Agricultural Transformation in Ethiopia

State Policy and Smallholder Farming

Edited by Atakilte Beyene


An examination of Ethiopia's agriculture system, and the vitally overlooked importance of this component of development strategy for health and food security in the wider region.

For thousands of years, Ethiopia has depended on its smallholding farmers to provide the bulk of its food needs. But now, such farmers find themselves under threat from environmental degradation, climate change and declining productivity. As a result, smallholder agriculture has increasingly become subsistence-oriented, with many of these farmers trapped in a cycle of poverty. Smallholders have long been marginalised by mainstream development policies, and only more recently has their crucial importance been recognised for addressing rural poverty through agricultural reform.

This collection, written by leading Ethiopian scholars, explores the scope and impact of Ethiopia’s policy reforms over the past two decades on the smallholder sector. Focusing on the Lake Tana basin in northwestern Ethiopia, an area with untapped potential for growth, the contributors argue that any effective policy will need to go beyond agriculture to consider the role of health, nutrition and local food customs, as well as including increased safeguards for smallholder’s land rights. They in turn show that smallholders represent a vitally overlooked component of development strategy, not only in Ethiopia but across the global South.

Author Bio

Atakilte Beyene is a senior researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute. His work has involved extensive field studies in Ethiopia and Tanzania, and he has previously held positions at Stockholm University, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and Ethiopia’s Tigray Development Association. His other works include the edited collection Biofuels, Land Grabbing and Food Security in Africa (Zed 2011).

Table of Contents

  • State Policies and Questions of Agrarian Transformation - Atakilte Beyene
  • 1. Agricultural Input Supply and Output Marketing Systems - Fentahun Tesafa
  • 2. Agricultural Investment Alternatives and the Smallholder Farming Sector - Kassa Teshager Alemu
  • 3. Large-Scale Canal Irrigation Management by Smallholder Farmers - Atakilte Beyene
  • 4. Determinants of Climate-resilient Agricultural Practices among Smallholder Farmers - Nigussie Abadi and Girmay Tesfay
  • 5. Sociocultural Dimensions of Food: The Case of Teff - Gedef Abawa
  • 6. The Impact of Malaria Epidemics on Agricultural Production in Dembia and Fogera, 1950-2000 - Fantahun Ayele
  • 7. Women Farmers’ Land Rights in the Context of Constraining Cultural Norms - Mulunesh Abebe Alebachew 
  • 8. Rural Transformation through Robust Land Rights - Daniel Ambaye
  • Concluding Remarks - Atakilte Beyene


‘Atakilte Beyene’s collection draws on the analytical perspectives of seven exceptionally well-grounded Ethiopian rural development specialists. A book with valuable lessons for the rest of the African continent and smallholder rural areas globally.’
Deborah Fahy Bryceson, University of Edinburgh

‘Edited by one of the field’s most seasoned researchers, this cohesive anthology is a real tour de force.’
Tekeste Negash, Uppsala University (Emeritus)

‘Provides a detailed and case-based overview of the challenges smallholder farmers in Ethiopia face in state-led development programmes and initiatives. As such it will be an important reference work.’
Harald Aspen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

‘This timely volume contributes insightful perspectives on the current development of Ethiopia’s smallholder sector, and shows how smallholders still remain under prioritized in the country’s drive to transform agriculture and the economy at large.’
Magnus Jirström, Lund University


Publication Date: 15 October 2018
208 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786992185
Hardback: 9781786992192
eBook ePub: 9781786992215
eBook PDF: 9781786992208
eBook Kindle: 9781786992222

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