On Famine's Brink

by Patrick Moser


Eritrea: The Food Weapon

by Michael Yellin


According to the World Bank in 1988 Ethiopia is the world's poorest country. It is plagued by repeated droughts and famines and hasn't implemented modern agricultural reform. Furthermore, a new government had previously changed allegiances from the United States to the Soviet Union, changing the nature of available foreign aid and the strings that aid comes with.

Furthermore, one province of Ethiopia, Eritrea, has been in a state of revolt for many years. The rebellion's spokesperson blames the government for continuing to occupy Eritrea, as well as allowing these famines to occur. They attacked a food convoy hoping to prevent their cause being ignored in the face of the current famine.

The drought in Ethiopia was so severe that an estimated eighty percent of the harvest was expected to be lost. These regions have only one harvest per year, meaning that no food can be produced until the next harvest.

Political Crisis:

The first problem is because of the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. During the previous famine the West was criticized for acting slowly because of the Marxist politics in use in Ethiopia. The Soviet Union was also criticized for mainly providing military support instead of famine relief. The Swedish International Development Association also ran into problems. They were disturbed by the Ethiopian government's anti-agricultural policies. These policies severely restricted prices and credit, curbing production and development, and prevented free trade, disallowing sales between different regions.

One solution developed by the Ethiopian government is that of villagization. This plan involves relocating a significant portion of the population of the northern regions to the more fertile southern regions. These people would work on collective farms. Initially this plan was supported by both the West and the Soviet Union, however the West soon became nervous, wishing to remove their aid. Ultimately though, no one wanted to see them starve and the aid continued.

by Claude Elkins