Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Rural Livelihood Diversification and Its Effects on Household Food Security: A Case Study at Damota Gale Woreda, Wolayta, Southern Ethiopia

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Rural Livelihood Diversification and Its Effects on Household Food Security: A Case Study at Damota Gale Woreda, Wolayta, Southern Ethiopia

Article excerpt


In Ethiopia, agriculture is the main source of overall economic growth; it is also the dominant economic activity of the rural people which is about 83 per cent of the total population (Population Census Commission 2008), and contributes nearly 50 per cent of the GDP and 90 per cent of the export earnings (Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE) 2009). This makes it the most indispensable sector in the country's development prospect. Despite its importance, the sector is traditional and of subsistence nature and recently, it could not adequately feed the fast growing population of the country (World Bank 2003; DBE 2009). Attempts to increase the productivity of agriculture and bring about food security have focused on structural sectoral problems related to land tenure, lack of inputs, inadequate and fragmented farm size, pricing and marketing, as well as on overall macro policies of the country (Tegegne 2000). There has also been a serious mismatch between macro level poverty reduction strategies and the realities of micro level livelihoods (Ellis 2000). According to Yusuke (2000), non-farm activities play substantial roles for livelihood security and accumulation in most rural parts of the developing world. Degefa (2005) and Ellis (2000) also argue that rural livelihood diversification is a central mechanism to tackle rural poverty and food insecurity. Livelihood diversification generates earnings to the households with cash resources that can be deployed flexibility. It contributes to lessening vulnerability by ameliorating risks and reducing the adverse consumption effects to seasonality. It also results in increasing assets, thereby, leading to poverty reduction and food security (Ellis and Edward 2004).

In Ethiopia, the proportion of poor people was estimated at 26% in 2012/13. In same year, while the proportion of the population below the poverty line stood at 26.8% in rural areas, and at 22% in urban areas (MoFED 2014). Four possible pathways are frequently suggested by policy makers to eradicate poverty and achieve food security in the rural areas. These are: intensification of smallholder agriculture, expansion of commercial farms (commercialisation of agriculture), resettlement and livelihood diversification and they are given emphasis by the Ethiopian Food Security Strategy, as well (Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) 2002).

With regard to the first two, i.e. agricultural intensification and commercialisation, many have reached on to the consensus that the average land holding to be too small to allow the smallholders to do so and to result in the reduction of rural poverty and achieving food security (Mulat 2001). Resettlement as a strategy has also raised questions, particularly in countries like Ethiopia due to the environmental effects of resettlement and the traumas associated to its implementation during the socialist regime, i.e., before 1991 (Dessalegn 2003).The potential of rural-urban out-migration also does not seem to be helping because the urban centres cannot provide adequate employment for all those unable to make a living in agriculture (Mulat 2001). This indicates a potentially important role of rural non-farm activities in reducing rural poverty. Thus, rural livelihood diversification emerges as a better means of curbing rural poverty and food insecurity. Dessalegn (2007) argues that due to high population growth, micro-holdings and increasing landlessness, non-agricultural employment has become a necessity in Wolayta, especially for the young and newly established households.


2.1. The Problem Statement

Literature reviewed in this study indicates that research on livelihood diversification and food security in Ethiopia is limited. In this regard, DBE (2009) revealed that the rural non-farm/off-farm activities are becoming important livelihood for sizeable portion of the rural population, but reliable information regarding these activities is scanty. …

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