Empowerment of Farmers Pivotal for Achieving Water Security in Ethiopia
Rapid climate change is creating significant challenges for farming communities struggling to adapt and respond in the Horn of Africa region. Achieving water security is, therefore, central to ensuring climate security in countries like Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, water resources are under unprecedented pressures due to increasing water demand and considerable investments in irrigated commercial agriculture, particularly in the Central Rift Valley (CRV) area.
These trends have caused over abstraction of water and unchecked water extraction practices and have jeopardized lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of smallholder farmers in the area until the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and its partners announced an innovative intervention in the area.
The Project with Climate-Smart Water Solutions
IWMI, Farm Africa and other partners have assessed the grassroots condition of the CRV and its farming communities and designed the Nature for Development (N4D) project during 2017, thanks to the generous financial support they enjoyed from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The project’s objective is to support rural economic development, resilience building and biodiversity conservation in the CRV, aligning effectively with the country’s Climate-Resilient Green Economic Policy, which prioritizes management of environmental resources as the basis for sustainable and green growth.
Smallholder Farmers, Water Security and Livelihood Improvement
At the outset, IWMI has had community conversations in order to understand their priorities. Afterwards, it started the intervention with the empowerment of local populations with knowledge and technology by identifying 2,078 households from eight districts and by implementing climate-smart water solutions on 520 hectares of farmland.
Mr. Hussein Urgesa from the Adami Tulu District Agriculture Office (Oromiya Region) said, “Local farming communities were first given formal training on climate-smart agricultural practices that covered practical lessons on soil and water conservation, irrigation, soil fertility management and the like for a week.”
The soil and water conservation and irrigation interventions have proved fruitful and beneficial to the farming households and their neighbors, thanks to the hard work and commitment of experts of the district agriculture office, IWMI and Farm Africa.
After realizing that significant success, IWMI and Farm Africa have wasted no time providing the diligent and committed smallholder farmers with additional support: water-lifting and harvesting technologies, fast-maturing fruit and vegetable seeds, as well as drought-tolerant crops.
The support further boosted the morale of the farmers to use the underground water at their backyards and environs for cultivating fruits, vegetables and commercial crops for commercial and family purposes at least three times every year since 2017.
Mr. Mohamed Seid, 28 years old and father of two children, is one of these farmers who is tirelessly farming fruits, vegetables and crops on his 200 meter square of land by making wise use of the underground water in his backyard through the solar pump generator provided to him by IWMI and Farm Africa.
“I commonly cultivate and produce tomatoes, cabbage, beetroot and carrots using my solar pump as well as natural compost for household consumption and marketing purposes,” said Mr. Mohammed. He added that he earned 250,000 Ethiopian Birr ($4,611) during the 2021 and 2022 farming season alone and is planning to purchase more solar-powered technologies with the vision of expanding his farming business. This is indeed a big success.
The surprising thing is that the actions and achievements of farmers like Mr. Mohammed are resonating beyond his district and more farmers are visiting him to learn his secrets of success.
Dr. Amare Hailesellassie, IWMI principal researcher, underscored that IWMI is determined to promote the climate-smart water solutions until all smallholder farmers in the water-stressed CRV of Ethiopia achieve water security for their agricultural and livelihood needs.