This paper addresses the continuing issue of food insecurity in Ethiopia. It presents a case study of North Wollo to demonstrate the effect of cultural barriers, food aid and other food insecurity policies on the area. The overall lesson learned from the case study from Ethiopia is the importance of distinguishing between ‘acute’ and ‘chronic food insecurity’ problems and applying the right measures in the two situations. Conclusions include:
Relief aid should only be used to relieve temporary and acute food-insecurity situations. The allocation of food aid or other forms of assistance should be given as payment for working on development projects or skills training with a capacity-building and/or long-term perspective. Distribution of food aid in food-for-work/food-for-skill training should be replaced by cash payments (provided that food is available at reasonable prices in the local area), as this is more cost-effective and convenient for both beneficiaries and the donor (by saving the costs of transportation and storage of the food aid), and it also stimulates potential economic development through the availability of cash in the local area.
In situations of ‘permanent emergency’ with chronic food insecurity, the long-term measures to be applied are policies aiming at the sustainable and longterm development of the country:
food security based on own production and/ or purchasing power: In rural areas, rather than assuming that food security is and should be based on agricultural production only, food security can also be based on diversified livelihoods. In urban areas food security can also be based on own production such as vegetable production or urban agriculture
availability or accessibility of food: To obtain food security, the policy framework must focus not only on the production aspect but also the distribution aspect. Even if food is available, this does not help food-deficit people unless they have the purchasing power to buy food. Hence food must be made actually available locally and at reasonable prices
securing livelihoods and not only lives: The livelihoods being supported must be made sustainable from the long-term perspective. It is thus important to take a critical look at the livelihood systems that are being supported by the food-security policy and assess their sustainability
the policy framework in a cultural perspective: food-security policies must take into account the local context, including local traditions and cultural practices. The case study from Amhara Region demonstrates that the cultural bias against non-farm activities is part of the explanation for destitution among the population