Stories tagged: Self Help Africa

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.

Ray Jordan: A New Forum for Agricultural Development

In this guest post, Self Help Africa CEO Ray Jordan explains the mission of a new body, The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development, which launched last week in Ireland.

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who first coined the phrase that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

The expression was one that came to mind last week, at the launch of a new forum that aims to use the knowledge and learning of farming in Ireland to help to increase food production and end extreme hunger in poor regions of the world.

The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD), which was launched in Dublin, brings together government ministries, state bodies, private business, agricultural research academics, farmers groups and others, including the country’s leading development organisations to lend our experience and know-how to the wider global challenge of producing food for the world’s growing population. Continue reading

#IamAg! Meet Mengistu Alemu, a Veterinary Technician from Ethiopia

This is the tenth post in our new series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture. Today’s post comes from Mengistu Alemu, who is Veterinary Technician.

When I was a boy, I remember government workers from the Ministry of Agriculture coming to the village where I lived in the Northern Shoa District of Oromia on motorbikes to give technical support about farming methods. Coming from a family of farmers, I was impressed. I liked the work they did and I liked their motorbikes as well! At home we produced different crops, including barley, wheat and fava beans on our three acre farm, and also kept livestock – so I understood different aspects of farming. I was around cattle and different crops from a young age. I understood the work that was involved, and I also understood the challenges that farmers in Ethiopia faced. From an early age, I thought about a career in the farm advisory service.

Continue reading

Farming First & CGIAR Side Event at EU Development Days 2016

15th June 2016, 4pm – 5.15pm

Room D5, Tour & Taxis

Brussels, Belgium

Join Farming First and CGIAR at our interactive session “Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals with Science” at the EU Development Days!

Our distinguished panel – moderated by BBC science & environment journalist Mark Kinver – will tell stories of science changing farmers’ lives Pecha Kucha style. Discussing 20 images for just 20 seconds each, our speakers will stimulate debate on how science can be harnessed to achieve many of the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals, including ending hunger, combatting climate change and empowering women.


Our Panel

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR ConsortiumRijsberman2colorcropped

CGIAR is the largest agri-food research partnership in the world, made-up of 15 research centers with 10,000 staff in over 70 countries. Dr. Rijsberman leads the implementation of CGIAR’s vision through a portfolio of impact focused research programs dedicated to increasing food and nutrition security, reducing rural poverty, and protecting the environment.

I.Rae photoIsabella Rae, Head of Policy & Research, Self Help Africa

Dr. Rae has been working in the NGO sector for the past eight years, prior to which she worked with FAO, Bioversity International and WFP. She has experience in the design, elaboration and management of technical assistance projects, with particular emphasis on Central and Western Africa. She has published in areas of women rights, food security and governance, and the right to food.

Sona Ebai CroppedSona Ebai, Chief of Party, World Cocoa Foundation

Sona Ebai has spent the last 25 years in integrated rural regional development. Through his role at the World Cocoa Foundation/African Cocoa Initiative (WCF/ACI), he has been instrumental in fostering effective public and private sector models to support sustainable productivity and improved food security on diversified cocoa farms in West and Central Africa.

Kampmann, Willi - 3Willi Kampmann, Head of International Affairs, German Farmers’ Association (DBV)

Willi Kampmanm has worked with the German Farmers’ Association for 35 years and has headed the Brussels office since 2000, concentrating on European and international agricultural policy. He was responsible for creating the House of German Agriculture and Food Industry, together with  seven other German agricultural associations.

Our Moderator

160420 MKV colourMark Kinver, BBC Science & Environment Reporter

Mark Kinver has been reporting on science and environment issues for BBC News for ten years. As moderator for this event, Mark will help our panelists delve deeper into the issues raised, and let you have your say on the topics.



The European Development Days (EDD) are Europe’s leading forum on development and international cooperation. Organised by the European Commission, the forum brings the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Veneless Chimpesa: Why Agricultural Extension Matters

Bahkita Mkwingwiri from Balaka District in Malawi works with Gorta-Self Help Africa as a village-based farm adviser to lead farmers in Bisani village. She and Gorta-Self Help Africa extension agent Veneless Chimpesa were amongst the recipients of a travel bursary to attend a ten-week training course at Shuttleworth Agricultural College in the UK this summer. Farming First interviewed them about their experiences in Malawi and the UK. 

Bakhita, what are you responsibilities as a lead farmer in Balaka district?

My role is to help and encourage my fellow farmers how we can improve our families, our community and Malawi as a nation. I share knowledge with them. I grow maize, cotton and pigeon pea, as well as horticulture products. I also encourage working in clubs. This is important because we share knowledge so that we all have enough food in our household. Continue reading

David Donoghue: Why Food Security and Agriculture is at Core of SDG Agenda

As part of our ongoing series that explores the state of the negotiations on the Sustainable Development Goals, Ray Jordan, CEO of Irish charity Gorta-Self Help Africa sat down with Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, Ambassador David Donoghue, who is acting as co-facilitator in the negotiations. Continue reading