Ethiopia: Expert says food security in urban, rural areas remains a distant dream

By Merga Yonas

October 20, 2012 (The Reporter, Government proponent media) –Despite some positive gains the Ethiopian government made in attaining food security, a renowned expert argues that food security both in urban and rural areas remains a distant dream.

To discuss the issue of food insecurity, which is considered to be a major concern, experts met Thursday at Gihon Hotel to discuss food security, safety nets and social protection in the country. And during the presentation made by Dessalegn Rahmato, an expert on social policy who was the former executive director of the Forum for Social Studies, it was noted that food security in many rural and increasingly urban areas remains a distant dream, despite some positive gains in the past.

Among the challenges for this to happen, Dessalegn noted in his presentation that institutional and structural factors are acting as a burden on smallholder agriculture. The land tenure regime, scarcity of land and land fragmentation; growing landlessness as a consequence, land degradation and climate change; recent programs of large-scale land investments; and challenges having to do with lack of growth in real agricultural productivity were the key points, he said.
He argued that in order to achieve robust food security there is a need to address three critical challenges, including the agrarian challenge, the demographic challenge, and the challenge of globalization.

Indeed, evidence shows that as the investment on food security and emergency assistance has grown, the population of vulnerable groups has not decreased, he noted.

In August 2012 the federal Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector (DRMFSS) confirmed that about 3.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

According to Dessalegn, the annual appeals for emergency assistance continue as before, but the resource requirements presented to donors keep on increasing from year to year. The food security program as a whole is heavily dependent on donors and all the indications are that it will remain so for many decades to come, he explained.

Among the limitation in attaining the food security, Deslaegn pinpointed the “Relief vs Productive Safety Net.“Has there been a shift from the annual emergency appeals to a productive-oriented program?” he asked “The answer is no.”

Obviously, Dessalegn explained that food security will not be achieved without a robust safety net program, and there is therefore a need for an expanded and better managed Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) that is well integrated with agricultural, health and other services, and that also addresses the needs of the urban vulnerable.

On the other hand, social protection alone will not bring about food security, he asserted. To achieve this goal, social protection should go hand in hand with sound and dynamic policies that address structural, institutional and globalization challenges.

–The Ethiopian Reproter