Food security is under threat in Ethiopia as cereal yield growth slows even as the population continues to rise rapidly, a new report finds.
Ethiopia saw average cereal yield growth of six percent annually. However, yield growth declined to under four percent, signaling a continued challenge to feed Ethiopia’s fast-growing population, according to a synthesis report on Ethiopia’s food system.
Poor soil quality, limited availability of high-quality seeds, low usage of agriculture technology and high post-harvest losses must be addressed to drive higher yields, the report states.
The report identifies systematic challenges across Ethiopia’s food system, including low availability/affordability of nutrient-dense foods, insufficient access to agricultural inputs, soil depletion and weak land management, among others.
Getachew Diriba, an advisor to Ethiopia’s food system transformation, says while Ethiopia has made strides ensuring food security, research has identified persistent challenges across production, distribution and consumption.
“Limited access to fertilizers, seeds and technologies inhibit production diversity and productivity,” he said.
The Ethiopian Food Systems Transformation and Nutrition Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health held its first meeting this week to coordinate measures to tackle these issues.
Girma Amente, Ethiopia’s agriculture minister, says the transformation aims to increase productivity, improve rural livelihoods, make agriculture competitive, stabilize food prices, enhance healthy diets and conserve resources.
Health officials warn that nutrient-dense foods have become unaffordable for many in Ethiopia as prices have risen sharply in recent years. The affordability crisis threatens progress in combating malnutrition.
Soil erosion, land degradation and deforestation caused by population pressure and intensive farming have reduced the amount of healthy food that can be produced, according to Getachew.
The government has set up the high-level steering committee to coordinate the transformation of Ethiopia’s food system in response to this.
The Committee has been tasked with developing policies and laws to make healthy food more affordable and accessible.
It will also work with regional governments, monitor progress, seek resources from donors and the public sector, and be an advocate for change at international events.
Lia Tadesse (MD), Ethiopia’s Health Minister, says the Committee will coordinate actions outlined in the Seqota Declaration – a plan to improve nutrition, public health, and sustainable food production in the country.
She pledged the Committee can provide leadership and guidance to realize Ethiopia’s vision of a food system that nourishes its population in a way that safeguards the environment for future generations.