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University of Toronto (1998)

Food security and peasants’ survival strategy, a study of a village in Northern Shewa, Ethiopia

Frehiwot Tesfaye

Titre : Food security and peasants’ survival strategy, a study of a village in Northern Shewa, Ethiopia

Auteur : Frehiwot Tesfaye

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) 1998

Université de soutenance : University of Toronto

Ethiopia is an old agrarian society endowed with a skilled and hard-working peasantry that carries a rich fund of agricultural knowledge.. Yet Ethiopian peasants have been the- main victims of the cyclical droughts and famines. Recurring famines helped to bring about the 1974 revolution. Many radical reforms were. introduced by the post—1974 regime with. the aim of giving peasants more economic and political power, increasing agricultural productivity and ending agrarian poverty. The reforms sought to achieve a radical break with the past. The thesis analyzes the impact of these changes on the peasants. It shows that the negation of local initiative and. traditional knowledge and institutions.. rather than strengthening the peasantry, weakened their survival capacity and made them more vulnerable. to crisis. The severity of the 1984 - 85 famine is viewed in this context.
The central argument of the thesis is that peasants’ marginal political and economic position hinders. their ability to adapt to rapidly changing social conditions. In the past, their subordination to landlords and the state perpetuated poverty and limited their capacity to cope with. crises. Their continued political and economic subordination continues to prevent them from overcoming rural poverty. Combining political economy and oral history, this study traces the spontaneous migration of peasants- from the- overpopulated area. of Wello to the sparsely populated region of Northern Shewa in search of land. It shows how the migrants creativity combined their knowledge of the. past. with hard work and technical, political. and social ingenuity to adapt to the socially and ecologically diverse environment of the new region in pursuit of a livelihood.
The thesis elucidates how peasants use their material and non-material resources and past experiences with droughts and famines to innovate survival strategies. It stresses that peasant resourcefulness needs to be supported and encouraged for the sake of long-term, sustained development. A development pol icy, utilizing peasants* initiative and local resources is an effective substitute for state reforms imposed from above or occasional food relief by outside agencies

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