Government Lies about Poverty Reduction: the Case of the Amhara Region

By D. K. Bimrew

Ever since it came to power by way of armed struggle in 1991, the Government ofEthiopia had been implementing agricultural led industrialization (ADLI) developmentpolicy.The government repeatedly declared achievements of its policy in the reduction of povertyare much better than any previous rulers of the country and any government in the sub-Sahararegion. The government is not alone in this declaration. Its bravados are endorsed byinternational organizations. What makes the endorsements by these organizations unreliable isthat they are based on the data provided by the government of Ethiopia which is manipulated anddoctored to fit its self-serving interest. Development in Ethiopia is not only belonged to aneconomic realm rather it an ideology to justify authoritarian rule. Therefore, development datasare cooked to suit official narratives of of continued “double digit growth”.However, to the contrary international studies and the reality on the ground showed theagriculture-led-industrialization policy cannot bring real development and reduce poverty. As aresult, after a quarter of its implementations Ethiopia remains one of the world’s poorest country.More than 12 million people are chronically, if not periodically food insecure. According to theWorld Bank 2012 report, population below national poverty line in Ethiopia is 38.9%. Thepoverty gap index is estimated to be 7.8% while it is 8.0% for rural areas and 6.9% for urbanareas.Agricultural production, which is the source of livelihood for eight out of ten Ethiopians,is extremely vulnerable to climatic conditions. The causes of rural poverty are many includingwide fluctuations in agricultural production as a result of drought, ineffective and inefficientagricultural marketing system, underdeveloped transport and communication networks,underdeveloped production technologies, limited access of rural households to support services,environmental degradation and lack of participation by rural poor people in decision making thataffect their livelihoods. Despite huge potential, Amhara region remains the poorest region in Ethiopia. It ismainly caused by the regime’s deliberate discriminatory economic policy towards Amharapeople. Amhara is one of the regions significantly affected by worst and often recurrent drought.poverty level in the region is among the highest by most social and human developmentindicators. Many studies showed that highest food poverty is found in Amhara region. As landbelonged to the state it is subject to redistribution or appropriation by the government. Therefore,farmers do not have tenure security that would give an incentive for more production. Second byredistributing land the Government creates a fragmented farmland that are not viable livelihood.The authoritarian rule in Ethiopia has further worsen the food insecurity by creating a clientelenetwork of the party officials that would political administers the rural communities.To assess the extent and geographic dimension of poverty in Amhara region, theresearcher used GIS and Small Area Estimation techniques.

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1. Small Area Estimation Method Various methods have been used to construct geographically disaggregated indicators ofpoverty (Davis, 2003). The most common is the small area estimation technique, developed in aseries of World Bank researches and now applied to a number of countries, such as Ecuador,South Africa, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Kenya, and Uganda. The small area estimation (SAE) offers apowerful approach to produce statistically reliable poverty estimates for small areas and is themost widespread method for mapping on national scales (WB et al. 2009) cited in[ CITATIONLVa12 \l 1033 ]. The method combines detailed household survey information with populationcensus data. The idea is to use survey data to create a predictive model for a dependent variablethat is available in the survey but not in the census. The independent variables included in themodel are common to both the survey and the census data.The small area estimation technique uses regression models to predict the welfareindicators for all households covered by the census. The methodology [ CITATION Elb03 \l1033 ] contains three stages: zero, first and second. In the zero stage variables common to thesurvey and census are identified, and the two data sets are generally examined for comparability,sampling strategies, etc. In a first stage, regression parameters are estimated based on thevariables that are common to both the survey and the census. In the second stage these parameterestimates are taken to the census data to predict the chosen welfare measure for each populationof interest.2. Spatial Dimension of poverty in Amhara regionAmhara region is the poorest region in Ethiopia.The extent of poverty varies from district todistrict in the region. Lacks of equity in the access to productive resources and basic services andtheir consequential benefits as well as lack of access to opportunities to develop skills and humancapabilities have impeded the socio-economic development of the poor in this region. Thatabsences of the means by which the poor can address their problems and enhance their activeparticipation in decision-making have hindered their attempts to move out of the state ofdeprivation.The spatial dimension of poverty in Amhara region was investigated by combining GISand Small Area Estimation techniques. The data used are the 2007 Population and HousingCensus and the 2010/11 HICE survey. Despite the ruling party denial, this research disclosed that poverty headcount in Amhararegion ranges between 30- 45%. The dimension of poverty in this region is not the same. It variessignificantly from place to place (Map1).The Extreme poverty is mainly found in the Northernand Northeastern parts of Amhara region. Relatively speaking, extent of poverty is low in theSouthern and Southwestern parts of the region. As this study disclosed the 2015/2016 foodshortage and drought highly affected the aforementioned poorest parts of Amhara region. If thegovernment gives attention to what independent studies like shows, the catastrophe caused bythis drought might be significantly minimized. However, the regime in power continued tosuppress information that they thought to have adverse impact on their politics. The rural poorare doomed to suffer from deliberate discrimination and economic marginalization.. It is part of astrategy to perpetuate Tigrian ethnic dominations over the Amharas which they consider as their
immediate thereat to be reduced to insignificant. Therefore, unless there is no change ofgovernment the trend will continue. Development under authoritative rule are uneven anddiscriminatory. In my opinion, the background causes of the current uprising and social unrest inAmhara region is mainly caused by deep rooted poverty and huge income disparity which are theresults of the 25 years of ethnic based economic and political marginalization by the ruling party.The roots of current crisis and the Amhara predicament are attributable to above facts.
This is an excerpt from my MA thesis, entitled “Spatial Dimension of Poverty in RuralAmhara Region, NW Ethiopia: Application of GIS and Small Area Estimation”and it hasbeen modified and updated to incorporate current information.D. K. Bimrew, Toronto, Canada