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The Role and Risk of Coffee-based Development in Ethiopia

September 14, 2013


Two Farmers in Ethiopia Pick Coffee Cherries.

Two Farmers in Ethiopia Pick Coffee Cherries, the fruit processed into coffee beans (Image courtesy The Upcoming).

A new report issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) claimed that the child mortality rate in Ethiopia has been cut from more than 200 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 68 per 1,000 today. With a per capita gross domestic product of less than $1,200, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 169th (out of 180) according to World Bank estimates. The Ethiopian economy is heavily dependent on coffee exports, which account for more than a quarter of the country’s export earnings. Coffee production—like agricultural production in Ethiopia more generally—is highly dependent on rainfall. But the Unicef report suggests that Ethiopia—a country with a long history of famine and malnutrition—is one of the few African countries making progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality rates. The country’s success, according to Health Minister Kesetebirhan Admasu, has been based on a strategy of “aggressively expanding its primary healthcare network.” Increased household incomes have, according to Admasu, “also resulted in better nutrition for children [and] women; this has translated into better sanitation – all these have direct or indirect impact on the survival of children.”

Global Coffee Stocks and Prices

Global Coffee Stocks and Prices (Image Courtesy Marginal Revolution)

Ethiopia’s success has been driven, at least in part, by a price increase for coffee between 2003 and 2010 (see graph above). This price increase generated additional employment and income at the household level and higher tax and excise revenues at the national level. But since 2010, global coffee production has grown sharply and prices are starting to decline. And with lower coffee prices, Ethiopia’s development strategy might falter as well. For now, though, Ethiopia is rightly basking in the limelight, having shed its image as a land of famine and hunger.


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  1. Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… Here’s an article telling us that drinking coffee (made from Coffea arabica if you’re wealthy, or the cheaper Coffea canephora) in the rich world can be good news for kids’ survival in Ethiopia. There’s been a dramatic rise in prices for coffee beans. But the coffee industry worldwide is being hit by leaf rust, caused by a fungus called Hemileia vastatrix. That fungus spread from Asia and Africa to the Americas where some people think that organic growing is making the problem worse. This might be a time to adjust the organic standards, allowing a synthetic fungicide to be sprayed on organic coffee bushes.

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  1. Measuring Progress in Ethiopia | World Politics News Review

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