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 Overview of the Department

The agricultural sector greatly influences economic performance in Ethiopia.With a total area of about 1.13 million km2 and about 51.3 million hectares of arable land, Ethiopia has a great potential for agricultural development. However, only about 11.7 million hectares of land (22.8%) is currently being cultivated. Nearly 55% of all smallholder farmers operate on one hectare or less. The agriculture sector employs over 85% of the labour force, contributing about 43% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 90% of export income.

The country has diverse physical and social environments and a great diversity of tropical, subtropical and temperate climates, soil and vegetation. The variability in environmental factors has an important implication on the diversity of plants in the country. The elevations provide for temperature differences for growing several kinds of crops. A wide variety of crops are found growing in various parts of the country. In the highlands, where cool temperature prevails, common temperate crops are grown. Many tropical and sub-tropical crops are also grown in low to mid altitudes of the country. The country is a center of origin and/or diversity for many plant species including several cultivated crops, such as coffee, sorghum, “teff”, durum wheat, finger millet, barley, “noug”, safflower, sesame, castor bean, faba bean, etc.

In the highlands of the country, where more than 75% of its population dwell, crop production is the predominant agricultural activity supplemented with livestock production. The crop production system is smallholder dominated farming practiced under rain fed condition, which is characterized by subsistence farming with crop and livestock husbandry typically put under the same management unit.

The dry lands cover about 66.6% of the total landmass of the country. These are areas of low and poorly distributed rainfall, which adversely affects growing crops. As the human population increases, the impact of drought, land degradation and subsequent food shortage is increasing in severity in these areas.

Despite of its high potential of crop production, the country is facing the problems of food shortages and cash crops and hence has not been able to achieve food security and self- sufficiency to feed its ever increasing population, and to obtain sufficient foreign exchange to purchase agricultural and industrial inputs. Crop yields have remained extremely low, although research results show that there is tremendous potential to increase production and productivity. Low agricultural productivity can be attributed to limited access, by smallholder farmers, to agricultural inputs, improved production technologies, irrigation and agricultural markets, and more importantly, to poor land management practices that have led to severe land degradation.See more