The Amara National Regional State (ANRS)

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Chapter 3 Context of the Study

The Amhara National Regional State (ANRS)

The Amhara National Regional State (ANRS) is located in the north western and north central parts of Ethiopia. The Region is rich in natural resources such as water, suitable land for agriculture, large livestock population, hardworking people and varied agro-ecological zones (SIDA, 2010). Despite these potentials, the Region suffers from deep-rooted poverty and food insecurity caused by meteorological drought, hydrological drought, agricultural drought, high population pressure, resource degradation and poor infrastructure. From the total 126 districts, 64 (51%) districts including Lay Gaint are currently food insecure and all are located in the eastern part of the ANRS (Figure 3.1). Overall- 2-3 million people are chronically food insecure accounting for one-third of the chronically food insecure and vulnerable people in the country (Ayalew et al., 2012).

The Study Area: Lay Giant District

Physical Features

Location and topography: Lay Gaint district is located in South Gondar Administrative Zone of the ANRS. It lies within 110 04′ to 120 10′ N latitude and 380 12′ to 380 37’E longitude (Figure 3.2), and covers a total area of 1,320.31 km2 composed of 19 rural kebeles. With a total population of 242,306, the population density is about 184 persons per square kilometer. The population density of the district is higher than in the Amhara region (112 persons per square kilometer) (CSA, 2006) and the nation‟s average (67 persons per square kilometer) (EDHS, 2012). Lay Gaint is the fifth largest district and accounts for 11% of the total area in South Gondar Administrative zone. The district town, Nefas Mewcha is located 741 km a road distance away from Addis Ababa and 175 km a road distance far from Bahir Dar.
The topography of Lay Gaint district like the other districts in the zone comprises of dissected plateaus, peaked mountains, mountain ridges and deep gorges. It has wide variations of altitude ranging from less than 1500 to more than 4000 m asl (Figure 3.3). From the three agro-ecological2 zones, the Kolla zone of Lay Gaint district located entirely in the Tekeze river basin is the most inaccessible and rugged in physical settings. Aklilu et al. (2000) pointed that the Kolla and Woina-Dega zones of Lay Gaint have the most rugged and degraded topography, while the Dega zone has relatively elevated but flat topography. Similarly, Guinad (2001) stated that the Tekeze river basin of the Kolla zone is considered to be among the most inaccessible and rugged areas in the study district. The district agricultural expert also noted that the Kolla zone is characterized by rugged topography, while the Woina-Dega zone is flat to slightly rugged and the Dega zone is almost flat with the exception of some highly elevated places dominated by rugged topography.
As it can be seen in Figure 3.4, the southwestern part of the district is dominated by Dega agro-ecology has gentler slope but the central and the northern parts of the district are characterized by Woina-Dega and Kolla agro-ecological zones, respectively have steeper slopes. About 75% of the total area in the Dega zone is gentler slope with better soil fertility, while 90% of the Kolla zone is steeper slope exposed for severe soil erosion and covered with infertile soils (Aklilu et al., 2000). In general, the relief of the district is composed of mountainous (15%), flatland (10%), rugged topography (70%) and dissected valleys (5%) (WAO, 2011).
Soils: The two major soil types, widely distributed in the study area include Vertic Cambisols (23%) and Lithic Leptosols (70%) (Figure 3.5). Leptosols are dominantly found over the residuals of the trachyte of the upper slopes. They are mainly characterized by shallow depth below 30 cm (Engdawork, 2002). In general, Lithic leptosols are very widespread in the study area and they can be found only at very steep slopes on similar environments like that of Eutric Cambisols. Cambisols are a mixture of red and black soils. When such kind of soils are found on gentler slopes combined with clay content, they have the properties of Vertic Cambisols. As far as soil distribution in the district is concerned, black and red (Cambisols) soils, black (Vertisols) soils and Leptosols soils are the dominant ones (Aklilu et al., 2000). Regarding fertility, Cambisols are the best soils followed by Vertisols soils, but Leptosols are the least fertile soils (Aklilu et al., 2000). As information obtained from the district agricultural office, fertile lands account for 10%, moderately fertile lands (35%), and infertile (waste) lands account for 55%. In general, soil degradation in the study area is regarded as the major constraint to crop production next to drought. Aklilu et al. (2000) have identified the causes for the poor soil fertility of Lay Gaint district as declining crop rotation due to limited farm size, increasing soil erosion and limited use of organic and inorganic fertilizers with the declining use of manure.
Drainage systems: The main drainage systems are found in the Tekeze and Abay River systems discharging towards north and south of Lay Gaint, respectively (Guinad, 2001).
Thus, Lay Gaint is used as a watershed separating the two major river systems to flow into different directions. Large areas of the district are found in the Tekeze drainage system.
Climate: The mean minimum and the mean maximum temperature lie within 50C and slightly greater than 200C (Figure 3.6). According to Lay Gaint District Agriculture Office (2011), the mean minimum and mean maximum temperature for the study district ranges between 50C and 240C, respectively. Specifically, mean annual maximum temperature is the highest from March to May and mean annual minimum temperature is the lowest from December to January (Figure 3.6). Halonen et al. (2009) also confirmed that the hottest period in Ethiopia in general is from March to May, while the lowest annual minimum temperatures occur in the highlands between the months of November and January. The rainy seasons in the study area include Belg (little rain) and heavy Kirmet (heavy rains) with erratic distribution varying from 600 mm to about 1200 mm (Figure 3.7).
The Belg rain helps to grow potatoes and barely in Dega and Woina-Dega zones and sorghum in Kolla zones. In general, heavy Kirmet rains in both agro-ecological zones is associated with hailstorms, thunderstorms, landslide, runoff and little infiltration adversely affecting the crop production potential (Aklilu et al., 2000).
Vegetation distribution: There are different types of vegetation found in Lay Gaint district. Wanza (Cordia africana), dedeho (Eulea schimperi), imbis (Allophylus abyssinicus), acacia (Acacia spp.), kega (Rosa abyssincia), agam (Carissa edulis), woira (Olea africana) and kitikita (dodonia angustifolia) are the major natural vegetation found in Lay Gaint district. These trees are found on hillsides, river borders and deep valleys, which in most cases are inaccessible. Among the plantations, eucalyptus trees, habsha tid (Juniperus procera) and girangire (Sesbania sesban) are the dominant ones. Acacia, imbis, koshim (doualis abssinica), shola, woira and kitikita are found extensively in Woina-Dega zone. Acacia, kosso (Hagenia abyssinica), woira and kega are found in dominantly in Dega zone.
As it is shown from the vegetation map of the study district (Figure 3.8), most of the areas are without vegetation cover. One cannot see original forests in most parts of the study area except around Orthodox Christian Churches due to peoples respect to the church and its compound and it is a burial ground (Figure 3.9). The problem is severe in the Kolla and Woina-Dega agro-ecological zones but better distribution was observed in the Dega agro-ecological zone. Small patches of dense vegetation and shrub distribution was higher in Dega zone and decreases towards Woina-Dega and Kolla zones. The Dega zone seems better in vegetation distribution because of wide coverage of eucalyptus trees (Chapter 6). Currently, the dominant tree in all agro-ecological zones is eucalyptus. It is a major source of wood, fuel, construction and preparation of farm implements. Farmers call this tree „wuletaw beza‟ for their Amharic language- meaning it is everything for the farmers. In relation to this, Aklilu et al. (2000) pointed that in Lay Gaint district, forest coverage decreases rapidly mainly because of high population growth rate, expansion of cropped land, fuel wood and construction needs, income sources (from fuel wood and charcoal) and poor management practices.

Socio-economic Situation of the Study District

Population distribution: As it is shown in the preceding discussions, the total population of Lay Gaint district is 242,306 (District Finance and Planning Office, 2011). The majorities (99.8%) are Orthodox Christians, 99.8% are Amharas and almost all of them speak Amharic (CSA, 2011). The population density of the district is 184 persons per km2, which was above the ANRS average (112 persons per km2) (District Agricultural Office, 2011). About 10% live in urban and the remaining in rural areas. Given the fragile ecosystem and the rugged terrain, the population density in the district is well above its carrying capacity. In drought-prone areas such as the study area, high population pressure has put stress on the already degraded farmland and many rural households are not able to cover the annual food consumption and are dependent on food aid for many months in the year. Aklilu et al. (2000) indicated that in Lay Gaint district total area cropped had increased but land owned per household had dramatically decreased due to high population pressure. As it can be seen in Figure 3.10, uneven population distribution exists in Lay Gaint district.
Consequently, denser population is found in Dega and Woina Dega zones, but it becomes thinner and thinner as one moves towards the north in the Tekeze river valley with a population density closer to 30 persons per square kilometer. This shows that the distribution of population has strong relationship to the climatic condition of the area.
Basic infrastructure: Many of the rural areas in the study area are not integrated with roads and are isolated from each other and from the outside world mainly due to their remoteness and rugged topography. This resulted in information diffusion to be languished and most of the areas are inaccessible to modernization and are less integrated with the marketing systems. In relation to this, Skrocki et al. (2005) stated that lack of access to information due to poor infrastructure, the rural people might produce similar crops that could negatively affect the marketing environment. Similarly, SIDA (2010) and USAID (2007) indicated that it is very difficult for the local people to break through the vicious cycle of poverty and food insecurity without the improvement of roads,
communication, safe water and school and health facilities. Though some expensive seasonal roads are constructed across the steep slopes as shown in Figure 3.11, they are very expensive to maintain because of irregular topography and high seasonal rainfall.

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Crop Production and Rainfall Trends in the Study Area

As it can be seen in Figure 3.12, the general tendency of crop production in the study district exhibited a declining trend with high inter-annual variations. In some years, production was higher, and lower in others. For example, between 2009 and 2011 production was higher but abruptly decreased in 2013. Hence, the variations of crop production, which are the main cause of food insecurity, are the direct reflection of rainfall variability. If agricultural production in the low-income developing countries is adversely affected by rainfall variability, the livelihoods of large numbers of the rural poor will be put at risk and their vulnerability to food insecurity increased (FAO, 2008).
As it can be seen in Figure 3.12, as rainfall increases, crop production also increases. The bivariate correlation result showed that there is a strong correlation between crop production and rainfall distribution (r = 0.88, at p < 0.001). For example, in the years, 2001 and 2002, the amount of rainfall was low in the study area, and it significantly decreased the amount of crop production. In general, in drought-prone areas, such as Lay Gaint, the most important determinant factor for crop production is the availability and distribution of rainfall. In the recent history of Lay Gaint district, the year 2012/2013 can be taken as the most disastrous year.
As the district agricultural expert indicated, crop production failed because of the late onset and early terminated rains. The problem was compounded by high intensity of rainfall associated with hailstorms, landslides and severe soil erosion in the two wet months (July and August) (Figure 3.7).

Drought-prone areas of Lay Gaint district

As it can be seen in Figure 3.13, the northern and eastern parts of Lay Gaint district are the most affected by severe to extreme drought. This is attributed to the poor vegetation cover of the area (Figure 3.8), poor soil fertility (Figure 3.5) and poor rainfall distribution (Chapter 7).
This made the study district along the Tekeze river basin depend on external support for many years; and this is the norm for the majority of the rural poor that an end to this predicament could not be seen in the near future. Apart from meteorological drought, people living in Kolla zone of the Tekeze river basin were severely affected by socio-economic factors such as civil war over the previous two or three decades; and this has further contributed to the neo-Malthusian development path of deepening poverty and food insecurity (Barrett et al., 2001; Guinad, 2001). Consequently, subsistence farmers in the drought-prone areas of the study district are usually risk-averse and less likely to use the new technologies to increase crop production and are chronically food insecure. Therefore, in drought-prone areas such as the study district, emphasis should be given to food security, crop and livelihood diversification, voluntary resettlement and local adaptive strategies (Chapter 7).

Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP) in Lay Gaint District

The study district is characterized by erratic rainfall, land degradation, high population pressure and poor asset ownership. As a result, more than 70% of the households were not able produce their yearly minimum kilocalorie consumption from own production. In the district about 88,000 people are PSNP beneficiaries. The district agricultural expert also evidenced that the food they produce can be consumed on the average not more than six months of the year. Monthly food deficit is widespread but the problem is severe from February to September and is largely filled by food transfer program and other income generating activities (District Food security Office, 2011). The local government of the district has implemented three interrelated food security strategies such as voluntarily resettlement program, PSNP and other food security program to secure food at household level. The program focuses on chronically food insecure households and agro-ecological zones with the aims to ensure household food security. So that, chronically food insecure people have enough food to eat throughout the year, helps to prevent asset depletion, aspire to address underlying causes of food insecurity, and intend to have a positive impact in stimulating markets and injecting cash into rural economies (MOA, 2010). However, under-coverage and under-funding is a serious limitation of the program. That is, high numbers of needy households were not accessed and small transfers are not able to provide complete protection of the chronically food insecure households of the district in the different agro-ecological zones.


Located in the north central parts of Ethiopia, the Amhara National Regional State has good resource of potential to improve people‟s livelihoods. Some administrative zones (East Gojjam, West Gojjam and Awi zone) are surplus producers and they are parts of the food basket for Ethiopia. On the other hand, Administrative zones located in the east of the region, are prone to drought and are dependent on external food aid for many decades. Of the total 126 districts found in the Region, 64 districts including Lay Gaint are chronically food insecure. Agriculture composed of crop and livestock production is the dominant livelihood source for the study district. However, the sector is dependent on traditional modes of production and frequently attacked by erratic rainfall; as a result, the majority of the rural poor are affected by scarcity of food for considerable number of months in a year. The problem is compounded by rampant soil erosion and land degradation and high population pressure. Especially in the drought-prone areas of Lay Gaint, agricultural land is scarce, degraded, overpopulated and rugged and this is difficult to apply modern inputs to improve the agricultural productivity in which considerable numbers of people are dependent on PSNP for their livelihoods.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
List of Tables
List of Figures
Chapter 1 Introduction
1.1. Background of the Study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Objectives of the Study
1.4. Research Questions
1.5. Significance of the Study
1.6. Scope and Limitation of the Study
1.7. Organization of the Thesis
Chapter 2 Review of Related Literature
2.1. Introduction
2.2. Theoretical Foundations of Food Security
2.3. Responses to Shocks: Coping and Adaptive Strategies
2.4. The Livelihood Studies
2.5. Food Security Situations in Ethiopia
2.6. Conceptual Framework of the Study
Chapter 3 Context of the Study
3.1. The Amara National Regional State (ANRS)
3.2. The Study District: Lay Gaint
3.3. Crop Production and Rainfall Trends in the Study Area
3.4. Drought Prone Areas of Lay Giant District
3.5. Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP) of Lay Gaint District
3.5. Conclusion
Chapter 4 Research Design and Methodology
4. 1. Case Study Research Design
4.2. Field Work for the Study
4.3. Selection of Sample Sites and Sample Households
4.4. Data Collection and Analysis
Chapter 5 Demographic Characteristics of Respondents
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Age and Sex composition of the Households
5.3. Family Size
5.4. Marital Status of the Households
5.5. Female-headed Households and Food Security
5.6. Conclusion
Chapter 6 Rural Households’ Livelihood Assets, Strategies and Food Security Outcomes
6.1. Introduction
6.2. Livelihood Assets of the Sample Households
6.3. The Livelihood Strategies of the Sample Households
6.4. Conclusion
Chapter 7 Households’ Perceptions and Coping/Adaptive Strategies to Climate Variability and Change
7.1. Introduction
7.2. Households‟ Perceptions about Climate Variability and Climate Change
7.3. Households‟ Perceptions about the Definitions and Causes of Drought
7.4. Households‟ Perceptions of the Dissemination of Climate Information
7.5. The Nexus between Rainfall Variability, Crop Production and Food Security: Households’ Perceptions
7.6. Analysis of Rainfall Variability in Lay Giant District
7.7. Households‟ Coping and Adaptive Strategies
7.8. Conclusion
Chapter 8 Analysis of Vulnerability to Food Insecurity
8.1. Introduction
8.2. Conceptual Framework
8.3. livelihood Assets and Households‟ Vulnerability to Food insecurity
8.4. Other Factors Influencing Households‟ Vulnerability to Food Insecurity
8.5. Food security Status of the Households
8.6. Incidence, Depth and Severity of Food Insecurity
8.7. Determinants of Household Food Insecurity
8.8. Conclusion
Chapter 9 Conclusions and the Way Forward
9.1. Conclusions
9.2. The Way Forward

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