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Creating a food safety net

Farmers build climate resilience in Ethiopia


“I heard many times about improved seed and fertilizer, but my financial capacity limited my ability to try them,” Israel Moreba told us through a translator. When we first met Israel, he was a 55-year-old farmer in the Welayita zone of Ethiopia, struggling to feed himself, his wife, and their nine children. His small farm had a total size of 0.75 hectares, on which he produced only 200 to 300 kilograms of maize per season, only covering his family’s needs for three months at a time and leaving a three-month gap during which the family struggled to get sufficient food before the next harvest.

iDE Hero Ethiopia Ag

Shifts in climate create stress for farmers trying to meet the food and nutrition needs of their families and communities. With the right agricultural inputs and a focus on building resilience, farmers are better prepared to overcome the challenges of an uncertain climate.

Drought continues to affect many woredas (districts) in the Wolayita and South Omo zones of Ethiopia, as it has throughout history. Because Ethiopia’s population continues to grow at a fast rate, drought conditions are contributing to food insecurity, malnutrition, and possibly a new famine. To prevent this, iDE works with subsistence-level farmers to increase crop yields and build climate resilience among this disadvantaged population.

Increasing food security in Ethiopia requires not only improved farming inputs but also improved access to viable markets. Farmers also form groups to help each other transport farm products to interested buyers.

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Israel’s kebele (ward) administration selected him to receive access to credit so that he could purchase agricultural inputs with the support of the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Enhancement (SAFE) project through the Integrated Recovery Support Mechanisms initiative. Through an arrangement between SAFE and OMO Microfinance Institution, Israel received a loan of 1,048 birr, with which he purchased 6.25 kilograms of improved maize seed and 50 kilograms of fertilizer. This improved seed was enough for him to plant on a third of his land using proper agronomic practices, relying on information provided by project field extension workers.

The SAFE project is being implemented over a three-year period by a consortium of five organizations, including iDE, with funding from the European Union. It focuses on reaching small-scale, pastoral, and agro-pastoral households with carefully designed and integrated measures that help them to tackle the challenges of climate change, improving food and nutrition security, and developing resilience to future climate events. The key foci of the project include increasing agricultural productivity, livelihood diversification, market access, and increasing capacity.

Working with women to build their agricultural capacity not only puts food on the table but empowers them as decision-makers in the household. 

In one season, Israel was able to quadruple his total yield from the new practices on just a third of his land. He was able to sell a portion of his harvest to repay the OMO loan and store enough grain to cover his family’s food needs during the non-harvest period.

By the end of 2016, the SAFE project will enable over 12,000 households to join Israel in increasing productivity, assets, and income, either through farming or livestock husbandry. At least a quarter of those are resource-poor households headed by women, who will benefit from market assistance establishing small ruminant livestock production and other economic and social empowerment initiatives.

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