Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Analysis of Vulnerability to Food Insecurity in Drought-Prone Areas of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia: Case Study in Lay Gaint Woreda

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Analysis of Vulnerability to Food Insecurity in Drought-Prone Areas of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia: Case Study in Lay Gaint Woreda

Article excerpt


Vulnerability to food insecurity is a major social and economic problem in drought-prone areas of Ethiopia. A range of factors from physical environmental circumstances to policy and institutions-related issues determine food security outcomes and vulnerability to food insecurity at the household level. The general objective of this study was to identify factors that determine households' vulnerability to food insecurity in drought prone areas of the Amhara Region of Ethiopia by using Lay Gaint woreda (district) as a case study site. Data were collected using questionnaire, in-depth interview and focus group discussions and both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis were employed. The results showed that the majority of households sampled (79.6 per cent) experienced food insecurity. The situation was worse among female-headed households that 86 per cent of them were food insecure. It was also found that 39 per cent of the female-headed households did not have farmland. The majority of sampled households employed ex-post coping strategies to reduce seasonal food shortages, such as reducing quantity of meals (69 per cent), borrowing from relatives and friends (68 per cent), selling small ruminants (64 per cent) and consuming less preferred foods (62 per cent). The main adaptive strategies employed by the majority of sampled households included diversifying livestock kept (68 per cent), planting trees (66 per cent) and livestock fattening (58 per cent). Binary logistic regression results showed that location or agro-climatic zone, number of livestock owned, education of household heads and availability of working labour were significant predictors of household vulnerability to food insecurity. This suggests that building household assets and geographically differentiated development interventions will improve household food security in the study area, and in other similar environments in the country.

Keywords: Livelihood assets, food insecurity, vulnerability, coping strategies, Ethiopia


Food insecurity describes a situation where people are at risk of not having adequate physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life (Devereux et al. 2004; Lecoutere, Vlassenroot and Raeymalkers 2009). Food insecurity exists when one or more of the food security components (availability, accessibility and/or utilization) are not fulfilled. Therefore, food insecurity at the household level could be due to the decline of local food availability (e.g. collapse of crop production), dwindling of households' purchasing capacity (entitlement failure) and/or poor dietary diversity (utilization failure) (Atkins and Bowler 2001; Devereux et al. 2004). Vulnerability to food insecurity describes a situation of 'being at risk to become food insecure' (Devereux (2006, 3). Food insecurity is a widespread problem particularly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where small-scale rain-fed agriculture employs the large majority of populations (FAO 2006; Tsegaye 2012). Ethiopia is one of the most food insecure countries in SSA despite its being endowed with abundant ecological diversity and land and water resources. Nearly 10 per cent of Ethiopia's annual food need is dependent on international food aid and in drought years this figure reaches up to 25 per cent (MoFED 2007). It is estimated that Ethiopia receives about 5 per cent of the total food aid given to Africa (Berhan 2010).

In Ethiopia, rainfall variability, drought, land degradation, antiquated farm technology, and low level of use of modem agricultural inputs are often cited as the major factors exposing the rural poor to food insecurity (World Bank 2006; Asefach and Nigatu 2007; Mulugeta 2010). Drought in particular is a major problem and immediate cause of food shortages and famines. For instance, a major drought in 1984/85 led to decline of the GDP by 9. …

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