Poor agricultural productivity

Ethiopia has a huge potential for agriculture. It has vast areas of fertile land, a diverse climate, plenty of rainfall, and a large rural workforce. However, agricultural productivity remains very low. Farmers rely on unimproved crop varieties and farming methods, and frequently face crop pests and diseases. Further, limited support services, poor access to improved technologies and underdeveloped rural infrastructure, all contribute to the continuing low agricultural productivity in the country.
Since agriculture is the mainstay of rural livelihoods in Ethiopia, the incomes are tied largely to crop productivity. The low performance of agriculture is directly contributing to the intensity of poverty and severity of food insecurity in the country. 

Severe land degradation

Researchers used multi-temporal and multi-spectral satellite images to analyze changes in forest cover and the environmental impact of the changes in the Gumara-Maksegnit watershed. The analyses showed that the area of forest in the watershed declined by 1056.3 ha (18.9%) during the period 1986-2007 compared to the base year (1986).
Land use 1986–2007 Gumara-Maksegnit watershed
Land use 1986–2007 Gumara-Maksegnit watershed
Erosion hotspot areas were identified by characterizing the whole watershed on a 500 m2 grid and overlaying soil depth, slope, and erosion maps using GIS. Interviews with key informants further confirmed the findings. The hotspot areas – with shallow soil (<50 cm), steep slopes (>30%), and active erosion processes – are priority areas for soil and water conservation intervention.
Erosion hotspot areas in Gumara-Maksegnit watershed
Erosion hotspot areas in Gumara-Maksegnit watershed

High vulnerability to climate change

Widespread poverty, natural resources degradation, dependence on rainfed agriculture, inadequate infrastructure, and low levels of technology found in this region make its people and production systems highly vulnerable to climate change.
Recent mapping of vulnerability to climate change showed that Ethiopia is one of the most vulnerable countries in Africa (IFPRI, 2008). Climate change will be particularly damaging in the Amhara region. The region has low adaptive capacity because of multiple stresses – natural resources degradation, high dependence on rainfed agriculture, inadequate infrastructure, low levels of technology adoption, and widespread poverty. Strengthening resilience to climate variability and halting land degradation are therefore top priorities in the region.
Over the years, farmers have developed their own ways of dealing with the vagaries of changing climate. Assessing farmers’ existing strategies will be the entry point for introducing technologies and strategies for adapting to climate change.