The Ethiopian Famine
THE FAMINE 1972-4
The first recorded famine in Ethiopia goes back to the ninth century. Between 1540 and 1742 there were, apparently, more than ten major farnines.1 The so-called 'great Ethiopian famine' hit the country during 1888-92, killing off possibly a third of the total population,2 and it is still remembered as kifu qan (evil days). In comparison with the great Ethiopian famine, the famine that Ethiopia experienced in 1972-4 might appear to be a moderate affair, with mortality estimates varying between 50,000 and 200,000, in a population of about 27 million.3 But as Aykroyd ( 1974) puts it, 'a death toll of perhaps over 100,000' is 'inexcusable at this stage in the history of famine' (p. 203).
The province that was hit hardest by the famine was Wollo in the north-east of Ethiopia, but it also affected the province of Tigrai, further north, and some of the rest of the country, e.g. Harerghe.4 For Wollo the famine reached its peak in 1973, and recovery was well under way by the end of that year. The same is true of Tigrai, the other northern province affected by the famine (though much less affected). But for Harerghe the famine came into its own only in 1974. In a sense, there were really two Ethiopian famines during this period: the first in 1972-3 with its focus on north-east, especially Wollo, and the second in 1973-4 affecting mainly some provinces further south, particularly____________________