Mekdim Dereje

Diet Transformation in Africa: The Case of Ethiopia

"Africa's food systems are changing fast amid rapid economic growth, emerging urbanization, and structural transformation. In this study, we use four rounds of nationally representative data from Ethiopia to examine changes in household food consumption patterns over a period of unprecedented economic growth. We find that while there is a general decline in the share of food in the total consumption basket of households in Ethiopia, food quantities and intake of calories have increased considerably over the period 1996 to 2011. This was mostly driven by improvements in household incomes, as shown using decomposition analysis. Furthermore, the content of the food basket is changing with a gradual shift towards high-value foods, such as animal products, fruits and vegetables, and processed foods. However, irrespective of the level of income, a heavy focus on starchy staples in the Ethiopian diet remains. Overall, this diet transformation has important implications for the food security debate and for agricultural and food policy in the country."

Land Constraints and Agricultural Intensification in Ethiopia A Village-level Analysis of High-Potential Areas

"Highland Ethiopia is one of the most densely populated regions of Africa and has long been associated with both Malthusian disasters and Boserupian agricultural intensification. This paper explores the race between these two countervailing forces, with the goal of informing two important policy questions. First, how do rural Ethiopians adapt to land constraints? And second, do land constraints significantly influence welfare outcomes in rural Ethiopia? To answer these questions we use a recent household survey of high-potential areas. We first show that farm sizes are generally very small in the Ethiopian highlands and declining over time, with young rural households facing particularly severe land constraints. We then ask whether smaller and declining farm sizes are inducing agricultural intensification, and if so, how. We find strong evidence in favor of the Boserupian hypothesis that land-constrained villages typically use significantly more purchased input costs per hectare and more family labor, and achieve higher maize and teff yields and high gross income per hectare. However, although these higher inputs raise gross revenue, we find no substantial impact of greater land constraints on net farm income per hectare once family labor costs are accounted for. Moreover, farm sizes are strongly positively correlated with net farm income, suggesting that land constraints are an important cause of rural poverty. We conclude with some broad policy implications of our results."

Urban Wage Behavior and Food Price Inflation: The Case of Ethiopia

"On the back of both a global food crisis and various domestic factors, Ethiopia has experienced one of the world’s fastest rates of food inflation in recent years. Yet the lack of high frequency survey data means that very little is known about the welfare impacts of these price changes. This study attempts to fill that knowledge gap using a unique monthly series of casual wages from 119 locations in both Ethiopian cities and rural towns. We use this data for two types of analysis. First, we construct a set of “poor person’s price indices” which we then use to deflate the daily laborer wage series in an effort to gauge the welfare trends among the urban poor. Second, we conduct formal econometric tests of whether changes in nominal wages respond to changes in food and non-food prices. We find alarming results. The disposable income of daily laborer’s declined sharply as food prices soared in 2007–2008, and there is neither descriptive nor econometric evidence that wages substantially adjust to higher food prices, except in the long run."