The Government of Ethiopia is successfully implementing the Sustainable Land Management Program with support from Norway, the World Bank, Global Environmental Fund and other multi- and bi-lateral partners. The aim is to rehabilitate and make former deforested and degraded land more productive again. This new phase of the program extends into the farmers’ fields. It introduces new cultivation techniques based on reduced tillage of the field and the use of the crop residue to protect and enrich the soil with organic matter for better water holding capacities. The Development Fund of Norway, Oromia Bureau of Agriculture and CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) have already tested the new technologies funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Addis Ababa. In May, the Embassy and Norad visited the farmers in the field to learn more about the progress.
Bekelech is a woman farmer living in nearby Gimbi town (west wollega zone of Oromia region). She has four children between age of 11 and 18. Due to their small farm (less than 0.15 ha), her husband (Lemma) and herself are mainly relying on daily labor and, they have little time to work in their own farm and home garden. Last year (2015), Bekelech witnessed one of her neighbors, a lead farmer under the program demonstrating the new practice (maize/bean intercropping under minimum tillage) and heard that it’s a technology saving time and labor. She attended one of the training organized by the partners.
Based on the results of the neighbor farmer and the training she managed to convince her husband to allocate all their land based on the new principles of farming. However, the support package (improved seeds and fertilizer) was delayed, and her husband wanted to plow the land and plant. Despite the impatience of her husband, she convinced him once again to wait and avoid tilling the land.
Two weeks ago, they received support and the family (husband, wife, son and daughter) were able to plant their field within half a day. Now, they are expecting to harvest at least three times more than last year, from last years’ experience of neighbor farmers. After maize plants emerge, they will also intercrop with haricot beans, increasing the productivity and nutritional outcome of the farm.
This story underlines how educated (better-informed) women can influence decision-making process of a household, and it is expected that successful stories of such farmers can spread within the community. There are reports of similar cases of women convincing their men to shift their farming practices from other countries in the region – because women want labour and time saving technologies that at the same time can be more climate resilient. Just by reducing the tillage to one line ripped, the cost reduction in Gimbi is from 2000 to 400 birr per hectare.
Such enthusiasm and willingness to try CSA practices by many farmers in Gimbi within two seasons (over 650 farmers) is the fruit of a close collaboration between the three partners. The activities based on a farmer driven learning (lead farmer) will be scaled up under the Sustainable Land Management program and through support to the Development Fund of Norway.
(Field visit by Norwegian Embassy/Norad with additional information from CIMMYT and the Development Fund)