Together and resourceful against worldwide hunger

Climate change disturbs the climate in Ethiopia. The answer from small farmers in the north is: diversify!

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
Overuse and deforestation, along with drought and heavy rainfall, are the main causes of the progressive erosion in the Ethiopian highlands © Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt

Seye Ahmed has to climb so deep into the well to fill her watering can that only her head appears over the top. Climate change is clearly felt in the Ethiopian highlands. Despite being the rainy season, the water level of the well is low. It's just enough to water the vegetable garden that Seye and her husband She Ali Abebe created a year ago. Cabbage, spinach, onions and carrots grow in trim flowerbeds. Her husband dug the well together with local partners. They also obtained the vegetable seeds from them. "What we and the children do not eat ourselves, we sell on the market", says Seye. It is an important means of income for the family of five.

 

"The people here in the highlands are totally dependent on crop yields and livestock farming", says Endeshaw Kassa, project leader of the Mekane Yesus Church. "If there is no rain, they lose their crops or have to sell their animals to survive." Most farmers manage only small, widely dispersed and often degraded areas up to 3,000 metres high, where little grows. Only a few own an ox or donkey to till their fields. Usually, the harvest is only enough to provide families with food for a few months. Almost two-thirds of the population in the region suffer from food shortages for four to six months a year.

 

Ich bin ein Alternativtext
"With only one type of support you cannot tackle climate change", Endeshaw Kassa explains, Programme coordinator of „Ethopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus“.

"There used to be two rainy seasons a year here", says Kassa. "The 'small rain' from February to June and the main rainy season from July to the end of September." But for some years now, precipitation has become more and more unpredictable and droughts longer and longer. The rising average temperatures mean that more and more plant diseases are spreading. Another danger is the frost. As early as in October, temperatures can fall below freezing and destroy crops. Many families cannot feed their children sufficiently and stop feeding their livestock. They have to sell animals or lease their farmland to buy food or new seed. For many, this is the first step in the cycle of debt and poverty.

 

A major concern of this project is to diversify cultivation and adapt it to changing climatic conditions while creating new sources of income. The aim is for it to act as a kind of lighthouse for similar projects against the consequences of climate change. "With only one type of support you cannot tackle climate change", Endeshaw Kassa explains. "We therefore offer a variety of different activities for the most vulnerable families."

 

One of these is the cultivation of an old indigenous wheat variety, which has been displaced by other varieties. The grain not only survives frost and droughts, but is also very fruitful. The seeds are issued on a credit basis. After the harvest, the recipients return the seed to benefit other families. One of them is 18-year-old Seid Abebe. Like many young people, he does not own any land, but tills his father's field with his brother. Of the 50 kilos of wheat that they have sown, they expect a yield of around 800 kilos. After deducting the seed to be repaid, they will have a large surplus which they can sell, as well as enough seed for the next season.

 

The risk analysis enables us to specifically support those families that are at greatest risk and that have the least resources

 

The staff of Mekane Yesus Church have interviewed more than 4,200 households in four communities in the Legambo district since the beginning of the project. 905 of these were classified as particularly vulnerable. "The risk analysis enables us to specifically support those families that are at greatest risk and that have the least resources", says the project coordinator. For the second step, the team analysed what options and means each family has: whether they have arable land or pastures for livestock, or how many members of the family are able to work. Together with the concerned persons and experts, the appropriate work areas were selected.

 

Some of them are specifically aimed at women, because many of them have to take care of their children, their home and their fields without support. In more than 60 local self-help groups, up to 20 women come together every week to develop solutions for their daily lives together. In addition to discussions on topics such as health, family planning and climate change, the groups serve primarily as savings clubs. All of them have created joint savings accounts into which they regularly pay small contributions. If necessary, members can lend money to buy livestock or seeds, for example, or to deal with emergencies. Money is also saved for common purchases such as an ox for ploughing. 

 

(c) Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt
In more than 60 local self-help groups, up to 20 women come together every week to develop solutions for their daily lives together. A success story: Seye Ahmed grows vegetables in herr own garden.

 

One of the main achievements of the groups is the distribution of energy-saving stoves. Ten women each learn how to make stoves from clay, straw and sand in workshops and pass on their knowledge to the others in the group. "It smokes a lot less", says Lubaba Ebre from Chulke and proudly shows the home-made oven with a vent pipe which leads outside.

 

Fighting Erosion in the Highlands

 

Overuse and deforestation, along with drought and heavy rainfall, are the main causes of the progressive erosion in the Ethiopian highlands. "The slope here was totally dead", says Yimer Mussa from Chulke and points to the area of colourful flowers and to the terrain permeated by a soft green that falls several hundred meters down into the valley. "Nothing used to grow here", Mussa says. For years, the inhabitants had grazed their cattle on the hillside and cut down trees as firewood and to build their huts. With every rainfall, more layers of earth were removed until only bare rock remained. The water rushed unchecked and unused into the valley.

 

(c) Christof Krackhardt/Brot für die Welt
Ansha Seid, 10 years, lives in Chulke

By working extremely hard together as a team, the residents of Chulke began a year ago to build terraces and stone walls, so that the area would not be degraded even more. Behind it, soil was piled up and planted with tree seedlings. The trees do not only store nitrogen and provide the soil with nutrients. Their leaves as well as the newly planted “festuca grass” also provide valuable animal feed. More than 95 percent of the seedlings have taken root, Mussa reports. The ditches that have been dug behind collect the water when it rains so that it slowly seeps into the ground.

 

The vegetation has already visibly recovered within the first year

 

In addition, everyone in the village have committed not to graze any more animals in the rehabilitation zone. In turn, when the vegetation has grown enough, they can cut branches and grasses and feed them to their livestock. In a few years, the members hope the brown slope will turn green again. "The vegetation has already visibly recovered within the first year", says project manager Kassa. The trained forester is now promoting the approach to the government. "Representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture have looked at the protection zones to learn from them", said Kassa. - keeping the spirit of the lighthouse idea.

 

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