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Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Ethiopian villagers make farming pay
Image courtesy of Nita Bhalla, Focus On Africa magazine
Ato nicknamed "Ethiopia's environmental warrior"
Nicknamed Ethiopia's "environmental warrior" 80-year-old Ato Ifru Kojna is responsible for starting what has become an agricultural success story in Ethiopia.

He took up the challenge of rehabilitating his land through soil conservation, afforestation and the improvement of rural infrastructure.


Our land is all that we have and we are slowly learning how important it is to look after it

Ato Ifru Kojna
Fellow villagers in Katchema, 110 km south-east of the capital, Addis Ababa, also came together to locally address their problem.

"Our land is all that we have and we are slowly learning how important it is to look after it," he told the BBC's Nita Bhalla.

"The farmers in the area now compete against each other to see who can rehabilitate their patch of land better and quicker," he added.

Farmers plant seeds on their land near the town of Konso, in southern Ethiopia, Tuesday, April 11, 2000.
Barren land is the blight of many Ethiopian farmers
"There was absolutely nothing here before," Volli Carucci from the World Food Programme said.

"The barren land that was once here is now replaced with forests and grazing land. It's incredible to see such a dramatic change in just a few years."

More than 40,000 people are expected attend the World Summit in Johannesburg at the end of August to discuss how economic growth can benefit everyone on the planet.

But in Ethiopia an alarming rate of soil erosion seriously undermines efforts to promote food security where many require food assistance.

Every year an estimated two billion tons of topsoil is washed away and experts warn that without efforts to halt and reverse the process, food shortages in affected areas are expected to steadily increase.

Self-help

Underwritten by a United Nation's campaign aiming to help 1.8 million Ethiopians a year, the project was kick-started when Ato Ifru began building rows of small dams along the ravine at the heart of the village.


"The quality of our lives has improved dramatically''

Ato Ifru Kojna
He planted trees and shrubs and within four year he had created an oasis.

Seeing the results, his neighbours sectioned off another ravine, planted 140,000 trees and bushes and turned the wasteland into woodland.

The changed landscape has been a boon for the villagers, and many of them have now embarked on a pilot project growing 20 different crops; introducing cash crops to help them sustain a much improved livelihood.

"The quality of our lives has improved dramatically,'' Ato Ifru said.

"We have created a water catchment area and do not have to walk long distances to collect daily water supplies.

We also have abundant supplies of vegetables, fruit and poultry.''

The Adama district, in which Katchema lies, has a population of over 300,000 and suffers from chronic food insecurity.

Rehabilitation

In Katchema, the 200 households now manage a 62-hectare area that earns each household an additional US$100 a year from the sale of animal fodder and timber.

The average annual income in the region is less than US$180 a year.

The rehabilitation of gullies and ravines not only renders the land productive, but has also led to income generation for the community who are selling the new grass and natural vegetation for roofing.

The programme is now under way in another 67 districts, and the Adama Woreda farmers say they have helped dispel the stereotype, proving that Ethiopia's farmers are capable of feeding their country.

The full version of this article originally appeared in BBC Focus On Africa Magazine.

See also:

14 Feb 02 | Americas
07 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
11 Jul 02 | Africa
15 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
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