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Understanding the Relationship Between Economic Growth and Food Insecurity in Ethiopia

By Teshome Adugan.(PhD) Assistant professor
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, April 25, 2016

Food insecurity in Ethiopia



Recently some scholars have tried to question the economic growth achieved in Ethiopia during the last twelve years because of food insecurity which was arisen due to Elino weather. The arguments of these scholars were the current food insecurity in the country could not have been happened, if there is the broad based, continuous and fast economic growth in the county. My question is why these scholars went to question the decade long economic growth of the country just due to specific or exceptional events that occurred due to the change in the weather condition. Few of the scholars who denied the economic growth were due to their political stand. These people are not willing to appreciate the positive performances of the current government in Ethiopia. However, the majority of the writers who question the economic growth as a result the recent food insecurity believe that economic growth and food security have negative relationship. That means, when economic growth increases, food insecurity decline.

These individuals may know only the traditional explanation of the relationship between food security and economic growth in the country. These people are not interested to see the nature and sources of economic growth and food insecurity. Further they are not eager to see the accessibility and affordability of the households that would affect by the food security at household level. Therefore, the major purpose of this brief article is to fill such knowledge gap in understanding the relationship between the economic growth and food insecurity in Ethiopia.

The article is consisting of seven sections including introduction. The second section explains the theoretical relationship between economic growth and food insecurity. The third section presents the nature of the recent economic growth of Ethiopia. This section tries to show the trends and characteristics of Ethiopia economic growth during the last decade. The fourth section discusses the trends of food security and economic growth in Ethiopia. The fifth section highlights the impact of food security policy and strategy on food insecurity in the country. The last section is summary.

Relationship Between Economic Growth and Food Security

Economic growth refers to an increase in the national output/income in the given country. National output or income can be measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Therefore, economic growth indicates the percentage changes in the national output in the domestic economic in the given year (usually one year). Food security refers to food availability at the national and regional level and stable and sustainable access at the local level. In other wards it is the access by all people at all times to enough food for an active and health life. This definition of food security includes four main dimensions: physical availability of food, economic and physical access to food, food utilization and stability of the other three dimension over time you (FAO, 2001).

From these definitions it can be understood that that economic growth is a single dimension while the food security is multidimensional which involve various activities. Economic growth can raise income and reduce hanger, but higher economic growth may not reach everyone. It may not lead to more and better jobs for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in the rural areas (FAO, 2013). The simple change in the national outputs does not able to and sustains food security by its own. There are many factors that affect food security in addition to increase in the economic growth. The only economic growth cannot improve food entitlement. Amartya Sen(1981) has identified four main categories of food entitlement: trade base, production base, own labor base and inheritance and transfer.

These four categories of food entitlement mainly determine the food security of the household. Even at the time of during green revolution (1980) few Asian countries experienced surplus agricultural production, they could not achieve food security for all their people or household. Food insecurity occurred in situations where food was available, but not accessible because of the erosion of people’s entitlement to food consumption. Therefore, it is wrong to generalize that only economic growth of the given country reduces the food insecurity or achieve food security within a short period. Economic growth can facilitate the food security, but it is not the only means for achieving the food security.

In other words, economic growth may be necessary conditions for improving food security, but it not sufficient conditions. This was witnessed in most of developing countries during the last few decades. Most of developing countries who achieved high economic growth could not control food insecurity. Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment, and trade. The simple economic growth cannot reduce food insecurity. There are various factors that influence the impact of economic growth on food security. The major factors are the nature of economic growth, the macroeconomic stability and the initial situations of the country economy. In addition to this, the infrastructure development and market development significantly influence the relationship between economic growth and food insecurity.

Nature of Recent Economic Growth in Ethiopia

The nature of economic growth can be seen by presenting the characteristics of the economic growth during the study period. In 2006, the total market value of the national output in Ethiopia was only 14.5 Billion USD. Today in 2014 the country managed to produce 53.9 Billion USD national output (GDP). During the last eight years, the national output was increased by more than double. As compared to the rest of the Sub Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, Ethiopia has achieved higher economic growth. According to IMF (2015) report, Ethiopia has achieved faster economic growth as compared to oil exporting, middle income, law income and the average SSA countries economic growth. As you can see in the Figure 1 below Ethiopia average economic growth between 2005 and 2015 was 10.8 percent. In the same period the average SSA economic growth was only 7.5 percent.


The country economic growth was higher than the middle and law income countries who achieved 4 percent and 6 percent economic growth respectively in the same period. In addition to higher economic growth, the economic growth in Ethiopia was characterized with continuous2 and stable economic growth which was not experienced by many of African Countries. In 2013/14, Ethiopia’s economy grew by 10.3 percent, making the country one of Africa’s top performing economies and this strong growth is expected to continues in 2015 and 2016(OECD, 2015).

The country has achieved higher economic growth with less irregularity. Ethiopia3 achieved the minimum of 8.7 percent economic growth in 2012 and the maximum of 12.8 percent economic growths in 2005. The minimum Ethiopia’s economic growth during the last decade was higher than the average SSA countries economic growth during the study period. Such higher economic growth facilitates the fast growth in the per capita income. According to IMF (2015), Ethiopia average annual per capita income growth was 7.6 percent between 2011 and 2014. This was higher than the 1.8 percent of the middle income and 2.2 percent the oil export countries.

Please read the complete article supported by graphs and more detail statistics by clicking here.

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