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Catalog Archive / Spring 2018

Farming and Famine
Landscape Vulnerability in Northeast Ethiopia, 1889–1991

Africa and the Diaspora: History, Politics, Culture
Thomas Spear, Neil Kodesh, Tejumola Olaniyan, Michael G. Schatzberg, and James H. Sweet, Series Editors


“Scholarship of the highest quality. Ethiopia is often taken as a prime example of a society made susceptible to famine by environmental degradation. Crummey provides an immensley valuable and meticulous reassessment”
—James L. Giblin, author of a History of the Excluded

A brilliant, authoritative examination of the causes of famine

In modern times, Ethiopia has suffered three grievous famines, two of which—in 1973–74 and in 1984—caught the world's attention. It is often assumed that population increase drove Ethiopia's farmers to overexploit their environment and thus undermine the future of their own livelihoods, part of a larger global process of deforestation. In Farming and Famine, Donald E. Crummey explores and refutes these claims based on his research in Wallo province, an epicenter of both famines.

Crummey draws on photographs comparing identical landscapes in 1937 and 1997 as well as interviews with local farmers, among other sources. He reveals that forestation actually increased due to farmers' tree-planting initiatives. More broadly, he shows that, in the face of growing environmental stress, Ethiopian farmers have innovated and adapted. Yet the threat of famine remains because of constricted access to resources and erratic rainfall. To avoid future famines, Crummey suggests, Ethiopia's farmers must transform agricultural productivity, but they cannot achieve that on their own


Author. Photo credit, Name Donald E. Crummey (1941–2013) was regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on Ethiopian history. His many books include Land and Society in the Christian Kingdom of Ethiopia and Land, Literacy, and the State in the History of Sudanic Africa. James C. McCann, the author of numerous books including Deposing the Malevolent Spirit and People of the Plow, used Crummey's notes to bring this book to completion.




“Chock-full of sharp insights and information regarding landscape change, Crummey’s book deftly historicizes ecology.”
American Historical Review

“Has relevance extending well beyond the Wallo region itself or even Africa, to the analysis and understanding of famine worldwide. It will stand as a fitting final monument to one of the great scholars in the field.”
—Christopher Clapham, author of The Horn of Africa



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Book Title

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July 2018
LC: 2017051215 S
312 pp. 6. x 9
50 b/w photos, 9 figures, 4 maps, 19 tables

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Cloth $79.95
ISBN 9780299316303
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