From marginal farmers to model farmers

From marginal farmers to model farmers

Esayas Fanksho smiles broadly. He smiles a lot these days. "We don't suffer from hunger," he says proudly as he heads off, spade in hand, to tend to his coffee trees. "We are food secure!"

Farming in Ethiopia

The 40-year-old from Wollaita, southern Ethiopia, was a poor marginal farmer. Now he’s a model farmer in his district of Fango Vijio. Esayas and his family of 10 have benefitted from a project run by Wonnta Rural Development Association (WRDA), one of Concern’s partners in the area.

Flowering

Three years ago he was supplied with saplings, some tools and helped to build a reservoir to harvest rainwater. Where other coffee trees in the area are withering, Esayas’ are flowering. The papaya plants are now three feet tall and he’s just planted mango seedlings. Last year, he made a 300 birr profit on his coffee crop, the equivalent of 30 US dollars – a small fortune to a poor farmer in southern Ethiopia.

“My greatest pleasure is being able to drink coffee I’ve grown myself,” he says. By selling the surplus, he now has options such as the ability to send his children to school and buy nourishing vegetables to supplement the family’s diet. “I’m managing very well,” he says. “My next plan is to plant onions and chillies.”

Coping with drought

Unlike other tiny farms in the area, Esayas’ irrigation system and his ability to rotate and diversify his crops means his land is more fertile and his crops are flourishing despite this year’s drought. That’s exactly what Kebede Nana of WRDA has been trying to encourage other poor farmers to do. But, without support, Kebede says they are vulnerable to exploitation by loan sharks, who charge interest rates of up to 200%.

They are also extremely vulnerable to the erratic rains, the failure of which this spring has destroyed the crop in field after field elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Kebede is also trying to encourage the cultivation of drought resistant crops such as cassava and sunflower. “Even with the drought it’s still fresh under the ground” he says.

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