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Selected Speeches Of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I



AGRICULTURE AND LAND REFORM


The fruits of the farmer’s labour must be en­joyed by him whose toil has produced the crop.... Without agricultural expansion, industrial growth is impossible.


.... We may refer to the Committee on Land Reform. Ethiopia has been, throughout her history, an agricultural nation. The basis of the livelihood for the great majority of the Ethiopian people rests and will always remain in the land. Ethiopia today, as the most superficial review of her trade and revenue statistics will amply attest, is largely dependent upon the products of her farmers for the finances essential to the achievement of the Government’s programmes. The expansion of Ethiopia’s educational system, the eradication of disease, the raising of the standard of living of her people, the provision of a strong arm for her self­defence, all of these, this country’s very life, depend upon the existence of the means whereby these programmes may be financed. We must concentrate increasingly on the agricultural sector as holding the greatest hope for expanding the revenue which the Government must dispose of in financing the nation’s development. Coffee, for example, has for many years been a highly important earner of foreign exchange for Ethiopia. But coffee is now in over­supply in the world markets. Today, other products are gradually increasing in importance in Ethiopia’s export trade—hides and skins, cereals, oilseeds—all the products of an agrarian economy. This process must be accelerated.

Ethiopia cannot, as some would suggest, look to industry for these funds. Without agricultural expansion, industrial growth is impossible. Great strides, it is true, have been made in introducing industries into Ethiopia in recent years. But in any less-developed agrarian country, possessing only limited possibilities for selling the products of its factories in world export markets, industry can grow only if there exists an increasingly prosperous rural consumer population. Industrialisation is not an alternative to the development of agriculture; rather, the development of agriculture is the essential pre-condition to the growth of industry.

Farmers and the Land

The fundamental obstacle to the realisation of the full measure of Ethiopia’s agricultural potential has been, simply stated, lack of security in the land. The fruits of the farmer’s labour must be enjoyed by him whose toil has produced the crop. The essence of land reform is, while fully respecting the principle of private ownership, that landless people must have the opportunity to possess their own land, that the position of tenant farmers must be improved, and that the system of taxation applying to land holdings must be the same for all. It is Our aim that every Ethiopian own his own land, and, in implementation of this principle, We have Ourself set the example by ordering that certain lands in Arussi Province heretofore administered by Our Ministry of the Imperial Court be distributed to the tenants working on them, against payment by each man only of the nominal fees charged for the transfer and the registration of this property in his own name. This has been the basic objective of virtually every modern programme of land reform; this is the ultimate goal of the study now being undertaken by the Committee on Land Reform.

Programmes of land reform, having as their aim the securing of the ownership of the land to those who till it, have been implemented in numerous countries adhering to various political and economic systems. By whatever reasoning these programmes have been justified, they have all rested, at bottom, on the belief that it is the responsibility of government to ensure the development of the nation’s economy, the well-being of its people, and the attainment of social progress and social justice. If initiative elsewhere is lacking, the burden passes to government.

Land reform, which is in large part a social programme, is wholly in keeping with this fundamental principle, a principle which has already found ample expression in Ethiopian life. Today, for example, a large portion of the means of production is owned by the Government. This is not to say that Ethiopia opposes private ownership, or that the Government shall not continue to encourage and facilitate private investment, both domestic and foreign. This does mean, however, that to the extent that private initiative is not forthcoming, the Government has the solemn responsibility itself to act. In embarking upon a sweeping programme of land reform, the Government is only taking those measures essential to the social progress of the Ethiopian nation which it is its duty to undertake.

November 2, 1961.


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Emperor Haile Sellassie First Theocracy Reign
Order of the Nyahbinghi

May 31, 2017