Located in northeastern Africa, in an area known as the Horn of Africa.
Ethiopia is one of the largest and most populous countries in Africa.
It is bordered by Djibouti and the former Ethiopian autonomous region of
Eritrea on the north, Somalia on the east, Kenya on the south, and Sudan onthe west.
Ethiopia’s landscape varies from lowlands to high plateaus and its climate from very dry to seasonally very wet.
The Ethiopian population is also very mixed, with broad differences in cultural background and traits, methods of gaining a livelihood, languages, and religions.
While influenced and even occasionally occupied by other nations, Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa or Asia never truly colonized.
LAND AND CLIMATE
The landscape of Ethiopia is dominated by the northern end of the East African Rift system and by
central highlands of plateaus and mountains that rise from about 6,000 feet (2,000 metres) to more than 14,000 feet (4,300 metres).
Surrounding these highlands are hot, usually arid, lowlands.
The highlands are cut by deep river valleys.
Situated in the tropics, Ethiopia has climatic regions that vary with elevation: the hot and arid lowlands
at elevations from below sea level to about 5,000 feet (1,500 meters); the densely populated warmer
uplands and the cooler uplands at about 5,000 to 7,500 feet (1,500 to 2,300 metres) and 7,500 to 10,000 feet (2,300 to 3,000 metres), respectively; and alpine regions above 10,000 feet (3,000 metres).
Daily temperatures range seasonally from well above 100 F (40 C) in the lowlands to below freezing in the cooler upland elevations and higher.
Moisture is also unevenly distributed. Most areas have regular wet and dry periods in the year.
The amount of rainfall often depends on altitude higher areas are wetter, lowlands drier.
There is also a fairly predictable annual amount of rainfall from the drier northeast to the wetter
Drier areas occasionally receive much less moisture than even their already low average.
Rains may start later or end earlier than usual, or storms may be separated by a few weeks,
allowing the soil to dry out.
ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCES
Under natural conditions the non desert parts of Ethiopia are grasslands or forests.
After many thousands of years of farming and herding, much of this natural landscape is altered.
At least 85 % of the natural forest has been cleared, especially in the northern part of the country,
usually to create fields.
From the 1960s onward local and government efforts at environmental rehabilitation have led to the
replanting of trees in some deforested areas.
The most valuable natural resource is the soil. It is potentially highly productive for traditional and
modern agriculture, but this potential is largely unmet.
In parts of Ethiopia soil resources suffer from declining fertility and erosion.
The decline results from the continuous inefficient use of the soil, including the cultivating of land that
is better for grazing or that should be left fallow, or unplanted, for a while.
This is partly the result of a socioeconomic system that does not reward investment in soil protection
and partly the result of the increasing demands of a rapidly growing population.
As a consequence, agricultural production per person has declined in the late 20th century.
This decline in agriculture is common not only in Ethiopia but also in much of the rest of Africa.
Little has been done to find possible mineral resources in Ethiopia.
Those known and exploited include gold, platinum, manganese, and salt.
There is little extraction of either metallic ores or mineral fuels such as coal or petroleum.