9. The 1975 Settlement Study

The purpose of the 1975 national settlement study was to collect information about all existing and planned settlement schemes, regardless if these had been organized by Government or Non Government Agencies, with the support of national or international sources. The main objective of the study was “To offer guidance to settlement development in Ethiopia” based on the experiences of existing settlement agencies and settlement schemes.

The initial field work for the survey was conducted in 1975, during which period all existing settlement schemes and most of the sites planned for new settlement schemes were visited, covering all reported settlement agencies established in Ethiopia by 1975.
The information collected during this survey showed that in 1975 there were 97 settlement schemes in Ethiopia with 50,465 settler families, while another 35 schemes were in the process of being established for some additional 20,000 settler families.
After processing of the data collected during the initial field survey, the following four main categories of settlement schemes were identified:

Overview of the four main categories of Ethiopian settlement schemes


Categories of schemes

Description of basic features

1.Self help subsistence

The production level in these schemes is set to provide the settlers with means to obtain basic subsistence.

This was set at 1500 kg of cereals for an average family of 5 persons per year or 820 grams of cereals per day, sufficient for basic survival. Most of these settlement schemes were established as an emergency arrangement to help people who were destitute, as a result of the prolonged drought. By 1975 there were 40 settlement schemes in this category with a total of 11 500 settler families or 300 families per scheme, organized by 12 different settlement agencies, some of which

were government and some were private agencies.

2.Improved subsistence

The production level set in this category is to provide settlers subsistence and some marketable food surplus to allow them to gradually improve their situation. By 1975 there were 42 schemes in this category of which 35 projects organized by the Settlement Authority and 7 schemes under the responsibility of other agencies with a total of 21,400 settlers families.

3.Modern smallholder farming

The production level set in this category is to provide settlers with full subsistence and at least 30-50% surplus of agricultural produce to be marketed to improve the settlers’ income. By 1975 there were 5 projects in this category organized by four settlement agencies, with a total of 2,648 settler families.

4. Large scale mechanized production oriented schemes based on irrigated agriculture

The production level set in this category was to produce cash crops for export. The settlers’ role was mainly as workers, who received a cash income to cover subsistence and improve their living conditions. There were 3 schemes with 1,433 settlers organized by 2 agencies

In addition, the survey collected information on five schemes in which lepers were settled with 3,484 settlers by four agencies (Image 42) and two schemes for refugee settlers from the Sudan with 10 000 settlers organized by the UN office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

Based on this information the RRC settlement commission decided to conduct a second round of field work to study in more detail the following six schemes representing the four main categories of settlement schemes:


Type of scheme

Name of scheme



Year established

No of settlers

Ethnic group

1.Self help Subsistence




Gema Gofa


Min of Nat Community Development








2.Improved subsistence



ECMY Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus




3.Modern smallholder farming





5.Angar Gutin






WADU Wolaita Agricultural Development Unit



Solidarité et Développement











Oromo &








4 Large scale farming



Awash Valley Development Authority





The following definitions of a settlement scheme and related concepts are used in this report:
A settlement scheme is a development project, which involves the planned movement of people to areas of under utilized potential.

  • The concept project is defined as any organized attempt to introduce change
  • The more restricted term of resettlement is included in settlement
  • The under utilized areas, may include virgin lands or lands with a very extensive land use, such as grazing or shifting cultivation
  • Development projects on lands already intensively used are excluded
  • The concept includes both rain-fed and irrigated schemes


9.1 The landless Ethiopian rural population

Categories of settlers

A: Peasants: Landless, former evicted tenants, agricultural laborers and traditional farmers. These were mainly traditional farmers from overcrowded highlands or who had been recently evicted by landlords who were developing mechanized farming. In most cases these farmers had a considerable experience with traditional farming methods and were familiar with ox-ploughs, utilization of manure and crop rotation.

B: Nomadic or semi nomadic groups of people: pastoralists and shifting cultivators. These groups were considered for settlement when effected by drought and most of their livestock was lost, or when national interest required a more intensive land-use of areas so far used by these groups for extensive grazing or shifting cultivation only.

C: Urban unemployed and former lepers
Some of these were familiar with rural skills; however, the majority had no rural skills but had been employed previously as craftsmen-carpenters, masons, blacksmiths or as unskilled labor. In addition there were settlement schemes for rehabilitated lepers and for internal and external refugees in Ethiopia during the 1970s.

Preliminary surveys in the Ethiopian lowlands had shown the existence of large stretches of fertile land in the altitude zones below 1700 m suitable for settlement, particularly if irrigated agriculture could be established. Fertile land was available in abundance in areas without sufficient rainfall but with large permanent rivers, suitable for irrigated agriculture. Estimates ranged from 7 to 16 million ha of available suitable land, development of which would at least double the cultivated area of Ethiopia, which was estimated at only 5 to 7 million ha in the early 1970s.

The need for formal settlement agencies in the case of Ethiopia.

There are many examples of traditional societies in the past which developed fertile lands for irrigated agriculture when rivers were available but local rainfall insufficient for crop production. Referred is to the large scale irrigation systems developed in the past by:

  • The Sumerians during the Third Millennium BC.
  • Civilizations in Egypt, Indus Valley, China, Turkey, Palestine and Cypress during the Second Millennium BC.
  • Asian civilizations since the First Millennium BC.
  • The Italian irrigation systems in the Po valley established during the middle ages.
  • Land reclamations established in the Netherlands, North Germany and on the East Coast of England, since the middle ages. In these reclamation areas, land was reclaimed from the sea, involving dykes and drainage systems, called polders.

In all these examples traditional societies, long before the present day industrial period, managed to design, construct and utilize irrigation systems in river basins or reclaim land from the sea. These societies all managed to organize the many complex issues involved in such engineering work: mobilizing the people, develop and implement the technology as well as arrange the legal aspects and other related issues of such undertakings, which were all organized within the capabilities of traditional societies.

Opening up the fertile lowlands of Ethiopia for irrigated agriculture would involve similar activities: mobilization of the people, development of the technology, arranging the organizational and legal aspects.

Unfortunately, the destitute Ethiopian rural highland population and the Afar and Somali pastoralists did not have the strength and organizational and technical knowhow to open up these lands for agriculture like the above civilizations had done in the past. It was therefore necessary for outside settlement agencies to take the initiative, organizing funds, technologies, organizational structure and selecting settler families.

9.2Description of the six case studies

A short summary of the main aspects of the six case studies:

  1. Gato, a self help subsistence scheme.
    Gato, a self help subsistence scheme, is located at 1300 m altitude, 60 km south of Arba Minch in the Gamu Gofa province.
    • Gato was established in 1972 by the Ministry of National Community Development: MNCD, for farmers who had lost their land in the Menz area, Shoa Province, 800 km north of Gato.
    • All settlers were familiar with ploughing with oxen and traditional farming techniques before migrating to Gato.
    • In 1976 there were 65 settler families, who had received a plot of 20 ha, but most settlers had only cleared one to two ha which they farmed twice a year. MNCD, which in addition of provided land and transport of the settlers from Menz to Gato, had only provided an irrigation supply canal of 600 m length from the Gato river to the project area. None of the settlers had received any of the other assistance promised by MNCD. The 65 families owned between them 25 pair of plough oxen.
    • The farming system consisted of 1 ha maize and 0.2 ha cotton during the first crop season and 0.5 ha teff and 0.2 ha pepper during the second crop season.
    • The total average cash returns per settler family was estimated at $ 190, of which $160 was earned from the sale of crops and $ 30 from the sale of livestock produce, while farm produced, home consumed produce, was estimated at a value of $ 65 per annum per settler family.
    • The settlers’ main problems included insufficient supply of irrigation water and the absence of a nearby market center and clinic; malaria is endemic in the area.
    • In spite of the lack of support from MNCD the Menz settlers in Gato were optimistic about the future. They hoped that they could improve the situation themselves as the potential situation in Gato was much more promising compared to the eroded land they had left in the Menz area.  Images: 081-092,133-145
  2. Chano, a self help subsistence scheme
    Chano, a self help subsistence scheme, is also located at 1300 m altitude, at 10 km north of Arba Minch in Gamu Gofa Province.
    • Ghano was established in 1970 by MNCD for farmers from the overcrowded highlands in the Gamu Gofa province, who had lost their land. Settlers were Ochollo, Wolaito and Guji subgroups from the Oromo.
    • All settlers were familiar with ploughing by oxen and traditional farming techniques before migrating to Gato.
    • In 1976 there were 300 settler families, who each who had received a plot of 3 ha, of which 1 ha was irrigable and 2 ha rain-fed, plus a homestead plot of 0.1 ha.
    • MNCD in addition to providing the lands, had constructed a 500 m long irrigation supply canal from the Hare River to the project area and given temporary shelter and food support for one year, in the period before the settlers managed their first harvest and had constructed their houses. Most settlers owned a pair of oxen for ploughing.
    • The 1 ha irrigated plots were continuously cropped with a rotation of maize, sweet potato and cotton, while the 2 ha rain-fed plots were cropped with maize and sweet potato, during the rainy season. The homestead plots were planted with banana, ensete, citrus and spices.
    • The total cash return per settler family was estimated at $ 310, of which $270 from crops, $ 15 from the sales of livestock produce and $ 25 from the sales of fruits. Farm produced, home consumed produce was estimated at $ 70 per annum per family.
    • The settlers’ main problems included the poor condition of the irrigation supply canal and the access roads; the absence of a clinic- especially as malaria was endemic in the area, the absence of a flour mill and a market center were also considered as problems.
    • Another problem was the group of 257 “dependant” farmers. These were family members who had originally joined to help clearing the land and building the family houses, but who had stayed on and now also requested farm plots.
    • The majority of the settlers stated that their income had increased since coming to Chano and they were optimistic about the future, as conditions were better in Chano compared with the eroded small plots they had left in the nearby highlands at a distance of about 5-7 hours walking from Chano. Images 144-145
  3. Dimtu, an improved subsistence scheme
    • Dimtu is an improved subsistence type of scheme.
    • It is located at 1400 m altitude, in the Didessa Valley, about 380 km west from Addis Ababa in the Wollega province.
    • Dimtu was established in 1970 by the Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus-ECMY for semi-nomadic Nilotic speaking shifting cultivators-Shankilla, from the border area between Ethiopia and the Sudan and for some landless local Oromo speaking farmers from the overcrowded Wollega highlands.
    • Before joining Dimtu, settlers were not familiar with ox ploughing. They used hoe farming for growing, maize, sorghum, millet and cotton.
    • It is the objective of ECMY to settle these people and to teach them sedentary farming with ox ploughs.
    • Settler families, in addition to a piece of cleared land and food before the first harvest, also received agricultural inputs, health care and education. In 1976 there were 200 settler families, but at maturity of the project in 1978 there will be a total of 400 settler families. Each family received a plot of 4 ha, of which 1.5 ha was cleared and ploughed by ECMY for the first year, while the settler was assumed to clear the balance of the 4 ha plot within 3 to 4 years.
    • Each settler also received a share of 6 ha in a communal plot for grazing and firewood. Each settler family further received one ox, farm-tools, seeds and food on credit for a total value of $ 130 which credit had to be repaid in 4 years starting from the second harvest.
    • ECMY further provided settlers with feeder roads, a project center with storage facilities, a work-shop, a clinic especially for malaria treatment, a school and an agricultural extension office, from which each settler family received two visits per week from an extension officer. In view of the trypanosome-sleeping sickness, the oxen and other livestock would be treated regularly against this disease.
    • ECMY planned a total investment of about US$ 500 000 for Dimtu, which would be about $ 1350 per ha or $ 5500 per settler family, covering all costs including overheads such as local staff members and one expatriate staff as project leader.
    • By 1976 each settler family was cropping 2.1 out of the 4 ha of their plot with 0.6 ha maize, 0.9 ha sorghum, 0.3 ha millet, 0.3 ha cotton and 0.1 ha teff. Net cash returns for the 1975/76 crop year were estimated at $ 200 per family, plus $ 25 from the sales of honey. Settler families spent about $ 70 cash and $ 160 worth of home produced produce.
    • Compared with their previous situation farmers found that their lives had been much improved, that their income was higher and that they had access to all basic facilities. Images: 030-038,166-180,184

  4. Abella, Modern smallholder farming
    • Abella is a scheme in the category which aims to develop Modern Smallholder Farming. Abella is located at 1400 m altitude, near the highroad from Soddo to Arba Minch, about 28 km south of Soddo in the Soddo province.
    • Abella was started in 1958 and incorporated in 1970 into the Wolaita Agricultural Development UNIT-(WADU)
    • Abella was initiated as a pilot project to use the lowlands of the province to reduce the pressure on the highlands in the Soddo province, where population densities of up to 440 inhabitants per km2 existed.

    The WADU development strategy included giving emphasis to:
    • Land planning and settlement
    • Road construction, land clearing, soil conservation
    • Provision of water supply
    • Establishment of extension services for crops & livestock
    • Establishment of marketing cooperatives
    • Agricultural Credit arrangements

    In 1976 there were 984 settler families in Abella, of whom 85 % came from the nearby overcrowded Wolaita highlands and 15 % from other areas of Ethiopia, among which from the Menz area, about 800 km North of Abella.
    • All settlers had previous experience with traditional ox plough farming. All settlers originally lived in the highland, where climates were much cooler and where there was no malaria infestation. Consequently most settlers in Abella suffered from heat and malaria during the first few years.
    • The total costs to develop a farm unit in Abella, including development costs and infra structure were estimated at $ 2 000 per 5 ha plot, covering the period 1958-1979. Of this amount 37% was to be repaid by the settlers over a twenty-year period and the balance was a grant, which was financed by the government with loans from the World Bank, the World Food Programme and British Bilateral Aid.
    • Settlers received a 5 ha plot of which 2 ha was cleared by WADU and a seasonal credit was given to buy inputs for an amount of $ 150 per unit.  In addition, settler families received food aid for the first 12 to 16 months of their stay, till the time of the first harvest and the building of their house was completed.
    • Further services included a system of feeder roads:186 km; an agricultural service center; a cooperative consumer store; clinics; schools; a domestic water supply and an agricultural research sub center. The extension officer would visit each settler family twice weekly, whereby one officer would be s responsible for 60 settler families. Further a livestock improvement programme was established to vaccinate the cattle against CBPP, rinderpest, anthrax, black leg and for improved breeding. A main constraint for the settlers is malaria.
    • The 5 ha plot included 3 ha for crops and 2 ha for grazing, but most settlers farmed nearly the entire 5 ha plot and cattle were thus forced to graze outside the project boundaries, which was a constraint. During 1975/76 each settler had cropped 3.33 ha cropped of which maize on 1.82; cotton on 0.84 ha, teff on 0.94 ha and red peppers on 0.28 ha
    • Net returns from crops was $ 460, from livestock $60; from honey collecting $ 10.
    • The average settler owned a herd of 6.4 cattle.
    • The annual cash expenses per family for 75/76 amounted to $ 255 and the value of subsistence, farm produced, was estimated at $ 170.
    • Most settlers found that their income had increased when compared with their former situation.
    • The main problems faced by the settlers were malaria, wild animals, shortage of fire wood, insufficient grazing land, declining soil fertility due to continuous cropping. The farmers also would need more schools and a clinic.
    • Some of the dependants who helped in the initial period to clear the plots and build the house now requested a plot of land in line with the new 1975 law on public ownership of land. Images :044-050,188-209,471-479

  5. Angar Gutin, Modern smallholder farming
    • Angar Gutin is a scheme in the category which aims to develop Modern Smallholder Farming. It is located at 1400 m altitude, about 70 km north of Nekempte the capital of Wollega Province, some 400 km west of Addis Ababa.
    • Angar Gutin was started in 1971 by Solidarité et Développement, a private German, Belgium and Dutch funded charity agency, associated with the Catholic Church.
    • The objective of SED was to achieve integrated rural development with emphasis on human development local leadership and training. The establishment of a rural community was envisaged with 75 % of the settlers engaged in farming and 25 % in rural crafts and cottage industries, in particular:
    • Adapted selection and training methods for settlers and staff
    • Improved rural techniques, intermediate technologies, labour intensive and capital saving methods
    • Agriculture: soil conservation, sound land-use, improved ox traction for farm operations and improved farm practices
    • Health care: malaria control; trypanosome control
    • Rural crafts: brick making, tool making, ox drawn implements; cloth weaving
    • Annual target income of $ 500 after deductions for farm inputs and subsistence
    • In 1976 there were 590 settler families, but plans existed to extend this to a community of 4 000 families farming 22,000 ha by 1979.
    • Settlers were selected from the nearby overcrowded Wollega highlands.
    • Development costs amounted to $ 2 000 000.- for the period 1969-1977of which $ 1 500 000 was paid by the donors and $ 5 00 000 was generated by the project, including loan repayments by settlers. Total cost per farm unit was estimated at $ 3700, including a credit to settlers for an amount of $ 1 250.
    • Settlers received a 5 ha plot for food crops and a share of 2.5 ha of grazing land and for firewood. The land was cleared by the settler, during which period he would receive a daily allowance for subsistence.
    • Each settler received a medium term loan of $ 2,000 for: house construction; one pair of oxen; one improved “Brabant “ plough; one harrow; one yoke and clearing costs.
    • Each settler further received a short term loan of $ 260 for subsistence during the first season for: agricultural inputs, seeds, fertilizers and anti trypanosome medicines for oxen. All credit was charged with 7% interest and repayment would after a two-year grace period.
    • Infra structural works included: a main feeder road of 60 km; 160 km farm roads; construction of a project center for provision of agricultural services; a cooperative consumer store; ware houses dormitories for trainees; a clinic; schools; water supply and individual wells.
    • Extension service: settlers would be twice weekly visited by one of the 24 extension officers
    • Trypanosome control by a combination of medications for the livestock and destruction of the tsetse population, through discriminative clearing of tsetse infested bush which is described in detail in the Angar Gutin case study.
    • In Angar Gutin the tsetse infection was above 150. In general no livestock is advised when tsetse infections are over 50. In Anger Gutin, in 1976, due to a combination of veterinary and entomological measures the oxen in the project had survived for a period of over 5 years. World-renowned tsetse specialists acknowledged this as an exceptionally positive development and a breakthrough in tsetse control.
    • The sales of farm produce and rural handicrafts, including the weaving of cloth, amounted to $ 450 per settler family for the year 1975/1976.
    • Farming in Agar Gutin is rain-fed as the annual rainfall is on average 1 400 mm.
    • In 1975/76 ha each settler cropped 3.3 ha: 1.8 ha pea beans; 0.5 ha maize 0.4 ha cotton 0.6 ha groundnuts. Net returns for this year were: from crops $ 440, from livestock $ 25 and from handicrafts $ 75; a total of $ 600 per settler family.
    • Living expenses during 1975/76 amounted to $ 360 cash and $ 40 for home produce, home consumed.
    • Compared with their previous situation settlers found their income and prospects improved. However disturbance by wild animals was worse.
    • Problems as seen by settlers: human and animal diseases and transportation facilities to the provincial capital.
    • Problems as seen by the project management: building up managerial capacity; political pressure; improving malaria and trypanosome control; sellingbfarm produce at profitable prices for the settlers and sufficient capital for further development. Images: 001-019,440-446
  6. Amibara, Production oriented large scale mechanized farming
    • The aim of the Amibara scheme was production oriented large scale mechanized farming.
    • Amibara is located in the upper middle Awash valley, Haraghe Province on the Addis Ababa-Mille highway, about 280 km north east of Addis Ababa at an altitude of 740 meters
    • Amibara was established in 1967 to settle nomadic Afar pastoralists, who had lost their grazing grounds to the Tendeho Cotton Plantation and to introduce irrigated agriculture to the Afar.
    • Afar pastoralists had no previous experience with crop production.
    • Before joining the Amibara scheme and before the 1972-1974 drought, the average Afar family owned 245 heads of livestock: 76 cattle; 63 sheep, 62 camels and 43 goats.
    • In 1976 there were 409 settler families but a final number of 800 settler families was foreseen.
    • Each settler had a share of 2.25 ha in the collective cotton farm, which was actually run by the project , whereby the Afar were engaged as labourer
    • The total cost per settler family amounted to $ 3200 including establishment and running of the collective cotton farm.
    • The assistance to settlers consisted of a share in the collective mechanized irrigated cotton farm of 2.25 ha, developed for mechanized production: land preparation weeding, irrigation pest and disease control and harvesting.
    • Annual credit: This consisted of a monthly food allowance of $ 25 and seasonal farm credit of $ 2 000 per plot, including an amount of $ 425 for hired labour.
    • Other services included: roads, ware-houses and a consumer cooperative.
    • There would be an extension officer for each 80 settlers, who visited the settlers regularly.
    • Marketing of the cotton crop would be collective.
    • Amibara had no services for domestic water supply, health care or schooling.
    • In spite of the emphasis on mechanization manual labour was still required, which was only for 30% supplied by the settlers, the other 70% of the labour requirements was supplied by highland Ethiopians.
    • In 1976 the average settler family had started to rebuilt heir livestock again. At that time most settler herds consisted of an average 48 heads of livestock: Cattle 18, goats 13, sheep 10 and camels 7.
    • The Afar settlers actually accepted the money they received from AVA as a compensation for the livestock they had lost due to the damage caused by the Tendaho Cotton Plantation, which started in 1962 and which company by 1976 was farming one third of the area of the Awash flood plain, previously used for grazing by the local Afar tribes. Images-468-470