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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > January-March 2018 (81) > Exploding the myth

Exploding the myth

Ethiopia expert Trevor Jenner reveals why we should reconsider our misconceptions about this land of astonishing natural beauty, ethnic diversity and cultural riches

How can a land with great rivers, huge lakes and more moorland than any other African country be a land of perpetual drought? Well, it isn’t! The perception of Ethiopia as drought-ridden was mainly created by the media attention that highlighted the dreadful famine over 30 years ago. Famines on a massive scale occur when there is a fatal combination of drought and extraordinary events, such as war and rinderpest.

The media was right to bring it to the notice of the world but it has leoan inaccurate image of Ethiopia. Some of the arid parts are susceptible to drought if the annual rains fail, as has happened over the past two years in the remote south-east of Ethiopia and other East African countries. But can this be applied to all of the country? Certainly not, as never has all of Ethiopia been afiected. In fact, about 50 per cent of the country consists of highlands and a part of the western rainforest has rainfall almost daily. Most of the droughts occur in the arid regions.

Ethiopia is still an essentially poor country but significant strides have been made in greatly improving infrastructure and food security, and it now has one of the fastest developing economies in the world. Two decades ago when I first flew into Addis Ababa I looked down upon a vast collection of tin roofs but now I see a city of tall buildings, complex modern roads and even a rapid transit rail system. Addis has changed and is the capital of a country now in good shape to combat drought, with a solid economic basis to support its growing tourism industry.

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