The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 34–52 | Cite as

State, Governance and the Creation of Small Towns in Ethiopia

  • Jonathan BakerEmail author
Special Issue Article


This paper is based on data collected from fieldwork in 2003 and 2013 in and around the small town of Bora in the Oromiya Zone of the Amhara Region in north-eastern Ethiopia. When Bora was first visited in 2003 it was an isolated place with a population of less than 1000. There was a police station, a health centre dependent upon a diesel generator, and a small weekly market. The town lacked electricity and the town’s water-supply pump did not work. By 2013, following wider changes at the national level introduced by Ethiopia’s developmental state model, the fortunes of Bora had changed dramatically as a result of its administrative upgrading to a politically-powerful woreda (district) capital town and greatly improved connectivity. Finally, the paper demonstrates how livelihoods in the new Dewa Harewa woreda, of which Bora is the capital, have been transformed by the rapid adoption of khat, (catha edulis), a mild narcotic plant, which has now become the dominant cash crop, positively impacting both rural and urban livelihoods.


Developmental state Connectivity Khat Changing livelihoods Bora 

Cette étude est base sur les données collectes pendent le travail sur le terrain, entre 2003 et 2013, centrés sur la petite ville de Bora et ses alentours. Bora se trouve dans la zone de Oromiya, dans la région Amhara, dans le nord-est de l’Ethiopie. Quand Bora a été visite pour la première fois en 2003, il s’agissait d’un lieu isolé avec une population inferieure a 1000 habitants. Il y avait une gendarmerie, un centre médical qui dépendait d’un générateur diésel, et un petit marché hebdomadaire. Cependant, en 2013 – par suite de changements à niveau nationale introduits par le modèle de développement mené par l’état Éthiope – le sort de Bora avait changé dramatiquement. Bora avait été reclassifié comme une puissante capitale de woreda (chef-lieu de province) et sa connectivité avait fortement augmenté. Cette étude démontre comment les moyens de subsistance dans la nouvelle province (woreda) Dewa Harewa, de laquelle Bora est la capitale, ont été transformés par l’adoption rapide du khat (catha edulis), une plante narcotique douce, qui est maintenant devenue la principale culture commerciale. Ceci a eu un impact positif sur les moyens de subsistance rurales et urbaines.



I would like to acknowledge the many important insights and inspirational ideas that I received from Cecilia Tacoli of the International Institute for Environment and Development (London). I owe a debt of gratitude to Jytte Agergaard of the University of Copenhagen for facilitating a number of important issues related to the writing of this article. I would like to acknowledge the great efforts of Goitom Abera of Mekele University for his help in explaining the intricacies and meanings of local terms. Jan Pettersson of the library of the Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala deserves acknowledgement for providing invaluable material on Ethiopia over many years. Thanks to my son, Benjamin Baker for helping me during this trying period of my life.


Ethiopian authors are listed by their first names according to Ethiopian convention

  1. Abate, Gashaw Tadesse, Shahidur Rashid, Carlo Borzaga, and Kindie Getnet. 2016. Rural Finance and Agricultural Technology Adoption in Ethiopia: Does the Institutional Design of Lending Organizations Matter? World Development 84: 253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abbink, Jon. 2002. Drinking, Prestige, and Power: Alcohol and Cultural Hegemony in Maji, Southern Ethiopia. In Alcohol in Africa: Mixing Business, Pleasure, and Politics, ed. Deborah Fahy Deborah. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  3. Abbink, Jon. 2017. Paradoxes of Electoral Authoritarianism: The 2015 Ethiopian Elections as Hegemonic Performance. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 35 (3): 303–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Abu-Lughod, Janet. 1975. Comments. The End of the Age of Innocence in Migration Theory. In Migration and Urbanization, ed. Brian M. Du Toit and Helen I. Safa. The Hague: Mounton.Google Scholar
  5. Anderson, David, Susan Beckerleg, Degol Hailu, and Axel Klein (eds.). 2007. The Khat Controversy: Stimulating the Debate on Drugs. Oxford, New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  6. Amden, Alice. 2001. The Rise of the Rest: Challenges to the West from Late-Industrializing Economies. New York: Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baker, Jonathan. 2012. Migration and Mobility in a Rapidly Changing Small Town in Northeastern Ethiopia. Environment & Urbanization 24 (1): 345–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baker, Jonathan. 2013. ‘Small-Scale Urbanization in Ethiopia and the Development of Rural and Urban Livelihoods with Emphasis on the Narcotic Plant khat’ Paper Presented at the 2nd Nordic Conference for Development Research, 14–15 November, Espoo, Finland.Google Scholar
  9. Boissevain, Jeremy. 1974. Friends of Friends: Networks, Manipulators, and Coalitions. New York: St Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. The Forms of Capital. In Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education, ed. J.G. Richardson. New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  11. Boyden, Jo, Alula Pankhurst, and Yisak Tafere. 2012. Child Protection and Harmful Traditional Practices: Female Early Marriage and Genital Modification in Ethiopia. Development in Practice 22 (4): 510–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boyden, Jo, Alula Pankhurst, and Yisak Tafere. 2013. Harmful Traditional Practices and Child Protection: Contested Understandings and Practices of Child Marriage and Circumcision in Ethiopia. Working Paper 93, Young Lives, Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), University of Oxford, Oxford.Google Scholar
  13. Brittingham, Sarah. 2010. Birth Families and Intercountry Adoption in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Research Paper in partial fulfilment of a Masters of Arts in Development Studies, The Hague: International Institute of Social Studies.Google Scholar
  14. Buck, Nick. 2005. Social Cohesion in Cities. In Changing Cities: Rethinking Urban Competitiveness, Cohesion and Governance, ed. Nick Buck, Ian Gordon, Alan Harding, and Ivan Turok. Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clapham, Christopher. 2006. Ethiopian Development: The Politics of Emulation. Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 44 (1): 137–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Clapham, Christopher. 2017. The Ethiopian Developmental State. Third World Quarterly. Scholar
  17. De Bruijn, Mirjam, Rijk van Dijk, and Dick Foeken. 2001. Mobile Africa. An Introduction. In Mobile Africa: Changing Patterns of Movement in Africa and Beyond, ed. Mirjam De Bruijn, Rijk van Dijk, and Dick Foeken. Leiden and Boston: Brill.Google Scholar
  18. De Waal, Alex. 2012. The Theory and Practice of Meles Zenawi (Review Article). African Affairs 112 (446): 148–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dercon, Stefan, Joachim de Weerdt, Tessa Bold, and Alula Pankhurst. 2006. Group-Based Funeral Insurance in Ethiopia and Tanzania. World Development 34 (4): 685–703.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dovey, Kim. 2002. The Silent Complicity of Architecture. In Habitus: A Sense of Place, ed. Jean Hillier and Emma Rooksby. Ashgate: Aldershot, England and Burlington, Vermont.Google Scholar
  21. FDRE Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Proclamation No 1/1995. Addis Ababa.Google Scholar
  22. FDRE Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census. Addis Ababa.Google Scholar
  23. Gebresenbet, Fana. 2014. Securitisation of Development in Ethiopia: the Discourse and Politics of Developmentalism. Review of African Political Economy 41S1: 64–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson, Chalmers. 1982. MITI and the Japanese Miracle. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Lefort, Rene. 2007. Powers—Mengist—and Peasants in Rural Ethiopia: The May 2005 Elections. The Journal of Modern African Studies 45 (2): 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lefort, Rene. 2012. Free Market Economy, ‘Developmental State’ and Party-State Hegemony in Ethiopia: The Case of the ‘Model Farmers’. The Journal of Modern African Studies 50 (4): 681–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lenaerts, Lutgart, Mark Breusers, Stefaan Dondeyne, Hans Bauer, Mitiku Haile, and Josef Deckers. 2014. This Pasture is Ours Since Ancient Times’: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Reduction in Conflicts Along the Post-1991 Afar-Tigray Regional Boundary. The Journal of Modern African Studies 52 (1): 25–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mariam, Damen Haile. 2003. Indigenous Social Insurance as an Alternative Financing Mechanism for Health Care in Ethiopia (the Case of Eders). Social Science and Medicine 56: 1719–1726.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pankhurst, Alula, and Damen Haile Mariam. 2000. The Iddir in Ethiopia: Historical Development, Social Function, and Potential Role in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. Northeast African Studies 7 (2 (New Series)): 35–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Portes, Alejandro. 1998. Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology 24: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rigg, Jonathan. 2007. An Everyday Geography of the Global South. London, New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. SIDA. 1994. Rehabilitation of Water Supply Schemes in Wollo South Zone, Ethiopia (Final Draft Report), Addis Ababa: Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).Google Scholar
  33. Singh, Susheela, and Renee Samara. 1996. Early Marriage Among Women in Developing Countries. International Family Planning Perspectives 22 (4): 148–157+175.Google Scholar
  34. Tekle, Kebrom. 1999. Land Degradation Problems and Their Implications for Food Shortage in South Wello, Ethiopia. Environmental Management 23 (4): 419–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Teshome, Elias, Mulumebet Zenebe, Henok Metaferia, and Sibhatu Biadgilign. 2014. Participation and Significance of Self-Help Groups for Social Development: Exploring the Community Capacity in Ethiopia. SpringerPlus 3 (189): 1–10.Google Scholar
  36. Torkelsson, Åsa. 2010. The Associational Patterns of Farming Women and Men: A Case study from Ethiopia. Working Paper 18, Department of Sociology, Stockholm University.Google Scholar
  37. UN-Habitat. 2014. Structural Transformation in Ethiopia—The Urban Dimension: Building ‘Economically Productive, Socially Inclusive, Environmentally Sustainable & Well Governed’ Cities. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlements Programme.Google Scholar
  38. UNDP. 2014. National Human Development Report 2014 Ethiopia: Accelerating Inclusive Growth for Sustainable Human Development in Ethiopia. Addis Ababa.Google Scholar
  39. Van Dijk, Han, Dick Foeken and Kiky van Til. 2001. Population Mobility in Africa: An Overview. In Mirjam de Bruijn, Rijk von Dijk and Dick Foeken (eds.) Mobile Africa: Changing Patterns of Movement in Africa and Beyond. Leiden and Boston: Brill.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Global Development and PlanningUniversitetet i Agder/University of AgderKristiansandNorway

Personalised recommendations