Ethiopia is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, yet also one of the poorest. According to the World Bank, the population in 2008 was estimated at 80m, having more than doubled since 1984; because of this rapid rise in population, farm holdings have become smaller and smaller and per capita food production has declined, with subsistence agriculture using ancient methods being the means of survival in rural areas. Almost 20% of the population is in need of food aid. According to the Government 75,000 children are malnourished.
Ethiopia is the only country in sub-saharan Africa not to have been colonialised, its structures and traditions having survived the brief Italian occupation (1936-1941). Ethiopians today are extremely proud of their long history and ancient culture. The country is referred to a number of times in the Old Testament. Christianity was adopted in the fifth century AD, making Ethiopia one of the most ancient Christian cultures in the world. It is still predominantly Christian (Ethiopian Orthodox) but there is a substantial and rising minority Moslem population (35% or more), and a very small minority (< 1%) of Catholics. Historically relations between Christians and Moslems have been very friendly at local level; however there is evidence of increasing tension between the communities, as Arab money is channeled into Ethiopia to build new mosques and Arab-style Moslem dress is increasingly being adopted. On the other hand, whilst relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox churches have historically been very distant, the two Christian Churches are beginning to work more closely together in response to the rise of Islam.