Stories tagged: ethiopia

How an Urban Agriculture Project in Ethiopia is Improving Lives and Regreening Communities

Image of Teshome Nega

Teshome Nega, Urban Agriculture Project Coordinator at Farm Africa, shares insights on how urban agriculture can help improve local food security and nutrition as well as livelihoods.

Urban low-income communities face immense challenges in accessing nutritious food. One of Africa’s biggest cities and Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, shares this struggle. A fifth of its five million residents live in poverty and now face high inflation and cost of living rates that make access to healthy food a daily challenge.   Continue reading

Fodder for the Future: Enhancing Pastoralism in Ethiopia’s Lower Valley of the Omo

By Glen Engel-Cox on behalf of iDE.

“Now that we know how to do this, we will not let it out of our hands,” says Arra Merry, a traditional pastoralist in Ethiopia’s South Omo region. What has she learned how to do? Grow fodder (and the seeds for fodder) that enhances their ability to feed and fatten their livestock and earn an income in this extremely remote and poor location. In just a few years, Ara and her fodder-producing colleagues have enhanced their traditional way of life by learning how to use the Omo river to address drought through agricultural production. Continue reading

Agroecology in Action: Forest-Friendly Farming in Ethiopia

On the International Day of Forests, Nicolas Mounard, CEO of Farm Africa, urges action to rescue the ailing voluntary carbon market that forest communities in Ethiopia are counting on. Building farmers’ incomes from forest-friendly businesses and the sale of carbon credits is the first approach profiled in our new blog series “Agroecology in Action”, produced ahead of the Second  International Symposium on Agroecology held by the FAO in Rome from 3-5th April 2018.

The tension that exists between agriculture and environmental conservation is one of the oldest on record. Balancing the needs of rural people to utilise natural resources to eat and earn an income with the global need to protect the environment is a tall order – but there are many ways it can be achieved.

At Farm Africa, finding the equilibrium between these two priorities is in our DNA. In Africa, where hunger levels are high and productivity is low, boosting the productivity of smallholder farmers is vital. But its environmental cost must be minimised. Future generations depend on the continent’s vast forests and watersheds remaining intact. Continue reading

Keeping Ruminant Pests at Bay in Rural Ethiopia

Self Help Africa’s Livestock Market Development (LMD)Project began in 2013, and is working with 5,000 beneficiary farming families in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley to improve. Team Leader Kidanie Dessalegn blogs for Farming First about the vital work being carried out to keep ruminant pests under control, so that livestock keepers and farming families can thrive. 

Yederawork Defar makes her way through the gap in the wooden fence, and comes face to face with her next target. It sounds like it could be sinister but it is far from it.

Yederawork’s “targets” are the goats, cattle and other livestock that reside on this smallholder farm in the Malga district of southern Ethiopia’s SNNR Province. They are about to be administered an albendazole injection, a medication to treat them for, and immunise them from, various pests to which livestock in Ethiopia are commonly a host.

Yederawork’s job as an animal health assistant is to keep farm livestock healthy, productive and free from pests. And in rural, remote Ethiopia, keeping farm animals healthy and alive is vital – because of the nation’s overall reliance on agriculture.

Indeed, livestock is critical to this sector, as live animals and their products account for 40 per cent of the agricultural economy, in the country that has the largest livestock population in Africa.  Current estimates put the number of cattle in Ethiopia at over 43 million, sheep at 24 million, goats at 19 million and donkeys at 4.5million.

The fortunes of a high proportion of the Ethiopian economy effectively starts and ends, rises and falls, in line with the health of the agricultural sector. More than 70 per cent of low income families here are employed through agriculture, and it contributes up to 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation.

The Ethiopian Government knows this, and more than six years ago created the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) as a catalyst to modernize and drive  positive, transformational, and sustainable change of the sector.

For more than three decades, Self Help Africa has been working to improve agricultural productivity and performance to reduce poverty and increase food security in Ethiopia.

In my role with Self Help Africa, I am Team Leader for a five-year Livestock Market Development (LMD) project, backed by the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative as part of its commitment to Ethiopia’s agricultural growth. This scheme recognises the importance of livestock to the growth of agriculture, and the protection of animals against pests and disease is a critical part of its work.

We’re implementing the program together with quite a few partners and stakeholders, but we’re all pulling in the same direction – ending poverty, and enhancing growth and incomes in Ethiopia.

Recently, I joined Yederawork as she visited smallholder farmers in Manicho village, about an hour’s drive from Hawassa, the regional capital on the shores of Lake Awasa in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley. Manicho is one of seven villages covered by Yederawork in the local district.


A 38-year-old widow and mother-of-three who comes from the local area, Yederawork is one of more than 300 animal health assistants involved with the project – and importantly, she’s one of 80 women who fill the role of frontline veterinary health workers.

Gender is important here – a  strong representation of women on our team is helping to address a long-standing challenge facing Ethiopia’s farming sector – the diminished role that women have traditionally played on farms.

Yederawork says that no farmers she works with have an issue dealing with a woman animal health assistant. Rather, they are grateful for the visit and the attention given to their livestock – it makes no difference to them whether their animals are being seen by a man or a woman.

Yederawork, who visits between 150-200 households every month, says she enjoys a positive relationship with the farm families with whom she works. “Farmers have a positive attitude towards me. They respect me and give me their support, and some even say that they are grateful, because I show up on their farms at the time that I say that I will!” she said.

Treating ruminant pests is part of her everyday routine, with both endo and exo parasites, particularly tick and flea infestations, the most common problems.

Yederawork provides ivermectine injections for external parasites, or the aforementioned albendazole for internal ones. Sometimes, if the necessary equipment is available, extopore spray on barns will also be used in an attempt to eradicate external parasites.

The work she is doing is vital, as farmers in her locality have traditionally had little access to veterinary support at local level, and as a result, tick and pest-borne viruses and viral diseases have had a devastating impact on domestic livestock.

The level of care she and her colleagues can provide at village level has improved as a result of additional technical training they have received through the programme. They have also strengthened their skills, and can more easily identify diseases and diagnose appropriate treatments in a timely fashion.

“Through the programme, I also got the opportunity to visit and gain experience with private drug stores and veterinary clinics in the town, where I learned about vet equipment and treatments that I wasn’t aware of before. This has helped me in my role,” Yederawork said.

As I joined Yederawork on her rounds, we agreed that part of the effectiveness of the programme was down to how it provided farmers with training so that they too can play a role in intervening and treating their animals for pests.

“There are biological resources available locally that can help, and indigenous pesticides that can help,” she said. “They are inexpensive and, while sometimes not as effective as conventional pharmaceuticals, they can help support farmers to tackle a problem in the first instance.”

It is this approach – incorporating both farmer and animal health professionals – that has Yederawork and I confident that the programme will continue to improve and maintain the long-term health of Ethiopia’s rural livestock population in the years ahead.

This article originally appeared in WFO’s Farmletter.

From Food Aid to Food Assistance with Ertharin Cousin, World Food Program

For the second episode in our brand new series of Farming First TV interviews, we spoke to Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), for an update on the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative.

Launched in 2008, P4P enables low-income farmers to supply their crops to WFP operations. Cousin describes how WFP serves as a “catalyst market” in areas where there are no commercial buyers for farmers to sell to.

Cousin stresses the importance of what happens next: “We shouldn’t always buy from them because the reality is that if WFP is the only purchaser then it’s only a program. It only becomes a sustainable and durable economic change for those farmers if we can substitute WFP with either a commercial market buyer or a government buyer.”

In Ethiopia for example, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers have been improved by a collaboration between P4P and Farming First supporter Technoserve, which promotes business solutions for combating poverty.
Cousin says the WFP is increasingly being replaced by other purchasers. “That’s what we’re seeing and that’s why we get really excited about ‘Purchase for Progress’, because it’s made a difference across the entire value chain in a durable way.”

Watch our video for the full interview with Ertharin Cousin.

Food and (not vs.) Cash Crops

At the recent Borlaug Symposium in Ethiopia, ICRISAT researchers presented a paper examining the question of what the balance should be between food and cash crops.

The presentation used the examples of Ethiopia and Tanzania to show how crops have served both food and cash purposes, for the benefit of reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries.

In Ethiopia, chickpea production has been significantly boosted in recent years. Improved varieties and training programmes have resulted in a 40% increase in yields nationwide, with a 90% increase in yields in the East Shewa Zone in the Oromia region. With great increases in production by the tonne, earnings from exporting the crop have risen from $1 million in 2004 to $26 million in 2008. In Tanzania, similar impacts have been achieved with a key leguminous crop, the pigeonpea.The ICRISAT team stated,

As these examples illustrate […] the notion of a single, ideal balance point between food vs. cash crop may be too simplistic.

The presenter spoke of the insights they have gained in their Village Level Studies initiative, that have shown that poverty reduction is linked with improved connectivity between rural areas and urban markets.  ICRISAT refer to this concept, now the model for their Strategic Plan 2020, as ‘inclusive market-orientated development’ (IMOD).  In this plan, ‘markets’ are broadened to include the poor.

Their objective regarding food and cash crops is:

ensure food security first, then add income to the extent possible through cash crops.

The paper examines the need for a concept of ‘food and (not vs.) crops, whereby the balance between the two will depend on each farmers’ individual food security status.  The researchers say that stimulating staple food production, rather than growing high-value exotic products and export crops, will be the first trigger for IMOD, and will offer basic experience in supply chains before new crops are added to the mix.

The team also called for a comprehensive perspective on the entire value chain system, where farmers are supported by inputs, access to markets, infrastructure, credit and weather and market insurance, in a way that promotes equity and security.

The ICRISAT research emphasises the need for inclusion in market-access strategies, and also the need for full understanding of the context of each community, rather than blending all the poor into one bracket. They call for more information about the different categories of poor at local scales, to aid development work.

The presentation concluded:

The question should not be food vs. cash crops; it should be how to make food and cash crops work synergistically to propel farmers out of poverty. Ensure food security first, not in a way that creates aid dependency, but rather in a way that makes it a springboard towards market-orientated development.