Keeping the Momentum Amidst Self Sufficiency Paradox

Dec 4 , 2022
By Fanta Tadesse

For decades, Ethiopia has been in a vicious spiral of challenges that test food security, such as drought, internal conflicts, and an economy in upheaval.

In the late 1990s, I remembered a BBC news story about Ethiopia exporting maize to Kenya, which surprised the world's donors. This event was short-lived, though. I also recalled months later that the same broadcaster reported that millions of Ethiopians urgently needed food aid, and the donors claimed urgent support.

I asked for clarification on the paradox of the story from the program Postmark Africa. The answer was promising: "Production has risen immensely, but the challenges were infrastructures." The product could not be transported from overproducing areas to less sufficient regions.

Today, the infrastructure for transporting produce from excess production areas to the lesser may not be as an issue as it used to be two decades ago. There is also a vast local and global market opportunity. Being self-sufficient would never be news in other parts of the world. For us, however, it is like landing on another planet. Such tragic history has been tied to the country for years.

Although Ethiopia is still expected to do more to comply with the definition of food security, different parameters are used for its appraisal, among which is its availability. However, availability alone may not necessarily ensure food security. It needs intense access to contribution and rigorous work.

It is not a big challenge to produce enough grain for domestic consumption and export purposes. It only takes some structural adjustment on land policy and encouragement of private investors to involve in the sector.

The recent serious engagements and determination demonstrated by the government have an enormous stride for food security. It would be marvellous if handled with great concern. We hear, somewhat regularly, the news of Ethiopia exporting grain. However, the news of a ship carrying tons of grain departing from Ukraine's port, Odesa, destined for Ethiopia emerged not long ago. Understandably, many are confused by such development in contradiction.

Grain production, especially wheat, has risen significantly in some areas. The utilization of what was once regarded as barren land may have contributed its share is also something to highlight. Yet, the production only adds to the GDP; the aggregate result would pull down by the zero output of war-torn areas. Areas may have comparative advantages even though they may be involved in manufacturing or any production that enhances the GDP by capitalizing on their relative benefits.

If it works harder, Ethiopia will soon be added to the list of grain-exporting nations. But keeping the momentum requires systematic ownership. It may not be feasible for this activity to be managed by higher officials running after events on farm plots. It takes ownership to maintain sustainability and stability, as it requires great concern. Failures to keep the momentum alive would add to the already troubling image, just like the news of the late 1990s.

The current practice to ensure food security has shown that the country is changing a lane to another course of history. Whatever the outcome is, it truly is a game-changing phenomenon. This change can encourage other African countries which experience similar challenges. Ensuring food security has multi-dimensional significance, ranging from changing the reputation to the welfare of its citizens.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 04,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1179]

works for the Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Service Enterprise (ESLSE). He can be reached at

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