This paper focuses on peasant farmers in Ethiopia, and their behaviour as serious famine sets in. In many of the last seventeen years the crop yields on rain-fed plots in drought-prone areas have failed to meet the requirements of the peasant farmers and their families. Significant numbers have received food aid either at distribution points or in the shelters which developed in 1973 and 1984. Seeking food relief from external sources, however, is the last resort of peasants who have managed their dwindling resources for months, if not years, in order to survive.