© 2019 by Kenneth Jordan Burkey

  • Kenneth Jordan

Protecting Ethiopia through Agricultural Self­ Sufficiency

Op-Ed by: Kenneth Jordan



7.5 million Ethiopians are currently in danger of dying due to malnutrition and hunger. I believe foreign aid should invest in innovative agricultural techniques that combat dangerous climates, rather than continue to send billions of dollars in aid primarily focused on immediate food access. This shift will in turn lead to agricultural and governmental stability throughout Ethiopia.


Infamous for the lack of accessible food due to inclement droughts and conflict, we have seen many charities and aid organizations display pictures of pot­bellied and extremely malnutritioned children over the last two decades. Ethiopia has gone through many famines triggering world­wide action, resulting in billions of dollars in aid to feed the hungry. Most notable was the the famine of 1985 which killed 1,000,000 people, and in 2003, a famine left one fifth of the population without food, causing a death toll in the tens of thousands.


Every year billions of dollars in aid is given to Ethiopia. In 2008 alone, the country received over 3 billion dollars to improve its economic growth and infrastructure. Statistics show that this aid has launched mass reduction of hunger across the country. Ethiopia's Global Hunger Index score, a tool used to measure regional hunger, has dropped from an extremely alarming 71.7, to 33.9 in the past three decades. Aid is addressing the immediate crisis, which is feeding hungry people, but it has left Ethiopia dependent and unsustainable. ​Though there have been great strides in the condition of the country as a whole, we cannot ignore the 20 million citizens continuing to face starvation due to the food crisis.


Currently 1 out of every 7 people are in danger of death by malnutrition or lack of food. The Ethiopian government has established several programs hoping to address the lack of long­ term solutions to food security problems, yet recurring droughts are crippling the Ethiopian people because of their dependencies on a rainfed agriculture. When rainfall varies, whether it be too much or too little, East African farming mechanisms and practices seem to not be able to sustain themselves.


This is why we must refocus our investment in new farming practices for the Ethiopian people. Innovative agricultural techniques will do two things: create an Ethiopia not dependent on aid, and secondly lower the risk of violence and conflict because of food scarcity.


Ethiopia's average annual temperature is projected to increase 3 degrees in the next few decades. These warmer temperatures are naturally creating soil erosion. The climate is changing, though Ethiopia is still using traditional and cultural farming techniques. This is because no one is properly teaching them new innovative ways to farm.


It is now or never to equip the Ethiopian people with new techniques that will supplement the harsh climate conditions. We need more organizations introducing what many Ethiopians though was impossible: farming during the dry season.


Morrell Agro Industries’ Evan Maxfield has recently demonstrated to local farmers how to dry farm wheat, barley, soybeans and chickpeas. Working hands on with the Ethiopian people to teach these types of practical skills can help the country adapt to climate change and begin to eliminate the national food insecurity.

According to the World Resources Institute, improving land and water management by dry farming and crop rotation on just 25 percent of Africa’s 300 million hectares of sub­ Saharan cropland would result in an additional 22 million tons of food.


Sending aid creates a dependent country, while teaching to aid themselves develops a strong Ethiopia.


While food insecurity remains to be the predominant issue for Ethiopia, new concerns are arising as an effect of hunger. Data shows that East African countries are seeing increasing conflict risks because of the lack of nutrition. By empowering the Ethiopian people to feed themselves through better agriculture, conflict can be minimized.


Conflict and Hunger go hand in hand in developing countries like Ethiopia. According to the 2015 Global Hunger Index, “armed conflict disrupts food systems, destroys livelihoods, displaces people, and leaves those who do not flee both terrified and unsure when they will eat their next meal.”


Not only does hunger result from violence, conflict can often times begin because of the lack of food during a natural disaster. With scarce food, people are hungry, in pain, and frustrated, heightening tension between suffering people. This tension can move governments to act, which unfortunately can bring further conflict and violence.


Of all continents, Africa is the most vulnerable to this, with many countries’ economies being so dependent on natural resources and rainfall. Economies are fragile when changes in the weather occur, it has the potential to trigger the inevitable: conflict. But we believe we can prevent this. The 2015 GHI states "There is no reason why natural disasters must cause either famine or political crisis."


Addressing sustainable farming could be our greatest impact to end hunger by 2030, a goal developed by the 2015 GHI and other world humanitarian and aid organizations. Creating aid focused on different agricultural techniques will leave a lasting and sustainable impact on places like Ethiopia.


We are encouraging leaders in the developed world to share agricultural knowledge, teach dry farming, and help lead Ethiopia to a self sufficient economy.


If we can effectively do this, we will be acting upon the Chinese axiom "Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.” I believe teaching a man to fish will not eliminate the complete existence of conflict and hunger in our world, but it is a step forward. A step in the right direction that has the potential to save lives, and create a different Ethiopia than we have seen in the past three decades.