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.


Go back

Similar articles

(c) Privat

Borderless food security

By Christine Wieck

Enabling smallholders to trade across regions and borders promotes food security and economic growth. Although everyone is calling for exactly that, implementation is still difficult

Read more


Continent in an uptrend

By Dr. Agnes Kalibata

Partnering for Africa’s Century: Innovation and Leadership as Drivers of Growth and Productivity in Rural Areas

Read more

Frank Schultze / Agentur_ZS

Video: Visions in agriculture

By Frank Schultze and Jan Rübel

At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" ​​panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.

Read more

Karel Prinsloo/Arete/Rockefeller Foundation/AGRA

'Nutrition is a human right'

Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA. What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.

Read more

"Extreme is the new normal"

By Alexander Müller, and Jes Weigelt

As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside

Read more

(c) Christoph Mohr/GIZ

Microinsurance against climate change

By Claudia Voß

Climate change is destroying development progress in many places. The clever interaction of digitalisation and the insurance industry protects affected small farmers.

Read more

(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Green from the growth container

By Maria Smentek

If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Hydroponic-systems can help

Read more

(c) Gudrun Barenbrock/GIZ

Edible bugs - the new beef?

By Marwa Shumo

Insect farming is economical and environmentally sustainable, they are high in protein and they live on agricultural waste. Marwa Abdel Hamid Shumo thinks: They are the best weapon to combat hunger

Read more

(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

A global signpost: What way is the market, please?

By World Food Programme

There is a clear global task: We need to feed nine billion people by 2050. We, the people of Earth, must produce more food and waste less. That is the top priority of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), too - the description of a challenge.

Read more

© GIZ / Angelika Jacob

This is how developing countries can adapt better to droughts

By Michael Brüntrup und Daniel Tsegai

Droughts are the natural disasters with far-reaching negative consequences. While rich countries are still vulnerable to drought, famines are no longer found.

Read more

“Corona exposes the weaknesses of our nutritional systems"

Interview with Arif Husain (WFP)

The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.

Read more

Developing countries hit doubly hard by coronavirus

By Gunter Beger (BMZ)

In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.

Read more


Resilient small-scale agriculture: A key in global crises

By Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)

Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture ensure the nutrition of whole societies. But there is more: These two factors also provide better protection against the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. Hence, the question of preserving ecosystems is becoming a global survival issue.

Read more

Indonesia / Borneo, March 2000: North of Palangkaraya are the base camps of illegal loggers in the middle of the devastated landscape. (C) Christoph Püschner / Zeitenspiegel

Video diaries in the days of Corona: Voices from the ground

By Sarah D´haen & Alexander Müller, Louisa Nelle, Bruno St. Jaques, Sarah Kirangu-Wissler and Matteo Lattanzi (TMG)

Young farmers’ insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa @CovidFoodFuture and video diaries from Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Read more

Good health is impossible without healthy food

By Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

Read more


Climate change makes the nomadic life of the Masai in Kenya more difficult. A new project introduces them to agriculture.

A project of Welthungerhilfe

Read more

(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Policy against disasters

Interview with Thomas Loster

Insurance companies could provide protection during droughts in Africa. How exactly this could be done is what the industry is currently trying to figure out. First experiences are available. An interview with the Managing Director of the Munich Re Foundation, Thomas Loster

Read more

(c) Nina Schroeder/World Food Programme

Hunger is caused by people, not the climate

Interview with Jacob Schewe

A study by the World Bank predicts that millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa will have to leave their homelands because of climate change. We have spoken with one of the authors

Read more

(c) Christoph Püschner/Brot für die Welt

The North bears the responsibility, the South bears the burden

By Susanne Neubert

Adaptation to climate change can be achieved by making agriculture more environmentally sustainable – if the rich countries also reduce their emissions

Read more


Actual Analysis: The locusts came with the crises

By Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)

The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.

Read more

Indonesia / Borneo, March 2000: North of Palangkaraya are the base camps of illegal loggers in the middle of the devastated landscape. (C) Christoph Püschner / Zeitenspiegel

Do we have to dare a new food system?

By Dr. Felix zu Löwenstein (BÖLW)

Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.

Read more