3.1 Brief Historical trends of migration in Ethiopia

Migration has become an
important phenomenon and policy issue in Ethiopia. This section attempts to
assess the trends and characteristics of migration in Ethiopia in three
successive 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 the
19th century, the following category in three important political periods has
been set for ease of presentation and discussion.

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3.1.1 The trend in Emperor Hailesellassie’s regime

From the historical point of view,
one of the factors inducing migration in Ethiopia has been linked with a
mechanism to escape from shortage of land. In Emperor Haile sellassie’s
administration, most of the agricultural land was cultivated by communities
that belong to a common ancestry system called rist32. Land was transferred
from one generation to the other by family and individual rist holders who benefited by virtue
of being members of the respective lineage. Hence, land remained an important
asset and main source of conflict in Ethiopia. The expansion of the Ethiopian
kingdom from north to south in the late 19th century has significantly promoted the migration of population from
northern highlands to southern lowlands. In addition, the establishment of
Ministry of Land reform and administration in 1966 created an opportunity for
resettlement programs as a five year plan. The resettlement program had an
intention to settle northern

Ethiopians to south. However, the resettlement program was not carried
out on empty lands and movement of people to the south had resulted violence
and conflict of the local population. The reason for the resettlement program
was not only to lessen the shortage of land but also for controlling mechanism
of occupied areas and to expand the revenue base of the Empire via increasing
the number of tax paying farmers (Nogo, 1973; Olika, 2006).

According to Pankhurst33 (1992), about seven thousand households were migrated
in twenty resettlement sites in the south, and about five percent of the
households were spontaneous migrants in this particular period. In general, the
imperial administration resettlement program of the 1970s was characterized by
lack 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 the
expansion of commercial towns in Ethiopia. The establishment of commercial
farms in 1950s and 60s (for example sugar cane plantation and processing
factory by a Dutch firm in Upper Awash)
facilitated a considerable rural-urban migration. In addition, the growth of
the agricultural sector and urban services in areas such as Wolayita and Arsi, supply of fertilizers and veterinary services in Shashemene town, the introduction of
mechanized farming and the development of transportation system in Rift valley
regions of the country also attracted seasonal and permanent laborers and
peasants. Natural disasters and environmental degradation was also reported for
the migration of labor from the northern part of Ethiopia at that time. In the
imperial regime, the development of towns and the expansion of economic sectors
and services attracted not only laborers but also traders, civil servants,
construction workers, domestic workers and even women migrants to work as
prostitutes (Tadele et al34, 2006).


Socialist Derg era (1974-1991)

The Derg regime brought radical reforms. The land reform proclamation
in 1975 nationalized all land resources and allowed the intervention of the
state in land ownership. The reform changed the pattern of land distribution
and ownership and the state was the sole owner and distributor of land. In
addition, the reform included official registration of both rural and urban
population and set eligibility criteria35 to obtain land in rural areas. In
addition, 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 resettlement
programs. These were ‘Relief and Rehabilitation Commission’ in 1974 and
‘Settlement Authority’ in 1976. These agencies facilitated for the resettlement
of hundred thousands of people in eighty four settlement sites. As a result of
the famine in 1984, the regime resettled one and half a million people from the
famine affected regions of Wollo and
Tigray 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 effects
on settlers, on the environment and on the host population. The program
resulted for excessive death and family separation as it was undertaken by
force. The government cleared forest lands to resettle people that eventually
resulted devastation of the natural environment and wild life. Although the
socialist regime resisted the critics initially, latter acknowledged that the
resettlement program was poorly designed and executed(Pankhurst, 1992).

The land reform policy, which limited
access to land for only registered permanent members of peasant association,
forced rural inhabitants to confine themselves in their locality than migrate
to urban areas. This was because land belonging to absent people for more than
a year was redistributed for the local people. Other reasons that

discouraged 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 register
in urban dwellers association as well as the expansion of civil war and ‘Red
Terror’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 the
current EPRDF administration for its negative impacts on settlers, host
population and the environment. In EPRDF regime, mobility of people has been
made on voluntary basis and resettlers were provided the right to retain their
land rights at their origin and the right to return back to their home villages
whenever they want to. With in three years of period from December 2003 to May
2006, the government resettled 2.2 million people (440,000 households) from
chronically food insecure areas to the southwestern and western areas of the
country. The reasons given for choosing these destinations were because of the
existence of under utilized natural resources and sparse population (the same
reason justified by the previous two regimes (Benjamin, 2004; Abeshu, 2008)

The EPRDF government has introduced
ethnic federalism and regions39 have been identified
based on ethnicity in the Ethiopian constitution since 1991. According to the
Federal constitution (Art.40/3), the ownership right of land belongs to the
regional state and land can not be transferred through sale or other means of
exchange by anyone except the regional state that administers and has power
over it. The justification given by the government regarding the land ownership
rights of the regional state has been to protect farmers from possible loss of
their irreplaceable asset. Private ownership of landmight force poor farmers to
sell 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 survey
conducted by the Central Statistical Authority (CSA) of Ethiopia on the
national labor force in 1999 depicted that intra-regional migration of labor
was prevalent in the regions and inter-regional migration was very limited. The
reasons assumed for very limited inter-regional migration has been the
implementation of ethnic based federalism and its consequences on the
preference of people to confine themselves in their home regions where they can
speak the language well and share the culture. The five years Poverty Reduction
Strategy Paper (PRSP)40, i.e. the PASDEP41 of the country has contrasting
arguments about the needs for rural-urban migration (Tadele et al, 2006). The
document argues on the negative aspects of migration and considers rural-urban migration as
a cause for urban poverty, widespread of HIV/AIDS and for expansion of crime in
cities. According to the document, rural-urban migration increases the flow of
people from rural areas leading to the increase of pressure on urban services
and facilities as well as for the increase of unemployment rate. In addition,
the paper argues on the strategy of discouraging rural-urban migration with a
premise of maximizing the utility of rural labor in the agricultural sector.
These premises have been assumed to be achieved via labor-intensive
agricultural development strategies and proper utilization of agricultural
land. On the other hand, it documented the existence of small land holdings of
rural households (even as low as 0.25 hectare for some regions42). In addition, it has pointed out the needs for
inter-linkages of the primary sector with secondary and tertiary sectors,
development of small towns and creation of employment opportunities in urban
areas. The arguments have been contrasting to each other and do not thoroughly
take to account, the size of land holdings of the majority rural households as
well as the positivedevelopmental outcomes of rural-urban migration. In
general, the current patterns of population movement in Ethiopia are highly
hampered by empirical studies 


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