ONE @ 50: Ethiopia

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. As Ethiopia grapples with the effects of recurring drought in recent years, looking back through the pages of ONE provides context for understanding the political and social consequences of such climate disasters, as published in Spring 1976.

Read an excerpt from “Ethiopia” below, then read the full story.

Two headlines recently appeared on the same page of a popular African commentary magazine: “Grain Storage in Ethiopia” and “Ethiopia’s Secret Arms Deal With the U.S.” These headlines indicate the tremendously contradictory situation facing this country today. Ethiopia needs alleviation of its enormous starvation and strength to keep the country unified.

The drought, which spread throughout Western Africa in the early seventies also, was taking its toll in Ethiopia, although without much publicity. The failure of the former regime to acknowledge or deal with the severe starvation affecting millions of Ethiopians became the motivating factor in the overthrow of the government. The new regime, although too late to prevent all the effects of the drought itself, is attempting to lay the groundwork for dealing with such a situation in the future.

While the drought, which has plagued Ethiopia for the last six years, is an environmental problem, its major consequence, starvation, is a social and political problem. Until 1974, Ethiopia was a feudal state in which the majority of the land was owned by landlords who employed peasants in a serf-type structure to farm their property. The lack of rain seriously affected the production of food and so the pocketbooks of the landlords. But the most serious effect was on the stomachs of the peasants. As less and less good farmland was available, less peasant labor was needed. As a result, migration began, with the men heading off to search for jobs and food wherever they could be found.

Read more.

Ken Hackett, who works for an International Development Agency, lived in Africa for six years.

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