When one considers the topic of world poverty and destitution, Ethiopia is often forgotten. Formerly known as Abyssinia, Ethiopia is a country of unmatched beauty and supreme fascination not only environmentally, but culturally also. Some have even named it the Cradle of Humanity as one of the oldest complete sets of human remains was found here. In addition, it plays home to some of the regions that contain impressive biodiversity.
Geography and Landscape
Ethiopia is approximately fourteen times the size of Austria and is located near the equator in the Horn of Africa. It is also the furthest-north country in Africa that is home to tropical environments.
In terms of topography, Ethiopia is a massive plateau that is home to many mountains and other geological formations. From the mountain of Ras Dashen, the fourth highest mountain in Africa (4,543 m), to the temperate plateaus and precipices of the middle region, to the Danakil Depression, a formation 120 meters below sea level, ecological beauty can be found in any corner of this land. Also in Ethiopia is the origin of the Nile River is found at the Bahir Dar Lake Tana, Africa’s highest lake! In the local language, it is called “smoking water” after its misty appearance. In this lake, there are more than thirty islands that host a multitude of traditions formations and old stone churches.
Ethiopia’s history goes back millions of years. Lucy, the oldest known human remains were discovered here, thereby given Ethiopia the title of the Cradle of Humanity. Ethiopians also lay claim to their connection to the biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
Ethiopia was the only African country that was never successfully colonized. There was, however, a period between 1935 and 1941 where they fought a bloody conflict with the Italians. During this conflict, it is said that between five and ten percent of Ethiopia’s population was killed. Until 1974, Ethiopia was ruled as an empire that greatly exploited the uneducated peasant population; this might be a partial explanation to the current poverty of the country. After this, until 1991, a communist military government led the country to a period of great famine. In addition, continuing military conflicts within the country contributed to its instability. Since 1991, Ethiopia has been a federal democratic republic with a president, prime minister, and a representative parliament. The government is largely considered to be authoritarian by their imposition of strict laws in 2009 against non-governmental sects and terrorism. Also, there has been an ongoing struggle with their neighbors to the north in Eritrea; they currently hold a very fragile and tentative peace arrangement.
The overall climate of Ethiopia is greatly influenced by its topography. In the tropical zones below 1800 meters, the average annual temperature is 27 degrees Celsius. In the plateau regions, it is about 22 degrees Celsius, and in the mountains even though the average daily temperature reaches 25 degrees Celsius, one can expect to see frosts. In Ethiopia, the country experiences a rainy season between the months of June and September and again between February and March. The latter, however, is much smaller in precipitation and duration.
A vast majority (near 85%) of the Ethiopian workforce is engaged in agriculture, and it also accounts for about 50% of the country’s GDP. The main export of Ethiopia is coffee, but it is, unfortunately, subject to dramatic fluctuations in market price; this leads to a degree of uncertainty for families dependent on this crop. Adding to this vast industry is a multitude of international contracts that lease lands to foreign agricultural firms for flower, cash crop, and other various cereal grains. The resident population is thus cut off from much of the fertile land and land that could otherwise be used for grazing. Aside from this agricultural inequality, there are severe ecological ramifications that are likely to become salient soon. Intense year-round use of the land in combination with water exhaustion and contamination by fertilizers and pesticides have given many reason for concern.
Ethiopia is a nation of many ethnicities. Approximately 80 nations and just as many languages comprise the sum of the 80 odd million people that inhabit this country. The official language is Amharic, and a majority of the population lives in rural areas. People here peacefully coexist despite there being many religions: 45% of the population is Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, 35% is Muslim, 18% is protestant, and 2% is a mix of Catholic, Jewish, or other indigenous beliefs.n.
Ethiopia began receiving international assistance in 2000 with a program directed at reducing wide-spread poverty. It is the goal of this movement that by 2015, every school-aged child in Ethiopia will have access to basic education and primary medical care thereby greatly reducing the threat of many diseases. In addition, childhood vaccinations for many diseases such as TB, and medication against malaria are main tenets of this program. Lastly, there is a growing movement to make a fight against the custom of genital mutilation of girls in the rural regions.
Although Ethiopia has sustained two-digit economic growth since 2003, there has not been a comparable change in social systems. High inflation and rising food prices in recent years has greatly hindered any progress made towards the above-mentioned goals. The ADA – Austrian Development Cooperation – holds that these goals are important for all segments of the Ethiopian population.
Vegetation in Ethiopia is dependent on geography. The elevated north-country is very green, lush, and fertile – especially after the rains. Almost every grain known to us grows there. More importantly, however, the essential staple to Ethiopian cuisine, Teff is grown there. Teff is the grain used to make the traditional flatbread injera which is eaten in almost every house for almost every meal. In addition to this essential grain, coffee along with avocados, mangos, papayas, bananas, and pineapples are all grown here.
In the flat areas, the ground is sparsely covered by savanna grasses, desert shrubs, and thorny brushes that can normally be found in temperate grasslands.
Hunger and Poverty
In the last seventy years, the population of Ethiopia has quadrupled and has recently been measured at 85 million people. Around 50% of those people, however, live below the poverty line; this makes Ethiopia one of the poorest countries in the world. The high demand for fire wood has led to serious deforestation and has opened the country up to all the ecological problems that come with it i.e. soil erosion. Most of the domestically run agriculture consists of small farmers mainly working for subsistence, and, in many cases, they cannot grow or earn enough to support themselves. Subsequently, almost 44% of Ethiopia’s female population suffers from malnutrition. In addition, previous cycles of drought and flooding were measured at 30 years, and now they are occurring at 4 to 5 year intervals. According to the World Bank, only 34% of the population has access to clean water, and the average life expectancy of a person there is 59 years. Ethiopia’s mortality rate for children of 5 years of age and younger is 4th when compared to the rest of the world.
Officially, Ethiopia has compulsory education, but this is not enforced due to lack of financial support. According to official figures, child labor is wide spread with almost 51% of all children between the ages of 5 and 14 working regularly.