Despite a modern history of deadly droughts, famine, near-famine, and persistent poverty, Ethiopia is home to Africa’s largest livestock population, and is Africa’s top livestock producer and exporter (principally to the Middle East). The livestock sector represents about one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and the Ethiopian government has indicated a strong interest in increased foreign investment in the agriculture sector, specifically cash crops and horticulture, along with commercial breeding and production of meat, milk, and eggs.
Although domestic demand for animal products in Ethiopia is increasing’driven by the urban middle-and upper-class’export potential is a key force encouraging expansion and intensification of livestock production. But twenty-five years after a debilitating famine that drew the world’s shocked attention, food security for Ethiopia remains stubbornly elusive. As much as one-tenth of Ethiopia’s population remains dependent on food aid, year in and year out, regardless of drought or other crises. Even as the need for enhanced domestic food production grows, Ethiopia is vulnerable to climate shocks. The effects already can be seen, perhaps most spectacularly and devastatingly, in the increased frequency of drought.
Climate, Food Security, & Growth: Ethiopia’s Complex Relationship with Livestock explores whether Ethiopia can industrialize its livestock sector, primarily to serve export markets, without forestalling or derailing development prospects for its people and the 150-170 million Ethiopians expected to be alive in 2050. Is such a path viable when large numbers of Ethiopians already scramble to gain access to good soils, grazing land, and water; food security is a huge national challenge; and the effects of climate change are increasingly felt?