Main Menu

Source : FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission: proposed travel itinerary

FAO teams: 9.11-22.11.1995

WFP teams: 16.11-24.11.95


The Stark Realities of the Population-Food Equation" (1) The size of population and its anticipated growth is the main factor determining future food consumption requirements. They are also affected by the growth in per capita incomes and the targets for improving the food intake per person. Population thus is a critical factor in determining the direction of agricultural development.

I shall deal with two issues of the Population-Food equation; first , the food requirements (rather than the demand aspects proper) of the rapidly increasing Ethiopian population and second, the supply side, i.e. the degree to which the agricultural sector will be to meet the demand and what are the major measures involved.

In six years, by the year 2,000, Ethiopia's population, currently about 54.94 million, is projected to reach 66.76 million, an increase by almost 12 million people.

Looking 15 years ahead, to 22010, the Central Statistical Authority projects a median population of almost 95 million people, even assuming some decline in fertility. By the year 2,020, the population in expected to reach 130 million.

Even under the low variant, the population is projected to reach 118.8 million (or 8.5 percent less) compared with 136.7 million under the high variant.

Table 1: Projected Rural and Urban Population in Ethiopia (medium variant) ('000)

Year Rural Urban Total Rural Urban Total
1980 32,074.2 3,767.1 35,841.3 2.62 4.97 2.88
1985 36,570.0 4,831.0 41,401.0 2.64 6.33 3.11
1990 41,729.9 6,629.9 48,359.8 2.79 5.41 3.18
1995 47,995.7 8,681.4 56,677.1 2.71 6.08 3.28
2000 55,002.2 11,753.6 66,755.8 2.82 6.14 3.47
2005 63,415.7 15,952.8 79,368.5 2.74 5.91 3.44
2010 72,845.6 21,400.4 94,246.0 2.46 5.82 3.30
2015 82,514.6 28,626.4 111,141.0 2.13 5.58 3.11
2020 91,955 37,861.0 129,816.0

Source: The 1984 Population and Housing Census of Ethiopia. Analytical Report at National Level. Addis Ababa, December 1991.

As a result of rapid urbanization, the share of the urban population will increase from currently 15 percent to 20.1 percent over the next ten years (2005) to almost 30 percent by the year 2,020. In absolute figures, the urban population will almost double by 2005 and multiply by a factor of 4.6 times by 2010. In other words, the projections envisage that the urban sector will have to absorb some 7.73 million additional people by 2005 and 29.64 million by the year 2020. This will create tremendous challenges in terms of employment and provision of social services(i.e. housing, health, education).

The growth of the rural population will be slower. Still, in ten years time, by 2005, there will be 63.4 million people in rural areas, an increase by 16.7 million people. Their share of the total population will still be 80 percent; by 2020, the rural population will have doubled; however, their share will fall to 70.8 percent.

What are the possibilities for the agricultural sector to respond to the challenge

For the base year 1992/93, the FAO/WFP Crop and Food supply Assessment Mission to Ethiopia has used the established "status quo" per capita consumption rate of 157 kg per year comprising cereals and pulses as well as the cereal equivalent of Enset and root crops as well as of milk and meat. together with an additional 6kg/person/year to reflect the consumption of oil seeds, eggs fish as well as fruit and vegetables, we are using a total food intake of 163kg per head of the Ethiopian population or 446.6 gram/person/day.

On the basis of the calorie content of the various food categories, established by the Ethiopian Nutrition Institute, this represents a daily calorie intake of 1,518 per person. This is of course, well below the medically recommended minimum daily intake of 2,100 calories (72.3 percent) and almost 34 percent below the 2,300 calories/person/day representing staple food self-sufficiency. The current low calorie intake reflects the dramatic magnitude of malnutrition still existing in Ethiopia, particularly among the vulnerable groups.

The transitional government, as part of the National Programme for food Production, Food Security and Nutrition covering the five-year period 1993/94-1997/98, has highly placed the attainment of an increased food intake per person ate center of its agricultural development strategy. It has stipulated that within the next five years, the average per capita calorie food intake of the rapidly increasing population should increase to 2,000 cal/day, 90 percent of which or 1,800 cal/day to be provided from domestic production.

The target represents a formidable challenge to Ethiopia's ability to "feed itself" or rather reduce its dependence on food aid.

The challenge is three-fold:

First, with an average population growth rate of 3.28 percentr during 1995-2000 projected to increase to 3.47 during 2000-2005, the Ethiopian population will grow by almost two million people annually until the year 2000 and by 2.5 million people per year during 2000-2005. This alone requires an annual increase in gross cereal and pulses production by 320,000 tons during the next six years only to maintain current unacceptable low consumption patterns; during 2000-2005, the annual increment would be in the order of 400,000 tons.

Second, a major effort is required to gradually eliminate the "structural deficit" estimated to range from 0.5 to one million tons of cereals per year. The latter reflects the lack of success during the Eighties and early Nineties in pushing production levels beyond output levels attained during the pre-drought years of 1980/81 to 1983/84 to meet the basic food needs of the more than 20 million additional people since 1980.

Third, to produce the additional quantities of food required if the TGE target aiming at a marked improvement of the nutritional status to 1,800 cal/person/day from domestic production is to be attained.

FAO has tried to quantity the food requirements of the Ethiopian population on the basis of the Government target, as can be seen from the Summary Table below:

Table 2: Assumption for Growth of Food and Calorie Intake

Year Total Intake Cereal and pulses
kg/person/year cal/person/day kg/person/yr. cal/person/day
1993 163.0 1.518 135.0 1.258 
1995 171.1 1.593 141.7 1.321
2,000 193.2 1.800 160.2 1.492
2,005 214.8 2.000 178.1 1.659
2,010 236.2 2.200 195.6 1.822


This analysis extends the target date for attaining the 1.800 cal/person/day goal to the year 2,000 and sets the targets for reaching a calorie intake of 2,000 and 2,200 cal/day by 2005 and 2010 respectively. the former date could become the final year of a 10 year period to be used as the time-frame of a Ten-year perspective plan for the agricultural sector.

With the FAO/WFP Food Supply assessments focusing on cereals and pulses (as the principle commodities determining food aid requirements) the following analysis refers to these two crops only, which alone represent 82.8 percent of the total food intake. It is assumed that the production of the other food categories (particularly enset, roots and livestock products) would grow at a similar rate.

Table 3 : Net Grain Requirements and Required Gross Production to Meet Growth Targets for Increased Calory Intake.

Year Net Grain Requirements('000 tons) Crop Year Required Gross Production ('000 tons) Deductions from Gross Production
PH Losses Seeds
1993* 7,187 1992/93 8,659 1,472 17.0 1,039 12.0 433 5.0
1994 7,598 1993/94 9,154 1,556 17.0 1.098 12.0 458 5.0
1995 8,031 1994/95 9,676 1,645 17.0 1,161 12.0 484 5.0
1996 8,495 1995/96 10,210 1,715 16.8 1,225 12.0 490 4.8
1997 8.997 1996/97 10,273 1,726 16.1 1,233 11.5 493 4.6
1998 9,553 1997/98 11,268 1,735 15.4 1,239 11.0 496 4.4
1999 10,099 1998/99 11,839 1,740 14.7 1,243 10.5 497 4.2
2000 10,694 1999/00 12,435 1,741 14.0 1,244 10.0 497 4.0
2005 14,136 2004/05 16,248 2,112 13.0 1,462 9.0 650 4.0
2010 18,435 2009/10 20,949 2,514 12.0 1,676 8.0 838 4.0

The above calculation assumes that the post-harvest losses, at the current estimated rate of 12 percent of gross production (translating into almost oone million tons of grain lost after it has been produced) be reduced over time. To introduce an effective programme will take a number of years and it is assumed that losses start to fall to ten percent (or by 16.7 percent) by the year 2000 and to nine and eight percent respectively by 2005 and 2010.

Seed requirements appear t have been under-estimated, as they represent an average of 5.0-5.5 percent of a given year's crop to be retained for planting the following year. However, their share in relation to the increased overall yield levels is expected to fall from 5.0 to 4.0 percet bythe year 2000, when estimated seed requirements are likely to reach 500,000 tons.

On the basis of the current cereal and pulses consumtion at 135kg/head year, Ethiopia's net cereal/pulses requirements would have to increase by aprox. 25 percent to 9.0 million tons by the end of the century, requiring a gross production in the order of 10.5 million tons(the higher figure taking into account post-harvest losses, seed requuirements and non-food uses). By 2010, requirements woulb be in the order of 12.7 million tons net and 14.5 million tons gross.

Inorder to meet the target of 1.800 cal/person/day postulated by Government would require augumenting gross production to 12.4 million tons(or by 43.6 percent) by the year 2,000. To meet a calory intake of 2,000 cal/persoon/day by 2005 would require a gross production of 16.2 million tons; almost double current output. The target of 2,200 cal/person/day necessitates a gross output of almost 21 million tons by the year 2010, requiring multiplying current production by a factor of 2.4 times.

What are the chances for the agricultural sector to meet these rapidly increasing food requirements?

The task ahead is immense and will need determined and sustained efforts by Government and the Donor community on a broad front.

An important factor determining future grain production is the potential for raising average levels of cereal yields; an increase by fifty percent above present levels is bellieved to be feasible in the long-term.

A further factor is the potential for the expansion of the area under rained cultivation. With the current crop area estimated to range from six to seven million hectares and an additional 15 mmillion ha required to support drought animals and provide fuelwood, the area actually utilisied amounts to some 22 million ha.

The Government's Master Land Use Plan(MLUP) estimates the area of arable land (defined as land with a dependable growing period in excess of 90 days and with favourable soil charactersics) as equivalent to 55 million ha. In other words, the potential would appear to exist to more than double the current rainfed area.

The combined effect of area expansion and increased productivity would allow tripling the volume of cereal crop production in this country and to meet the long-term requirements of the population projected for 2015 (when Ethiopia is expected to have approx. 110 million people).

The model appllied in the FAO analysis is somewhat cautious in relation to area expansion. It is assumed that area under cereals and pulses will increase by 2.0 percent per year, somewhat lower than the projected growhth of the rural population. In many Highland areas there is virtually no longer any un-cultivated land remaining; the exploitation of the frontier lands in the South-West and Southern parts of the country by peasant farmers would involve sizeable dis-location which would not apear to be feasible under the TGE's policyy of decentrallisation. Increasing the crop area would also require major investments in land clearing and large numbers of additional oxen for cultivation, when one third of Ethiopian farmerns do not even own single oxen.

The modes still assumes an expansion of the current cereal area by almost one million hcetares by the year 2000 and a further increase by 1.67 million ha ten years later, resulting in an overall increase of 2.66 million ha for cereals alone.

Table 4: Apparent Potential for Area Expansion

Cereal Area 

(million ha)

Feed & Fuelwood 


(million ha)


(million ha)

Current 6.6 15.4 22.0
Projected for 2010 9.3 21.7 31.0
Balance 7.2 16.8 24.0
Total available 16.5 38.5 55.0

The assumtions for an increase in average yields are much higher. Current average yields (ranging from 870 kg/ha for Teff to 1,640 kg/ha for maize) are extremely low, particularly when compared with levels in neighbouring African countries. The model assumes that average cereal yields will grow by 3.75 percent annually to reach 15.4 quintals (1.544 kg/ha) by the year 2000; this would mean raising average yields by almost 30 percent within seven years. With a somewhat reduced growth rate of 3.6 percent per annum, average cereals yields should reach 18 quintals (1,800 kg/ha) by 2005. These targets necessitate considerable increases in the use of external ionputs(i.e. improved seeds and fertiliser), adequate land preparation, appropriate weeding and other husbandry measures. On the basis of one ton of chemmical fertilizers resulting in an incrementa production of five tons of cereals, the increased grain and pulses ooutput of 3.87 million tons would require the application of an additional 775,000 tons of fertilizers by the end of the major improvements are also required in the availability of draught power and farm equipment, the production of, and farmers' ac ess to, improved varities of seeds, the selective use of pesticides in the context of Improved Pest Management and, finally the expansion of small-scale irrigation to assure stability of yield levels in periods of water stress and, in same cases, double cropping.

The desirable target of a sustained increase in agricultural productio by 5.82 percent annually until the year 2000 would result in a gross production of cereals and pulses of 11.8 million tons, an increase by 48.7 percent, as shown in Table 5. By 2010, gross production would attatin 20.3 million tons, more than two and a half times present output.
Crop Year Area ('000 ha) 1 Yield (kg/ha) 2 Gross Production ('000 tons) Net Availability ('000 tons) 3
1992/93 6,660 1,193 7,945 6,594
1993/94 6,793 1,238 8,410 6,980
1994/95 6,929 1,284 8,897 7,385
1995/96 7,068 1,332 9,415 7,833
1996/97 7,209 1,382 9,963 8,359
1997/98 7,353 1,434 10,544 8,920
1998/99 7,500 1,488 11,160 9,519
1999/00 7,650 1,544 11,812 10,158
2004/05 8,445 1,843 15,564 13,541
2009/10 9,324 2,173 20,261 17,830
1 Area expansion at constant rate of 2.0 percent per year until 2010
2 Average cereal /pulses yield increases of 3,75 percent/annum from base (1992/93) to 1999/2000; 3.6 percent/pa during 2000/01-2004/05 and 3.35 percent/pa during 2005/06-2009/2010.
3 Reduction from gross production on basis of percentages given in Table 3.

The high-growth alternative is contrasted with the implications of a lower growth alternative of five percent per annum as shown in Table 6:

Table 6: Projected Gross Cereal Production - Lower Alternative

Crop Year Area ('000 ha) 1 Yield (kd/ha) 2 Gross Production ('000 tons) Net Availability ('000 tons) 3
1992/93 6,660 1,193 7,945 6,594
1993/94 6,793 1,229 8,349 6,930
1994/95 6,929 1,266 8,772 7,281
1995/96 7,068 1,304 9,217 7,669
1996/97 7,209 1,343 9,682 8,123
1997/98 7,353 1,383 10,169 8,603
1998/99 7,500 1,425 10,688 9,117
1999/00 7,650 1,468 11,230 9,658
2004/05 8,445 1,702 14,373 12,505
2009/10 9,324 1,973 18,396 16,188
1 Area expansion at constant rate of 2.0 percent per year until 2010.
2 Average cereal/pulses yield increases of 3.0 percent per year until 2010.
3 Reduction from gross production on basis of percentages given in Table 3.

The next question is whether the assumed alternative growth targets of gross grain production and the resulting net availability of cereals and pulses would be sufficient to meet the consumption requirements in line with the Government targets for 1997/98 extended to the year 2,000 for the purposes of this analysis. A tentative response can be obtained from the following Table :

Table 7: Net Requirements to meet Gap between Required and Feasible Net Grain Availability on basis of high and lower growth assumtion

Crop Year Year Population 

(million) 1

Required Net 


('ooo tons) 2

Net Availability 

('000 tons) 3

High Lower 

Net Import Req. 

('000 tons) 

High Lower

% of Net Requirements 

High Lower

1992/93 1993 53.2 7,187 6,594 6,594 593 593 8.2 8.2
1993/94 1994 54.9 7,598 6,980 6,930 618 668 8.1 8.8
1994/95 1995 56.7 8,031 7,385 7,281 646 750 8.0 9.3
1995/96 1996 58.5 8,495 7,833 7,669 662 826 7.8 9.7
1996/97 1997 60.5 8,997 8,359 8,123 638 874 7.1 9.7
1997/98 1998 62.5 9,533 8,920 8,603 613 930 6.4 9.8
1998/99 1999 64.6 10,099 9,519 9,117 580 982 5.7 9.7
1999/00 2000 66.8 10,694 10,158 9,658 536 1,036 5.0 9.7
2004/05 2005 79.4 14,136 13,541 12,505 595 1,631 4.2 11.5
2009/10 2010 94.2 18,435 17,830 16,188 605 2,247 3.3 12.2
1 From Table 1 (page 2)
2 To meet TGE targets for improving food and calorie intake (Table 3)
3 Based on the growth targets in Tables 5 and 6

The above clearly shows clearly why the higher growth target, still considered feasible, must be attained at all cost. The lower growth assumpion would maintain annual grain at an un-acceptable level of almost ten percent of overall requirements and result in imports of one million tons by 2000 to increase to over 2.2 million tons ten years later. On the other hand, even the bold assumtion of a 5.8 percent growth of grain production in Ethiopia over the next 17 years will not eliminate the country's net import requirements which will remain in the range of 600,000-650,000 tons in any one year, excluding, of course, the occurrence of another natural disaster which would require additional food aid.

However, in line with the ocncept of "enhanced food security " replacing the notion of "food-self-sufficiency", import requirements falling from 8.0 percent to 3.3 percent of overall requirements to achieve a greatly improved nutritional intake, would appear to be acceptable, provided major efforts are undertaken to promote industrial and agricultural exports to finance the remaining gap between domestic production and food requirements.

With Government's declared intention to promote commercial agriculture, in addition to its riority on peasant agriculture, it would appear feasible that a large part of the remaining deficit could be produced by private farmers beginning the mid-nineties. It is encouraging to know that the need to close or at least narrow the gap between food requirements and domestic supply is at the center of the Transitional Governments's development policy concerns and there are encouraging signs ofprogress in the areas of incentives, inputs, institutions and infrastructure, the four "I"s of agricultural development as postulated by FAO many years ago.

The new economic policy pays special attention to the peasant sector, accepting the need for security of land tenure and for market mechanism as essential factors in realising the rehabilitation and development of the agricultural sector. Major effprts are imderwau tp secire the provision of agricultural inputs, most importantly improved seeds and fertilisers; in re-structuring the agricultural sector to meet the needs of grassroots-level and participatoru developing and in improving rural infra-structure. We are confident that, with the assistance of the international donor community, Ethiopia will succeed in moving towards sustained economic growth and the well-being of its population.


1. Based on presentation to Workshhop on "Integrating Population and Development Planning", held in Addis Ababa from 5-7 May, 1994.