Credit: Steve Evans. A family and donkeys

The Ethiopian government holds significant control over the allocation and use of land. Indeed, the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia vests ownership of land and natural resources in the State, and these resources are not subject to sale. At the same time, the Constitution guarantees small-scale farmers access to land without charge.

To implement this guarantee and to support small-scale agricultural production, the government began a process of land certification in 1998. This initiated sweeping change, and, today, two-thirds of smallholder households have certified rights to use their land. In 2003, the government launched joint titling of land to men and women in a household in order to strengthen women's land rights.


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Land Certification in Ethiopia

Ethiopia's land certification program is one of the most extensive in Africa. Yet, it is not without its drawbacks. Critics point out that millions of farmers, especially women, still lack secure rights to their land, which increases the risks of expropriation. By law, the State can expropriate land for public uses, including for large-scale agricultural investments, without prior consultation or compensation to land users. Critics note that long-term land leases to foreign investors have sometimes ignored the property rights of local communities, especially to pastureland and seasonal water sources. At the same time, increasing population growth, land scarcity and climate change increase the vulnerability of smallholder farmers.

Ethiopia's economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, both crops and livestock. The sector provides for more than 50% of the Gross Domestic Product, and 85% of total employment. But farms are small, with 85% covering less than two hectares, and poverty is widespread. Secure land rights, therefore, remain a critical arena for development that benefits the poor.

Ethiopia infographic

Total population 84,734,262
Rural population / rural poverty rate 70,313,846/30%
Share of women in agriculture 74.8%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 14,420,415/25.7%
Internally displaced People 300,000
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 1,000,000/35
Protected areas (as % of total land) 18%
Forested land (as % of total) 12%
Annual deforestation rate -1.11%
Land rights and access rating N/A
Time required to register property (days) N/A
Women's ownership rights 0.7%
Large-scale land holdings 2,412,562
GDP per capita (current USD) 357
Agriculture as % of GDP 46.00
Natural resource income as % of GDP 5.00
Major natural resources Gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, hydropower
Tourism as share of GDP 5.1