The story is both familiar and deeply sad: millions of people once again face the possibility of starvation. Why? A part of the answer is that rains have been very bad for several years. Farmers throughout sub-Saharan Africa rely on rains to grow their crops; few have irrigation systems so no rain means real hardship.
But we know that farmers in other parts of the world routinely face prolonged droughts yet they avoid famine and mass starvation (Australia comes to mind). In addition to the vagaries of weather, Ethiopian farmers also confront difficult man-made problems: debilitating policies implemented by their government. (For the sake of brevity I do not here address the real problems created by food aid programs -- see this Oxfam report for more on that.)
For example, the BBC story points out that the government owns the land in Ethiopia (people have use rights, not ownership rights) so individual families cannot sell their property and move to cities. Indeed, the government acts purposefully to limit migration to cities. Why? Having lots of folks in Addis Ababa might make it more difficult for the government to squelch protest and retain political power. The government may say it's concerned about "chaotic" urban growth, but when rural residents are prohibited from moving to urban centers they are also prohibited from seeking economic opportunities and making use of their entrepreneurial talents -- the very thing people should be free to do when they are no longer able to support themselves and their families by farming.
And when the government forbids the sale of land other ill consequences follow. First, families cannot reap the benefit of one of the major assets they hold (they are thus forced to sell other property-- livestock, etc. to get at least some cash to support themselves). Second, families have to continually subdivide a family plot into smaller and smaller pieces so that adult children can take care of themselves somehow -- this directly leads to environmental degradation and reduced crop yields which, of course, intensifies the problems of hunger. And finally, if sales are forbidden efficient farmers are not allowed to buy property and build larger and perhaps more productive farms that might produce more and feed more.
Forcing people to remain smallholder farmers, denying them the possibility of economic advancement and entrepreneurial opportunities in cities and pushing them, out of necessity, to ruin the land through subdivision is the result of government policies; it is not the result of weather. What the Ethiopians desperately need, in addition to food in the short term, is policy reform for the long-term.