level[1].

Figure 2. Cyclical process of soil degradation, agricultural production, demographic development and spatial optimization of land use

The spatial optimization model

The spatial optimization model (Figure 2) shows the cycle and steps in the calculation of land cultivation, soil erosion, soil management and soil productivity.

The spatial optimization model allocates for year one the population according to the agricultural potential of the land, migration possibilities, soil erosion control and level of technology. For the next year, it recalculates the potentialities of the land given the impact of soil degradation in the previous year and reallocates the population again. Thus the model gives for each year the spatially optimal locations to maximize agricultural revenues at a national level, based on the model outcomes of the previous year. Using this model the impact of having soil conservation measures on various development scenarios such as access to improved technology, migration, urbanization were reported for the years 2010 and 2030 as indicated in the following pages (Tables 1 and 2).

The optimization model uses a location specific production function that relates agricultural output to labour productivity and potential yield of the area. Estimation is based on cross-sectional regression using 756 GIS polygons that result from an overlay of the 460 Cropping Production Systems Zones developed by FAO and administrative areas. Observed crop and livestock yields were obtained from international (FAO) and national data (Central Statistics Office). Data on rural labour availability are derived from a population density map after correction for the urban population living in the geographical unit. The R2 of the regression shows that the function explains 60 percent of the yield variability.

The impact of soil loss on agricultural production is expressed via a reduction of potential yield and a reduction of the area under cultivation, in case the potential drops below a threshold value. The relationship was tested by comparing simulated land productivity values with historical patterns and shows that the results are interpretable, providing more accurate results than postulating straightforward reductions in yield or land area for each geographic entity. The agricultural cost function used in the model refers to purchased agricultural inputs, and was calibrated as a quadratic function based on national and international statistics of agricultural inputs per hectare.

After a brief introduction of the spatial model, the presentation focused on the result of the model on various development scenarios presented in Table 1. The first, "Stationary" scenario evaluates the situation under the prevailing land occupation and technology levels and with uncontrolled progressive soil degradation and the average UN population growth rate. The second, "Control" scenario assumes an effective erosion control that relies on soil conservation measures preserving the land's productivity. The third option, "Migration" scenario reflects different degrees of accessibility, whereby "Free" involves migration to all regions of Ethiopia including the large area sparsely populated and disease affected South-Western region; "Restricted": migration within the current ethnically based administrative regions only, and "Stay put": no migration. The fourth alternative, "Technology", assumes gradual adoption of new less labour intensive technologies in agriculture and accelerated growth of non-agricultural sectors (AccUrb) that absorb labour from rural areas.

Table 1: Scenarios for 2000, 2010 and 2030


Erosion control


Accelerated urbanization






















The impact of the four scenarios on net food production and food per capita as well as value added per capita for the periods of 2010 and 2030 is presented in Table 2. The outcome of the "Stationary" scenario is catastrophic. Water erosion reduces the potential production of the land while total national agricultural revenues stagnate over this period. Consequently, the value added per capita per annum of the rural population drops below the extreme poverty line of US$162 by 2030 while food availability per capita plunges to 685 k cal by 2030, well below the safety thresholds.

The "Control" scenario conserves soil productivity and prevents a decline in production. Agricultural revenues at a national level increase modestly by 2030 (US$18.7 billion), yet, value added of the labour force declines (US$260), although less sharply compared with the "Stationary" scenario. Likewise, the per capita food supply relatively improves. However, both food supply and value added remain significantly below the threshold levels for poverty and Kcal intake.

In the "Migration" scenarios productivity loss due to soil degradation under the "Restricted" and "Free" migration alternatives are partly compensated by the occupation of more productive and less affected areas. However, losses in per capita revenues are still considerable and food supply remains far from the required levels. The value added per agricultural worker decreases equally sharply. When soil conservation measures are taken, the migration scenarios give much better results. Productivity under the "Free" scenario is higher than the "Restricted" option for 2010 but the differences at the aggregated national level become smaller in 2030. At a more spatially detailed level we observe that in the "Free" scenario people exchange degraded areas for less affected ones. Population movements in the "Restricted" alternative are limited and people largely continue the cultivation of already substantially degraded areas. This indicates that administrative boundaries strongly impede movement to areas not affected by degradation. Furthermore, the soil conservation programme saves on migration costs, since more people continue to live on their original sites.

Table 2: Summary of scenario results


Soil Conservation

Net Food production
(in billion USD; PPP)

Food per caput
(in Kcal)

Value added per caput: rural population
(in USD; PPP)

Value added per caput: total population
(in USD; PPP)

2 010

2 030

2 010

2 030

2 010

2 030

2 010

2 030






1 083





1 267






1 085




1 330






1 242





1 290




1 801

1 213




1 360





1 317





1 298





1 878

1 264




1 368






3 978

2 681



1 004

1 497





6 228

5 852

1 060

1 038

1 277

1 833




3 968

2 605



1 021

1 661




6 212

5 682

1 058

1 021

1 366

1 992

The "Technology" scenario assumes a better quality produce and higher yields potentials, allowing agricultural revenues to increase above the poverty line and even compensate for loss of productivity due to the soil degradation. However, in the long run the effect of soil degradation on productivity results in a decreasing value added per capita and food supply reaches again critical threshold levels. Migration also diminishes compared with the medium input alternatives but are higher in the absence of erosion control. Finally, the impact of the accelerated urbanization results in significantly higher wages at the national level, while food supply differences are negligible compared to the UN population development scenario.

These findings confirm that the Ethiopian agricultural sector has to increase its production significantly to meet the future food requirements of its fast growing population. An expanding rural labour force, even in combination with the implementation of a soil conservation programme will not sustain a satisfactory level of food supply. Rural-to-rural migration increases the national agricultural revenues, whereby transregional migration generates slightly better results compared with a movement within areas of ethnic origin. Nevertheless, even free migration within the country does not result in adequate per capita revenues. Obviously, a shift to higher technological levels gives better prospects also on a per capita basis, and when combined with soil conservation activities this significantly moderates the need for migration. In addition, the findings clearly indicate that value added per worker decreases over time, even for the high input alternative, indicating the limited possibilities for future employment in the agricultural sector. The accelerated growth of nonagricultural sectors would alleviate the poverty in the countryside and contribute to higher revenues for the total population.

The findings have also some important policy implications concerning soil conservation, agricultural research, securing land tenure and planning capacity. There is a high potential of the Ethiopian agriculture growth when improved seeds, adequate fertilizers and advanced cattle husbandry are introduced. However, a successful agricultural development requires a solid base in adequate soil conservation measures that guarantees that natural endowments are sufficiently maintained and fully developed. Furthermore, agricultural research should account for spatial diversity and local homogeneity of the Ethiopian soils, which requires that site specific recommendations are formulated, rather than general guidelines. These recommendations can be mainstreamed in policies of the Environmental Protection Authority and the formulation of National Action Plans for Food Security and Regional Conservation Plans that are currently being formulated.

Appropriate tenurial arrangements should clearly define ownership and tenancy rights of the land. These rights should be enforceable and legally transferable. Tenure security is not only a precondition for a successful implementation of soil conservation policies, it also encourages development of land markets among the now ethnically-restricted land tenure systems, the benefits of which became clear in the migration scenario where underutilized, suitable areas were exchanged for marginal sites. Moreover, security of land ownership might stimulate rural-urban migration as farmers can retain or lease their property during their non-attendance.

Many of the constraints to sustainable development in Ethiopia can be alleviated through the increased use of information systems or Decision Support Tools (DSTs) that assist policy makers in the allocation of their scarce resources and underpin their understanding how their work affects other sectors. These DSTs should be used to manage the increasing complexity and multiplicity of data so as to encompass the relevant social, institutional, economic, and environmental dimensions. Further specificities of these DSTs to address relevant environmental problems are: (a) a spatial component to indicate areas where interventions are urgently needed and those locations that are promising for further development; (b) a temporal dimension that reflects climatic variability; (c) adequate representation of the status of biodiversity in the ecological environment, and (d) give due consideration to the needs and development options for the most vulnerable groups in the Ethiopian society.

The design of these tools should take place in a Planning Unit that consists of a well-trained, interdisciplinary staff that closely cooperate and give full credits to the different academic disciplines involved. This Planning Unit should be equipped with the necessary knowledge, techniques and analytical skills to combine different information flows and translate these in concrete evaluations of policy alternatives that are proposed by the stakeholders. The development of such a Planning Unit is also in line with the current harmonization effort of the Ethiopian Government that aims at a reduction of transaction costs through a more effective delivery of development aid by coordinating the now disperse national and international development activities.

Alternative forms of rural energy/bioenergy in the context of sustainable agriculture and rural development, by Gustavo Best, FAO

Presenter: Dr Gustavo Best, Senior Energy Coordinator, Environment and Natural Resources Service, FAO.

FAO promotes rural energization with the view to enhancing the use of energy for productive activities, improve rural livelihood, promote renewable energy forms and introduce sustainable energy systems. Its rural energization scheme operates towards eliminating poverty and drudgery, ensuring consolidation of rural development as well as to achieving social equity.

The objective of this presentation is to highlight the agriculture-energy nexus, underline the double role of agriculture and review the potential of bioenergy in relation to sustainable development.

It is vital that the world energy consumption pattern changes to alternative and renewable energy forms with the world oil reserve reaching its peak by 20052010 and dwindling rapidly thereafter while the world demand for energy continues to grow. The graph below depicts the production of petroleum under various scenarios, showing that the peak of production will happen in the maximum of 20 years. Significant energy demand increase is expected to come from developing countries where energy consumption per capita is relatively low at its current level and is likely to increase as income improves in these countries. It is vital that the demand structure from these developing countries does not depend on exhaustible energy resources.

Figure 3. Global oil production for resources of 1800, 2200, and 2600 billion barrels Billions of Barrels per Year

Source: World Resources Institute

Agriculture has a number of key functions in the process of the socio-economic development of a country: a food security function; a positive or negative environmental function; an economic (production) function; a social (development) function, and an energy function.

On the one hand, key functions of renewable energy include energy security, environmental benefits, and economic and social functions. In the context of energization, the functions of agriculture and renewable energy converge into a similar goal. Energy and agriculture would play a complementary role towards each other under a sufficient bioenergy supply and sustainable agriculture conditions while they enter a competitive stage defeating each other under degraded environmental conditions. It is, therefore, vital that both agriculture and energy systems meet certain minimum threshold criteria for both of them to contribute to sustainable development.

On the other hand, the goal of environment functions is to achieve cleaner development, reduce/eliminate harmful emissions, avoid thermal pollution in rivers, avoid pollution of underground water, tap agriculture-alternative energy synergies.

The economic (production) functions or goals should consolidate rural economic feasibility, create new jobs, reinforce farmer's autonomy and promote new markets.

Social function-goals would fortify the rural sector, lift quality of life, improve community health, eliminate heavy duties, reaffirm cultures and traditions and promote equity.

Agriculture is one of the main energy users and there are a number of examples of small energy requirements for agricultural end uses such as drying, small scale processing, maize pulping, threshing, milling, preserving (cool rooms), sorting and packaging, plowing, watering/irrigation, etc. Priority of use of renewable energy in agriculture should go for productive uses. Solar photovoltaic systems could be applied for:

Wind energy could be used for irrigation and pumping, generating electricity for agro-industries, milling and in opening new agricultural development frontiers in arid and semi-arid areas.

Geothermal energy could be used for electricity generation, agroprocessing, drying, greenhouse heating, cooling systems, mechanical and electrical drives, etc.

Hydropower is a source of electricity generation of various sizes while creating synergy with agricultural development, giving a perfect example of joint management of agriculture and renewable energy.

Biomass energy forms another perfect integration with agriculture such that it could be used in generating electricity, producing solid, liquid and gaseous fuels and generating thermal energy for either drying or mechanical drive. Bioenergy is of particular importance to FAO and is managed in two programmes: wood energy (fuelwood plantations and forest resources) and agro-energy (including agricultural residues, livestock and municipal residues, crop residues and energy crops like sugar cane and sugar beats, sorghum, oilseeds and grasses).

Bioenergy has been in wider use in both developing and developed countries with greater contribution to developing countries (see Figure 4 below).

Figure 4. Contribution of bioenergy as percentage of total energy consumption (Share of biofuels as percentage of total energy consumption)

Renewable energy, particularly bioenergy could greatly contribute to enhancing sustainable development from both perspectives of environmental sustainability and productivity improvement. It is, therefore, vital that bioenergy applications are upgraded from traditional uses only to cleaner, efficient, transportable and more versatile uses such as: combustion, gasification, pyrolisis, carbonization, fermentation to alcohol, fermentation to methane (biogas) and oil extraction.

Agriculture plays a double role towards energy: it is a major energy user while it also a major source of renewable - specifically bioenergy. Energy and agriculture are fully connected through the bioenergy linkage and could generate synergy so that the farmer can produce them, agro-industry can contribute to the energy balance such as bagasse in sugar factories, while at the same time bioenergy lacks the diversification of agriculture.

Alternative energy sources support rural development by way of providing new opportunities to rural population, creating new infrastructure, backing diversification and attracting new investments in rural locations. Alternative and renewable energy sources have also an impact on sustainability of development initiatives as they affect the social, economic and environmental point of view.

Regarding their impacts on social development, they contribute to a better quality of life, improve health conditions, create confidence, help consolidate equity and integrate farmers to modern activities.

From the economic perspective, alternative energies create new jobs, give new impetus to agriculture and agro-industries development, create synergy between agriculture and energy, enhance productivity and create interactions leading to ample and long lasting economic benefits.

Environmentally, alternative energies would contribute to attain clean development, enable better management of resources, help substitute of CO2 emissions, help reduce pollution from the transport sector and would contribute to reducing indoor pollution. A very important condition for such positive impacts and attainment of synergies between agriculture and energy is through avoiding competition of land and other resources between the two.

In Ethiopia, the available resource potential of alternative energy is very high. It can be tapped to promote rural development, improve the environment and could be a good financial source like carbon marketing. Alternative energy sources could also help Ethiopia attain a sustainable energy balance.

What is possibly missing from the Government side is creating the enabling environment for the development and use of renewable/alternative energy forms including formulating appropriate agriculture and energy policies, developing/transferring and promoting appropriate technologies, and building the technical capacities of energy producers. It is equally critical that roles and responsibilities of the various actors such as the Government, private investors, farmers and researchers are well defined and that an efficient communication system is established between them. It requires the designing of multi-disciplinary programmes.

To effectively mobilize these available energy resources, it is vital that a national programme be formulated and a national network established together with the promotion of international cooperation. FAO is ready to support such efforts.

Land tenure and land policy and its implications on rural development, by Dessalegn Rahmato, Forum for Social Study

Presenter: Dessalegn Rahmato,
Forum for Social Study (NGO), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ato Dessalegn stressed that his decades of experiences since the 1970s on land tenure issues demonstrates that land tenure security is a key issue in rural Ethiopia that significantly influences land and natural resources management. He underscored that there are three basic factors to consider with regard to land tenure system:

He pointed out that the Government's recent legislation on rural development policy and guidance adequately addresses issues of agriculture and rural development while security of tenure was conspicuously absent.

Security of tenure: security of tenure and ownership to land provides the right incentive to invest or make improvement in land and natural resources. A recent study has shown that the majority of smallholders in Ethiopia (76 percent) are not sure whether their current land will belong to them in five years' time (Ethiopian Economic Association, 2002). There is a grudging acknowledgement by some Government officials that such insecurity of tenure exists in rural Ethiopia, but it is not the shortcoming of the land policy. Assurance of land rights so that they are not arbitrarily overridden by the State is an important aspect of security of tenure. The loss of rights should only happen under exceptional circumstances and should only be done through a due process of the law. Robustness of rights where landholders have the freedom to transfer the land ownership is another aspect of tenure security that is absent in Ethiopia in both the previous and current Governments.

Redistribution of land by Kebele, a local government, is another major source for land tenure insecurity among smallholders. Studies and preliminary field investigation has suggested that there is a general perceptions among many farmers that their holdings will shrink or be transferred to other households after a period. This has been a disincentive for farmers to invest on the land, resulting in lower productivity and food insecurity.

Another serious deficiency of the current land policy is that it ties up access and land rights to farmer's residence, where the rights of the holder is usually evoked as soon as he leaves his residence area. This has constrained the free movement of people and the development of land markets.

Dynamic land system: land is like any other asset except that it does not move. In a dynamic land system, ownership should move from those that do not use it efficiently to those who do. However, this does not happen under the current system and the land market is restrictive in Ethiopia. Transfer so far is for a limited period in the form of a contract, which limits the transferability of land. Decisions regarding such transfers are also made by the State not by the owner.

The Government sees the land policy as promoting equity in rural Ethiopia and restricting landlessness. Nevertheless, this concern seems to be exaggerated and misplaced according to Ato Dessalegn since it is disincentive for needed investment and improvement in land.

Population Pressure and Land Scarcity: Ato Dessalegn repeated his claim that land being abundant in Ethiopia is a myth. His preliminary observation on his way from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar (although limited) suggested that there is very little land that is not being cultivated due to population pressure. This signifies that there is enormous pressure on land, which is being overutilized without fallowing. An important option to reduce this pressure is that land users should be able to move out to other small towns and urban areas looking for employment without the fear of losing their property. This is not possible at present because of the current land policy where farmers lose their land rights if they move to urban areas restricting optimal utilization of land and mobility of labour. The land policy should take population dynamics and free movement of people into account.

Ethiopia is the least urbanized country in Africa. There is a strong link between lack of urban development and poverty. The Government policy on Agriculture Led Development Industrialization plans to make agriculture as an engine of growth and gives low priority to urban-based development and industrialization. However, the urban sector is very small and their may not be adequate domestic demand for agriculture-led growth.

Resettlement: the movement of people from one part of the region to the other has been going on in the last centuries without the label of resettlement. Resettlement as a Government policy to deal with chronic food insecurity and drought came in very strongly during the previous military regime and very recently under the current Government. The resettlement policy under the previous Government involved moving families from drought affected areas of the north to relatively fertile and virgin areas of the south-west regions of Ethiopia. However, the current Government policies restrict free movement and resettlement has to take place within the current ethnic-based administrative regions. There is ample research and evidence (by Dessalegn Rahmato, Alula Pankhurest and Alemneh Dejene) that suggest resettlement by in large has been a failure as means to lead to food self-sufficiency among smallholders. The Derge settled approximately 600 000 people and 30 000 were reported to have died. The current Government wants to resettle two million people in a few years, with limited resources and no systematic study. Thus, concern was raised if such resettlement could cause more hardship and worsen the degradation of natural resources since land scarcity in most areas of the famine affected Northern regions and the land may not be suitable to accommodate such a large influx of settlers.

Land Certification: land user certification is being introduced in some regions in an attempt to address tenure security. It is not certain how certification would promote tenure security without allowing for transferability of the land and removing any conditionality that restricts land markets. A free land market contributes to a more dynamic land resources management system and a Government policy that encourages it could be just as effective as certification, which was found to be costly and complicated to administer.

State of natural resources base in Ethiopia: Challenges and opportunities, by Gete Zeleke, Amhara Regional Agricultural Research Institute

Presenter: Dr Gete Zeleke, ARARI

Background: the Highlands of Ethiopia have an area of 1.13 million km2 and occupy a huge land mass of Africa. Out of Ethiopia's population of approximately 68 million, over 85 percent live in these Highlands with 85 percent of the population depending on agriculture. The Ethiopian Highlands cover 50 percent of the total area, 90 percent of the economy and produce 95 percent of the regularly cropped land.

The resource base: because of its location and geological formations, Ethiopia enjoys both temperate and tropical climates with altitudes ranging between 120-4 530 msl. Most of the Highlands have rainfall amounting between 600-2 700 mm. This environmental heterogeneity offers suitable environment for a wide range of life forms, both flora and fauna. In these highland areas, environment gives support to vast biodiversity with about 7 000 higher plant species of which 840 are endemic. To mention a few, these Highlands are the origin of coffee and are home for a diversity of barley, about 277 species of mammals of which 31 are endemic and about 861 species of birds of which 16 are endemic.

The water body covers 7 400 km2 comprising 11 major lakes of which 50 percent of the water body is found in this region. Annual surface flow from 12 major river basins is about 110 billion m3 of which 43 billion m3 are found in the Amhara Region. Nearly 75 percent of the water drains into the neighbouring countries of Eastern Africa, signifying that Ethiopia is surely a water tower of Africa.

Ethiopia has good agricultural soils of the tropics with Luvisols, Nitosols, Fluvisols, vertsols, etc. It has breathtaking landscape with historical, religious and cultural significance.

Challenges: despite immense potential, Ethiopia faces a number of challenges such as:

Figure 5. Water use results and its impacts. Mean precipitation, runoff and sediment yield

Opportunities: despite so many limiting factors, opportunities exist for change such as:

The way forward: environment should be considered as a major political issue to emerge from the poverty trap. Natural resources management should be part of the production system (fixing the broken link). It is also important that laws and regulations are enacted addressing NRM while development assistance should focus on long lasting solutions. The country should start planning to stop food aid and develop partnership at all levels. A marshal plan to get Ethiopia out of this cycle is in order!

[1] Sonneveld, B.G.J.S. & M.A. Keyzer, 2003, 'Land under pressure: soil conservation concerns and opportunities for Ethiopia'. Land Degradation & Development 14, 5-23.

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