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Ethiopia: Economy grows but diets are still poor

Ethiopians have higher household incomes, but the economic growth has not yet translated into better diets, say International Food Policy Research Institute researchers.

In recent years, a potent combination of increased agricultural productivity, urbanization and economic growth has improved the standard of living for many Ethiopians. As a result, diets are changing as well, but not entirely in positive ways.

One of the first things many Ethiopians have changed is how they shop and eat. The Ethiopian diet has responded to rapid economic change. They are spending on average 1.1 percent less on food each year. At the same time, Ethiopians are eating more than 800 more calories per day in 2011 than they were in 1996 -good news after long grappling with high rates of stunting and seasonal undernutrition.

According to an article by, Ethiopians are also changing what they put on the table. They are increasingly demanding more expensive or more highly processed items. As a rule, urban Ethiopians have begun demanding more diversity, convenience and higher quality when shopping for food.

Despite increased demand for fruits and vegetables, Ethiopia is still lagging behind other African nations in their consumption and is nowhere close to the WHO recommendation of more than 400 grams per day. To accompany all of this, consumption of calories from fats and oils has doubled.

In spite of increased purchasing power, many Ethiopians remain far from a nutritious and varied diet. So overnutrition problems are becoming more common: overweight, obesity and noncommunicable diseases. In 2016, more than 20 percent of the urban Ethiopian women from of 15 to 49 years were overweight or obese.

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