Ethiopia is an agricultural country; over 85% of its 60 million people live in rural areas. Traditionally, land was owned by the kin group or by landlords. Farmers paid taxes to their landlord and sometimes to the church. The 1975 revolution eliminated the nobility and landlord classes, and the new socialist government encouraged farmers to form co-operatives and work toward collective ownership. However, collective farming never became the norm, and citizens now lease their land from the government.

Ethiopia's diverse countryside produces many crops. Farmers' main food crops are cereals such as teff, barley, maize, wheat and millet. Families also raise livestock. The country's trade crops include coffee, cotton, tobacco, tropical fruits, sugarcane, beans, and oilseeds like flax and sesame. Agricultural production is unstable due to recurrent droughts, pests and soil erosion: hundreds of thousands died in severe droughts during the 1970s and '80s. Widespread poverty and economic insecurity have caused large numbers of people to migrate.

Industry accounts for only about 10% of Ethiopia's income. Manufacturing centres mostly on the processing of agricultural products, beverages and textiles. The country's production has been small, but numerous areas have been identified for future growth. Ethiopia is also rich in untapped minerals, metals and stones. Significant petroleum and gas discoveries have been made and have attracted foreign attention. The government has privatized many businesses and is encouraging foreign investment and tourism.

Most Ethiopians who don't farm work for the private or public sector in government positions, business or the service industries. Women tend to work long hours, both in farming, keeping the home and child rearing. In urban areas, some women have entered the professional ranks, but most work in low-paying jobs. The Revolutionary Ethiopia Women's Association encourages women to create labour groups in their workplaces and addresses issues of gender inequity and discrimination.

  Did you know?
Until the 20th century, some Ethiopians still used an ancient form of currency called amole, which are salt bars. The system arose because salt was scarce in the highlands and much desired for cooking.

  Did you know?
Ethiopia is the world's main supplier of civet (zebade), which is used in perfumes throughout the world. The musky substance is produced by the civet cat, a mammal related to the mongoose.