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Ethiopia is in East Africa, west of Somalia. It is a relatively large country, just less than twice the size of Texas. This large country has a population of over 85 million people, making it the 14th most populous nation on earth.

The terrain of Ethiopia consists of high plateau with a central mountain range divided by the Great Rift Valley. Despite its large size, only 10 percent of the country’s land is arable. Ethiopia’s climate is tropical but experiences large topographic-induced variations. The country’s natural resources include reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash, natural gas, and hydropower.

Ethiopia, like many other African nations, has a diverse population consisting of many different ethnic and tribal groups. The largest two ethnic groups are the Oromo, which comprises 32 percent of the population, and the Amara, which comprises 30 percent. The other major ethnic groups include the Tigraway, Somalie, Guragie, Sidama, and Welaita. Languages spoken in Ethiopia are equally diverse, with each major ethnic group possessing its own idiom.

Ethiopia was a monarchy for most of its history, which can be traced back to the 10th century B.C. One of Ethiopia’s chief characteristics, distinguishing it from other African nations, is its long history of political autonomy and freedom from European colonial control. Ethiopia was, however, conquered briefly by Fascist Italy in the years leading up to World War II.

In 1974 a military junta known as the Derg overthrew the longtime emperor Haile Selassie and turned Ethiopia into a socialist state. After decades of coups, uprisings, economic stagnation, and drought, the tyrannical Derg regime toppled in 1991. A constitution was adopted in 1994 and Ethiopia’s first multiparty elections were held the following year. 

Ethiopia possesses its share of hardships. Poverty is widespread. Thirty-nine percent of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, and 42 percent of children under 5 years old are underweight. Most of the people are subsistence farmers, but landholdings are so small that owners cannot afford to let their land lie fallow. Thus, soil fertility and output are poor. The low yield of crops, exacerbated by frequent drought, results in widespread hunger, malnutrition, and disease.