Political pace, identities livelihoods, food (in) security, and famine
: the case of the Sidama of Southern Ethiopia

  • Mulugeta Bakkalo Daye

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The rural livelihoods of the Sidama stem from a combination of crop production, and livestock rearing. Although seasonal hunger was prevalent among the Sidama, the full scale famine that had stricken northern parts of Ethiopia for a long time did not hit the Sidama area until the late 1990s. This research set out to understand why after the successful prevention of seasonal food insecurity progressing into famine for centuries, the Sidaman small holders and semi-pastoralists failed to do this from 1999/2000 onwards.

    This research used ethnographic methodology: a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods. This helped to capture how the disengaging political space culminated in famine and response failure among the Sidama of southern Ethiopia in 1999-2003 and how the political space also conditioned the resilience, security and sustainability of the livelihoods held by those who are integrated and loyalists to the political system on one hand, stagnation and deterioration of the livelihoods of sceptics and the marginalised in the performance of the Productive Safety Net programme.

    A new livelihood framework is designed and tested. The Livelihoods of Engaging Political Space Analysis (LEPSA) is about freedom of conviction, expression and action. LEPSA illustrates the political space of conflicting and conditioned political identities and its effects on livelihood asset access. Food and livelihood insecurity that leads to famine is the culmination of generational poverty that emerges as cumulative effect of the inner socio-political dynamics of given society, whose resilience, (in) security (un)sustainability is linked to engagement or disengagement in political space.

    The “Political Space” was found to provide a more helpful analysis than “Political Capital” which obscured developing hazard by over-trusting those with powers from the above to decide on the lives and livelihoods of citizens from below. A better understanding of the trajectories of livelihood resilience, security and sustainability is made through engaging in an analysis of political space to be included in diverse development policies. Thus, the LEPSA helps to map out that is food and livelihood resilient or vulnerable and in (secure) in the face of the drivers of the interests of diverse identities’ interests on our planet.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMarion MacLellan (Supervisor)

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