The major ethnic groups inhabiting Ethiopia are Oromo (40 percent), Amhara (20 percent), Tigrayan (12 percent) and Sidama (9 percent) (Cities of the World, 2002). Amharic happens to be the Official language of Ethiopia. The other languages spoken in Ethiopia include English, Italian, Tigriyna, French, Oromiffa, Arabic, Afara and Somali (Cities of the World, 2002). Nearly 45 percent of the Ethiopians happen to be adherents of Ethiopian Orthodox Church while an approximately the same number are affiliated to Islam.
Since the fall of the Marxist regime in 1991, Ethiopia has decentralized its economic planning and has opted for open market policies (Cities of the World, 2002). Agriculture stands to be the most promising sector in Ethiopia that contributes more then 50 percent of its GDP and roughly 80 percent of all the Ethiopian exports (Cities of the World, 2002). Ethiopia has one of the most underdeveloped infrastructures in Africa.
The economic problems in rural Ethiopia happened to be rampant and widespread. Thus, the unleashing of agrarian reforms in Ethiopia was essential to give boost to its ailing economy. The unique climate and topography of Ethiopia defined by dry deserts and drought and famine were primarily responsible for the pathetically low agricultural productivity in Ethiopia. The poor agricultural infrastructure and the recurrent famines in Ethiopia gave way to a large-scale poverty in the rural communities. The scarce rainfall depleted the fertility of the agricultural land and thus appropriate measures needed to be taken to improve soil fertility and the gross agricultural productivity.
The Pattern of land occupancy in Ethiopia has been very intricate and complex. For example, in Welo province only there existed more then 111 types of land tenure systems (Economy Watch, 2009). Therefore, these utterly complex and confusing land tenure systems combined with very scarce knowledge and information about the land conditions made it difficult to estimate and qualify the land ownership throughout Ethiopia (Economy Watch, 2009). Thus, a pragmatic approach towards introducing land reforms in Ethiopia made it a must to grasp the nature of differences existing in the varied patterns of land ownership in the North and the South (Economy Watch, 2009).
The prevalent patterns of land ownership in Ethiopia made it next to impossible the achievement of economic objectives like an increase in the agricultural productivity and an uplifting of the economic conditions of the Ethiopian peasants. Thus, the state and the intelligentsia in Ethiopia soon came to realize the inevitability of agrarian reforms to rescue Ethiopia from the economic morass in which it was caught. Sometime in the 60s, large sections of the student community started campaigning for the introduction of the land reforms in E