Climate change affects households, villages, countries, and regions worldwide. The populations and individuals most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change live in the poorest and least developed regions of the world, engage in climate-dependent livelihoods and have few assets. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, with a history of climate- and politically-induced famines, has 80 percent of its population engaged in rain-fed agricultural livelihoods.
This dissertation sought to determine empirically how individuals and households in Ethiopia cope with climate change impacts on their livelihoods and food security. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, where 80 percent of the population engages in rain-fed agricultural livelihoods, has a history of climate- and politically-induced famines. This dissertation consists of three studies. The first two studies were qualitative primary interviews where recruitment, consent, structured interviews, and protocols were approved by the UCLA Institution Review Board, but used mixed methods including t-tests and Fisher's exact tests in the analysis. The third study was quantitative and used panel data from seven waves of the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey (1994-2009).
The first study involved 59 rural-to-urban migrants in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Findings indicated that migration for some individuals was induced due to having insufficient tangible and intangible assets as a result of decreased or variable crop-yields, forced sale of livestock, sale of other assets, or need for additional income. Small plots of land, low levels of education, fertilizer loans, and tax debts were additional contributors to low asset levels. Migration for others was induced by volition or the desire to increase social or economic status with better jobs or education. Individuals who migrated by volition often reported having sufficient land, crop-yields, and food. Few individuals had access to safety-net programs and those who did reported insufficient or undesired provisions.
The second study involved 35 heads or proxy-heads of household in three rural villages. Findings indicated that households cope with asset shortfalls and climate-change with a handful of strategies including selling animals, eating other less-preferred foods, decreasing the amount eaten, and selling other assets. Nearly all interviewees worried about money, land, and food, and needed more money, land, and animals. Climate change was reported to affect crop-yields. Ethiopia is a three-meal per day culture. In good-food months, adults and children eat three meals per day. In bad-food months, both adults and children eat fewer meals, and adults eat fewer meals than children to preserve child-nutritional status. Adults from households with the least amount of land and the most household members eat the fewest number of meals in bad months. Only in the worst times did individuals report anyone migrating from the household though most reported a family member migrating in the past. Some believe they will migrate in the future, primarily for land or education.
The third study used longitudinal panel data from the Ethiopian Rural Household Survey, covering 1,477 households over 20 years. Analytical methods involved hierarchical linear modeling of bivariate and multivariate relationships between outcome and predictor variables and the elaboration model to test the modification of irrigation on rainfall-adequacy and food-security status. Hierarchical linear modeling tests how much of the observed relationship can be attributed to household, village, region, and time-specific aspects.
Findings indicated that households continually vary in their food-security status over time. Where a household is located, its geography, and time were the most important predictors of household food-security status, and both are indicators of climate effects. Irrigation also demonstrated improvements in food-security status beyond rainfall-adequacy alone, indicating that while climate was an important predictor of food security, irrigation modifies the relationship, and modifies the impact of geography or household-location. Household crop storage improved food-security status, while free-food distribution and household assets had no impact. Household assets however, do influence household resilience, the type, and choice of coping-strategies households' use.
The findings of these three studies provide new and supporting knowledge on coping-strategy use and food-security status over time in Ethiopia, demonstrating the influence of climate change as well as possible causes of migration in Ethiopia. These studies also confirm current literature describing the inadequate coverage and assistance of Ethiopia's safety-net program, guiding the way for improved pro-poor and climate-sensitive policy recommendations.