Resource scarcity in Ethiopia

Global concern is currently mounting all over again about the impacts of a more resource-scarce world, with particular attention focused at present on the risks of a renewed global food price spike following a spate of extreme weather in the US and around the world. Two weeks ago, corn and soyabean prices broke the record they had set during the 2008 food spike, while wheat prices have increased by 50% over the last five weeks.

These global trends have the potential to cause massive problems for a country like Ethiopia - where wheat is by far the country’s biggest import by value. And that’s before you take into account low agricultural yields and farm sizes, major exposure to drought, limited access to energy, and how these challenges will be magnified by high rates of population and economic growth, which will increase demand for resources – as well as intensifying climate change impacts

Against this backdrop, the NYU Center on International Cooperation has just published a new report of mine entitled Resources, Risks and Resilience: Scarcity and climate change in Ethiopia.  This is the first in a series of CIC case studies on the risks that resource scarcity and climate change pose to poor countries – and on how those countries and their international partners can build resilience to them. (A second case study, on resource scarcity in Pakistan, is currently being prepared by David Steven; plans are also in train to undertake a third study on Nigeria.)

While the report sets out a daunting set of scarcity-driven challenges for Ethiopia, it also notes that Ethiopia’s government is well aware of the challenges it faces, and has put in place a battery of policies to address them – including, notably, the breathtaking aim of becoming a middle income country by 2025 with zero net growth in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as an extremely ambitious (and controversial) program of dam-building and large scale agricultural projects.

As well as assessing these policies, the report also identifies a range of vulnerabilities, policy gaps and exogenous risks that will need to be taken account of in future planning by the government and its international partners. It concludes by setting out a ten point agenda on how Ethiopia’s government and partners can improve their performance in managing scarcity issues.