“The only future is resettlement,” a local Ethiopian official recently told the Economist
, commenting on dire conditions in the Goru Gutu district, which is facing starvation following unpredictable rains and insect infestations. “Ethiopia has been synonymous with disastrous famine since the 1980s,” notes Sahlu Haile in “Population, Development, and Environment in Ethiopia
“, his award-winning
article for Environmental Change and Security Program Report 10
. In fact, writes Haile, “the agricultural sector—the mainstay of the national economy—is less productive per capita today than it was 20 years ago.”
If resettlement were to take place in Goru Gutu, roughly 4,000 people would have to be resettled every year, and the government has a budget equal to only a fraction of the task. In addition, previous resettlement attempts have been disastrous. According to Haile, “previous resettlement programs were not voluntary…neither were they based on serious economic, social, and environmental studies.” As a result, they led to hardship for the migrants and to conflict with local populations, who felt threatened by the newcomers.
In “The Missing Links: Poverty, Population, and the Environment in Ethiopia,” Mogues Worku points out that in coming years, a rapidly growing population—the result of a lack of access to family planning and education among women—will put additional stress on the country’s ability to feed itself. In addition, Worku explains that climate change “has intensified these environmental problems by altering the region’s rainfall patterns.” Ethiopia’s population and climate challenges will likely lead to additional pressure for resettlement, paving the way for possible conflict. There are many national and international NGOs doing impressive work in Ethiopia on food security, family planning, sustainable livelihoods, and other issues, but much work remains to be done.