Farmers' strategies to perceived trends of rainfall and crop productivity on the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia

Adimassu Teferi, Z.; Kessler, C.A.; Stroosnijder, L.


Despite decades of international attention to find solutions for the annual food shortages in Ethiopia, the problem still persists. This study, carried out in the Central Rift Valley (CRV) of Ethiopia, focuses on farmers┬┐ strategies to counter yield failures and food shortages. It reveals that farmers indeed perceive a decrease in crop productivity and food production over the last decades, and that they blame a decline in rainfall for this. As a consequence, farmers apply different strategies to cope with, and adapt to perceived rainfall shortages and related expected yield losses: i.e. they sell more livestock, they migrate elsewhere, they change their crops and agricultural practices, and they rely more heavily on food relief programs. However, an analysis of rainfall data in the CRV shows that rainfall characteristics (mainly annual rainfall total) have not changed over the last three decades. Moreover, according to analysis of official data, crop productivity per hectare in the CRV even shows a slight increase over the last decade. The interpretation of this result is not straightforward. The farmers┬┐ perception of a decline in crop productivity and rainfall may be related to (i) the increased demand to grow more crops to feed the rapidly growing population (hence, food availability per capita has declined), and (ii) the lower moisture availability for plant growth resulted from soil fertility decline and soil erosion. Nevertheless, additional empirical research is needed to figure out the root causes of food shortage and yield failure in the CRV of Ethiopia