Farming For Food Security In Ethiopia

On the UN World Day to Combat Desertification, we're so proud of the farmers in Sasiga, Ethiopia for daring to embrace new agricultural practices that are replenishing their soil and, through the land, their entire community.

Since the mid-1970s Ethiopia has experienced a decline in rainfall of 15-20%. Simultaneously, the population has increased and densification has occurred. This reality has had huge impacts on farmers! One of the biggest struggles they now face is reliance on unpredictable and often insufficient rainfalls combined with increasingly degraded and infertile soil. 

Who suffers the most from these environmental changes? Those who are already living on the edge of poverty and rely on the land for their daily food. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge the link between replenishing soil and eradicating hunger in Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.  

At Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada, we strive to enable every partner community to increase agricultural production and productivity in order to improve food security. In Sasiga, Ethiopia, where FH partners with multiple communities, this includes a wide variety of agricultural trainings in which farmers learn techniques that can help them use the land (and their labour) more efficiently and effectively.

Teaching farmers how to make and apply organic fertilizer is making a huge impact on soil quality and crop diversity. Farmers are able to grow crops that ordinarily couldn't survive in the unfertilized soil and they are able to harvest more frequently. Applying natural ash has reduced the acidity level of the soil in a completely organic way (no commercially produced lime necessary!). These two soil replenishing tactics together with bio-intensive farming is enabling farmers to reclaim and restore the land in a locally sustainable way so as to ensure food security for future generations. 

Due to soil and capacity restrictions, many of the farmers in Sasiga are accustomed to growing only one (maybe two) types of crops. This practice resulted in low harvest yields, an insufficient family diet, and further soil depletion. Through FH training, farmers learn crop rotation systems and are introduced to a variety of vegetable and fruit crops. Increased productivity resulting from these agricultural changes have raised income for the farmers as well as improved their families' diets - better nutrition especially benefits their children. 

One of the farmers from the Belo, Sasiga testifies that, since applying organic fertilizer and taking other steps to reconstruct the soil in his fields, cabbages are beginning to thrive on land where it used to be impossible to grow them. 

Irrigation has been another significant contributor toward the goal of food security in Ethiopia. In just the last six months, 139 farmers in Sasiga have received training and additional input support to create their own field irrigation systems, making them less dependent on the increasingly unpredictable rainfall. Land that was lying idle and unusable is now being irrigated and starting to show real productivity. 

Due to these improvements, farmers are producing three to four times more than they used to. Instead of mono cropping, farmers now also grow vegetables and fruit which are made readily available to the community, providing access to a better diet for more and more people. Banana, papaya, and avocado have become popular cash crops, enabling farmers to earn a better living so they can afford to send their children to school. Women farmers, particularly, are benefiting from the increased crop yields that provide them with economic independence.

So we see that food security, livelihoods, gender equality, and childhood education all start with better soil!

One farmer who recently chose to participate in FH agricultural training in Ethiopia is Bulti Gemeda. Like his fellow farmers, he received training and minimum inputs and immediately started constructing an irrigation system for his fields. Bulti used to wait for the rainy season to start planting and, even then, much of his land remained un-farmed due to insufficient water.

After implementing irrigation, however, Bulti started growing a greater variety of crops on more land. He quickly developed income from the sale of his vegetables and was soon able to build a better house for his family. With the remainder of his new income stream, he says, "I am now sending two of my children to the university, and the other children are currently learning in the area. I have improved my family's diet as the production of vegetables are always fresh and available in my house." 

Help more farmers like Bulti achieve food security:




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Food for the Hungry: Farming For Food Security In Ethiopia
Farming For Food Security In Ethiopia
Food for the Hungry
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