Chapter 3: A Poor Life? Chronic Poverty and Downward Mobility in Rural Ethiopia, 1994 to 2004
Stefan Dercon and Catherine Porter INTRODUCTION Ethiopia holds a mixed record of success over 20 years in terms of economic growth, poverty reduction and graduation from dependence on food aid. Known internationally for frequent famines and food insecurity, low levels of urbanisation and poor scoring on human development indicators, Ethiopia has however experienced some periods of high national economic growth (over 10 per cent in the past three years),1 doubled the number of people with access to drinking water (albeit to a low 52 per cent) and doubled the gross primary school enrolment rate. Since 1991, and especially in the late 1990’s after the war with Eritrea ended, Ethiopia gained increased donor support and external assistance, spurred by the 1991 change in regime, and in recognition of prior underfunding for political reasons.2 Despite these improvements, the distribution of economic growth has not been equal, with growth in many cash crop producing areas as well as areas well-connected to roads, but with other areas of stagnation and pockets of destitution. The majority of the population live in rural areas, rural population growth is high, and rural–urban migration is relatively low. There is a high degree of pressure on land resources, and problems of soil degradation and climate variability (especially low and erratic rainfall). Land rights reform is still a pressing issue as well as access to fertilizer and seeds. A large proportion of the population is dependent on food aid, though a more comprehensive and predictable form of assistance,...
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