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Report: Ethiopians could still go hungry despite economic gains

With its population of 91 million expected to double in the next 22 years, and a drier climate, Ethiopia will have trouble feeding its people, a new report says.

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A report forecasting increasing hunger in parts of Ethiopia in the next few decades makes agonizing reading for a proud people eager to see their nation's reputation for human misery banished.

A surging population – the current population of 90.9 million will double over 22 years at the current 3.2 percent growth rate – combined with drier, hotter weather "could dramatically increase the number of at-risk people in Ethiopia during the next 20 years," according to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network study.

The findings follow the Horn of Africa's worst drought in six decades, which left 4.6 million Ethiopians needing emergency assistance last year. Another 7.4 million are classified as "chronically food insecure" by donors. Harvests and pastures are already suffering because rainfall during Ethiopia's two wet seasons has declined 15 to 20 percent over the last 35 years.

In densely-inhabited crop-growing parts of the Rift Valley south of Addis Ababa, rapidly increasing populations will also have to deal with declining rainfall. "It appears likely that the combination of population growth, land degradation, and more frequent droughts will result in more frequent food-related crises," says the study. If temperatures keep rising, conditions in some areas will become too hot for the production of coffee, Ethiopia's primary export.

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