Climate & Agriculture

A large agricultural area

Following the drought and famine of 1985, outsiders were left with images of Ethiopia as a dry and barren place. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Children in a Teff farmThough some areas do experience erratic rainfall, the central plateau region of the country supports a huge population with one of the largest areas of fertile land in east Africa.

For the local market, farmers typically grow root vegetables, teff (a grain-producing grass), millet, maize, wheat, sorghum and beans. Many small-holders also grow coffee as a cash crop, particularly in the central and southern Oromia regions.

Livestock rearing is also a common farming activity, with some meat and skins from goats and sheep exported.

Coffee is Ethiopia’s main agricultural export, followed by sesame seeds and vegetables.

Improving yields

Farming methods in Ethiopia remain basic. Despite the country’s many rivers and lakes, only around four percent of land is irrigated. Investment in farming and the supply of better seeds and fertiliser could lead to a significant increase in crop yields.

A super food

Teff (used to make Ethiopia's staple food of injera) could be described as a 'super grain'. Gram for gram, it contains more fibre-rich bran and nutritious germ than any other grain, with especially high amounts of iron, thiamin and calcium. Due to its great nutritional value, farmers are being encouraged to grow teff in other parts of Africa.

Over the past few years, the Ethiopian government and other agencies, such as the World Food Programme (WFP), have been running ‘hunger-relief’ programmes in certain parts of the country. These provide farmers with additional seeds and help to convert wasteland into productive areas.

Highly-nutritious crops are also being promoted. For example, chickpeas are rich in protein, iron and calcium. A popular local food – around 200,000People living in semi-desert conditions tonnes of this legume are grown each year – they can also be turned into chickpea paste to feed malnourished young children.

A pleasant climate in most parts

Ethiopia’s tourist industry invites visitors with the promise of "13 months of sunshine" - see why they say 13 months in Food & Daily Life. Even during the rainy season of the highland areas (between mid-March and September), most days still see plenty of sun.

Because of their altitude, many highland regions enjoy a pleasant climate, with daytime temperatures ranging from 18– 23/24°C. Rainfall is medium to high (1000mm of rain on average), with parts of the southwest receiving over 2000mm.

A regional drought

Areas of the northeast experience a lack of rain in certain years. The failure of rains in this region caused the drought and famine of 1985, reported by the media worldwide.

However, the climate across Ethiopia does vary. Some parts around the country’s edges are hot and dry. The Danakil Desert region in the northeast is known as one of the hottest places on earth; temperatures here can reach over 50°C.

And in the south east of Ethiopia, the Ogaden region bordering with Somalia has semi-desert conditions.