The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia covers a total area of 1 104 300 km2 between latitudes 3°30´N and 18°N and longitudes 33°E and 48°E in the north-eastern horn of Africa. It is bounded on the north-east by Eritrea and Djibouti, on the east and south-east by Somalia, on the south-west by Kenya and on the west and north-west by Sudan.
The heart of the country is formed by a vast mountain mass between 2 100 and 2 500 m in altitude with some peaks rising above 4 000 m. Ras Dashen is the highest point at 4 620 m. The massif is divided into two plateaus -the Central Ethiopian and Galla-Somali- separated by the Rift Valley, in which lie several lakes in the south and the Awash River in the north, a river vital for the irrigation of the extensive plains leading to the Red Sea and Somalia.
Many of the rivers have cut deep valleys, some of which are up to 600 m below the level of the plateau. The main rivers include the Awash, Baro, Blue Nile (called Abay in Ethiopia), Genale, Omo, and Wabe Shebele. Lake Tana, the country´s largest lake, lies in the north-west. A series of lakes, including Lakes Abaya and Ziway, extends through southern Ethiopia along the Great Rift Valley.
Although the entire country lies within the tropics, only the lowlands have a hot climate. Lowland climates range from dry semi-desert in the plains to humid and tropical in the deep valleys. In the highlands, however, the nearness of the equator is counterbalanced by the elevation of the land, resulting in temperate conditions. The high mountains are characterised by a cold, alpine climate.
Average temperatures in the hot lowlands vary between 20°C and 29°C, in the temperate highlands between 16°C and 20°C and in the mountains between 10°C and 16°C. The relative humidity, which is very low on the eastern and western plains, increases on the plateaus from 20 percent in the north up to 80 percent in the south.
The precipitation increases from 200 mm in the north and on the eastern plains to 1 600 mm in the south-west. The rainy season occurs between mid-June and September, followed by a dry season that may be interrupted in February or March by a short rainy season.
The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.