3.1 Brief Historical trends of migration in Ethiopia Migration has become animportant phenomenon and policy issue in Ethiopia. This section attempts toassess the trends and characteristics of migration in Ethiopia in threesuccessive governments i.e. in the Emperor Hailesellassie’s regime (1941-1974), in the Socialist Derge era (1974-1991) and in the current EPRDF31 government(1991- to date).
Although Ethiopia experienced migration of people before the19th century, the following category in three important political periods hasbeen set for ease of presentation and discussion. 3.1.1 The trend in Emperor Hailesellassie’s regime(1941-1974) From the historical point of view,one of the factors inducing migration in Ethiopia has been linked with amechanism to escape from shortage of land. In Emperor Haile sellassie’sadministration, most of the agricultural land was cultivated by communitiesthat belong to a common ancestry system called rist32. Land was transferredfrom one generation to the other by family and individual rist holders who benefited by virtueof being members of the respective lineage. Hence, land remained an importantasset and main source of conflict in Ethiopia.
The expansion of the Ethiopiankingdom from north to south in the late 19th century has significantly promoted the migration of population fromnorthern highlands to southern lowlands. In addition, the establishment ofMinistry of Land reform and administration in 1966 created an opportunity forresettlement programs as a five year plan. The resettlement program had anintention to settle northernEthiopians to south. However, the resettlement program was not carriedout on empty lands and movement of people to the south had resulted violenceand conflict of the local population.
The reason for the resettlement programwas not only to lessen the shortage of land but also for controlling mechanismof occupied areas and to expand the revenue base of the Empire via increasingthe number of tax paying farmers (Nogo, 1973; Olika, 2006). According to Pankhurst33 (1992), about seven thousand households were migratedin twenty resettlement sites in the south, and about five percent of thehouseholds were spontaneous migrants in this particular period. In general, theimperial administration resettlement program of the 1970s was characterized bylack of centralized coordination and planning and high operational costs. The establishment of industrial enterprises, commercial centers,building of roads, had direct impacts for rural-urban migration and for theexpansion of commercial towns in Ethiopia. The establishment of commercialfarms in 1950s and 60s (for example sugar cane plantation and processingfactory by a Dutch firm in Upper Awash)facilitated a considerable rural-urban migration.
In addition, the growth ofthe agricultural sector and urban services in areas such as Wolayita and Arsi, supply of fertilizers and veterinary services in Shashemene town, the introduction ofmechanized farming and the development of transportation system in Rift valleyregions of the country also attracted seasonal and permanent laborers andpeasants. Natural disasters and environmental degradation was also reported forthe migration of labor from the northern part of Ethiopia at that time. In theimperial regime, the development of towns and the expansion of economic sectorsand services attracted not only laborers but also traders, civil servants,construction workers, domestic workers and even women migrants to work asprostitutes (Tadele et al34, 2006). TheSocialist Derg era (1974-1991) The Derg regime brought radical reforms. The land reform proclamationin 1975 nationalized all land resources and allowed the intervention of thestate in land ownership. The reform changed the pattern of land distributionand ownership and the state was the sole owner and distributor of land.
Inaddition, the reform included official registration of both rural and urbanpopulation and set eligibility criteria35 to obtain land in rural areas. Inaddition, checkpoints and pass system were introduced in the main highways(Tadele et al 2006; Crewett, et al.36, 2008). The Derg regime established some agencies to undertake resettlementprograms. These were ‘Relief and Rehabilitation Commission’ in 1974 and‘Settlement Authority’ in 1976. These agencies facilitated for the resettlementof hundred thousands of people in eighty four settlement sites.
As a result ofthe famine in 1984, the regime resettled one and half a million people from thefamine affected regions of Wollo andTigray to non-affected areas,particularly to the South-western part of Ethiopia. The resettlement program,which was not based on voluntary basis, was criticized on its negative effectson settlers, on the environment and on the host population. The programresulted for excessive death and family separation as it was undertaken byforce. The government cleared forest lands to resettle people that eventuallyresulted devastation of the natural environment and wild life. Although thesocialist regime resisted the critics initially, latter acknowledged that theresettlement program was poorly designed and executed(Pankhurst, 1992).
The land reform policy, which limitedaccess to land for only registered permanent members of peasant association,forced rural inhabitants to confine themselves in their locality than migrateto urban areas. This was because land belonging to absent people for more thana year was redistributed for the local people. Other reasons thatdiscouraged the free mobility of rural migrants in the Derg era were:the need for an official pass letter to travel to cities, the need to registerin urban dwellers association as well as the expansion of civil war and ‘RedTerror’37(Desalegn, 1994 as cited in Tadele et al 2006).
3.1.3 The post 1991 Period (the current EPRDF38 government) The resettlement program of the Derg regime was criticized by thecurrent EPRDF administration for its negative impacts on settlers, hostpopulation and the environment. In EPRDF regime, mobility of people has beenmade on voluntary basis and resettlers were provided the right to retain theirland rights at their origin and the right to return back to their home villageswhenever they want to. With in three years of period from December 2003 to May2006, the government resettled 2.2 million people (440,000 households) fromchronically food insecure areas to the southwestern and western areas of thecountry. The reasons given for choosing these destinations were because of theexistence of under utilized natural resources and sparse population (the samereason justified by the previous two regimes (Benjamin, 2004; Abeshu, 2008) The EPRDF government has introducedethnic federalism and regions39 have been identifiedbased on ethnicity in the Ethiopian constitution since 1991.
According to theFederal constitution (Art.40/3), the ownership right of land belongs to theregional state and land can not be transferred through sale or other means ofexchange by anyone except the regional state that administers and has powerover it. The justification given by the government regarding the land ownershiprights of the regional state has been to protect farmers from possible loss oftheir irreplaceable asset.
Private ownership of landmight force poor farmers tosell their land as a result of poverty and end up becoming landless and poorer.The land tenure system has influenced the dynamics of migration. A surveyconducted by the Central Statistical Authority (CSA) of Ethiopia on thenational labor force in 1999 depicted that intra-regional migration of laborwas prevalent in the regions and inter-regional migration was very limited. Thereasons assumed for very limited inter-regional migration has been theimplementation of ethnic based federalism and its consequences on thepreference of people to confine themselves in their home regions where they canspeak the language well and share the culture. The five years Poverty ReductionStrategy Paper (PRSP)40, i.e. the PASDEP41 of the country has contrastingarguments about the needs for rural-urban migration (Tadele et al, 2006). Thedocument argues on the negative aspects of migration and considers rural-urban migration asa cause for urban poverty, widespread of HIV/AIDS and for expansion of crime incities.
According to the document, rural-urban migration increases the flow ofpeople from rural areas leading to the increase of pressure on urban servicesand facilities as well as for the increase of unemployment rate. In addition,the paper argues on the strategy of discouraging rural-urban migration with apremise of maximizing the utility of rural labor in the agricultural sector.These premises have been assumed to be achieved via labor-intensiveagricultural development strategies and proper utilization of agriculturalland.
On the other hand, it documented the existence of small land holdings ofrural households (even as low as 0.25 hectare for some regions42). In addition, it has pointed out the needs forinter-linkages of the primary sector with secondary and tertiary sectors,development of small towns and creation of employment opportunities in urbanareas. The arguments have been contrasting to each other and do not thoroughlytake to account, the size of land holdings of the majority rural households aswell as the positivedevelopmental outcomes of rural-urban migration.
Ingeneral, the current patterns of population movement in Ethiopia are highlyhampered by empirical studies