Vita's work aims to have long-lasting and sustainable social, environmental and financial impacts on its beneficiaries and partner communities. Some of the impacts that Vita has had in Ethiopia include the improvement of the livelihoods of members of the community. To ensure that the programme results are in line with our commitment to combat the effects of climate change, Vita also aims to leave long-lasting, positive impacts on the environment.
Vita’s projects and programmes that focus on increased crop production allow for families to improve their household finances by reducing expenditure on food, as well as increasing incomes through increased sales of crops and products. By assisting in the formation of cooperatives and helping to construct storage and post-harvest management systems, Vita has also helped to boost household incomes through improved sales of potatoes. The cooperatives’ storage facilities add an additional factor of savings for the community, as price variation for crops between harvest and hunger seasons is reduced. These interventions are also a source of short-term employment in the communities.
Projects, such as Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and the improved stoves projects, have direct health impacts for the wider community in which Vita operates. Increased access to sanitation is essential in reducing transmittable diseases, and positively impacts the entire community in which CLTS programmes are introduced. Similarly, our improved stoves projects help to reduce the amount of smoke produced by stoves. This is especially important in poorly-ventilated homes, where smoke causes eye and respiratory infections. We would like to introduce some of the Vita’s partner communities and let them speak about Vita’s programmes.
Girma Gerfe lives in the hills high above the city of Arba Minch, in the Gamo Gofa zone in the south west of Ethiopia. He has been weaving for ten years. Before the Vita co-op was built, he was only able to weave three pieces a week. His output has now doubled. The co-op sell each piece for about 200Br each (€9) and he gets about 40Br profitafter materials with 3Br going to the co-op fund. Girma puts 10Br aside every week to provide for holidays. He has five kids and works about 6-7 hours per day. There are other 60 people in the co-op where he works.
Sirene Meshesha is a 45 years old woman, mother of seven children. It’s the first time she’s growing maize but has been in the Vita potato programme for the last four years. She said there was much interest in the maize locally and she expects to sell the seeds in the surrounding area. Sirene only recently switched from using the back-hoe to planting, fertilising and weeding her potatos, and now her maize, in straight lines with the ox-drawn plough.
She is one of the farmers that have suffered badly with the bacterial wilt in her potatoes. Under the Vita Potato Programme, during the first year, she got a 13-fold increase on what she planted, the second year 18-fold and the 3rd year a 12-fold increase. The Vita team are helping her with access to clean seed, improved soil sanitation and crop rotation techniques that will help combat bacterial wilt and other diseases.
Banda Orcho, 32, is a father of five children between nine and 17 years of age. He farms 2.5 hectares, which he inherited from his grandfather. He grows false bananas, apples, cabbages, beetroots, carrots, beans, peas and potatoes. He is the chairman of the Doko Yoyery seed producers and multipliers co-op. He built his two bedroom house four years ago. Before that, he was living in the traditional bamboo and straw house but now this is mainly used for his livestock. "It was not so good for the eyes and the health with the smoke. It was also a fire risk," said Banda about his old traditional house. In the new corrugated-roof house, everything is connected to electricity. "Now everybody has their own space, and my children can study until whenever they want," said Banda.
He started growing improved seed potatoes in 2012. The rope and washer water pump from Vita is crucial to the output on Banda's farm. He first had to hand-dig a 10m deep hole to access water which is now pumped directly into his fields using this simple technology.
"I remember times when it was hungry here, especially in May and October. That was just five or six years ago. We lived off false banana, and I travelled to the local town looking for work as a taxi driver, and even as far as Addis to weave," said Banda. "Now I don't have to do that anymore."
Among Banda's plans for further development of the holding is the establishment of an apple orchard.
"These apple trees will be a crop that will be there for me when I am old and tired. I have planted the trees at 4m spacing, and I plan to grow crops like beans and peas in-between the trees."
On the back of his farming efforts, he has bought a house in Chencha for his son to live in while attending college. His big push over the coming years is to expand his acreage through leasing additional land.
Potato Programme – Seed Multiplier Pilot Project.
Akililu Zega (with sling) and Manaya Mamo (with hoe), are two of the farmers protecting the disease-free mini-tuber plantation on top of Sura Mountain. The local co-op takes it in turns to spend a 24hr period with the crop, during which they tend to the spraying and fertilising and ensuring neither animal nor humans contaminate the crop. Bio security barriers include a trench uphill from the plot, a wattle fence, a foot dip at the single-point entrance, and the farmers!
Climate Smart Agriculture
Bahiru Tiberbu (on the left) is an agricultural extension facilitator. He is pictured with Tesfe, a farmer from Chencha who previously grew false banana. Carrots are just one example of the climate smart crops that Vita is promoting in the region. Maturing in as little as 75 days, the fast growing crop can effectively reach harvest before a drought takes hold.
Community Led Total Sanitation
Zenesh Yatare and Tekle Gutalo first heard of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) about five years ago from Vita. "Back then it was impossible to walk around without stepping in faeces,” says Zenesh. “Vita facilitators showed us the impact of the flies on the faeces, and asked us what the solution might be. There were many questions when we got stuck in - who was going to dig the hole, who will build the structure, but Vita impressed on us that it was up to us. The hole is at least 2m deep and lasts for 2 years.”
“The difference?,” emphasises Tekle, “Before, there were between two and three people going to the hospital from the area every day, especially during the rainy season. It is seven kilometres by foot. People suffering from the likes of typhoid often had to be carried on stretchers that tied up their family members bringing them to hospital, along with the 100-200Br cost of the treatment. Often when a disease like that gets into the house, all the children are affected.”
Now it's only one person every six months that needs to go to the hospital, out of 614 households and a population of 3,010 people. It means that children get to school more, and more work happens in the fields.
Aberash Dikasowith with her grandchildren, Frewin Tofelose, Tseta Asaya, and Tamrat Bekele. Vita has started a stoves’ project in Ethiopia which will make and distribute these healthier and more fuel efficient stoves to local families. They are designed to help liberate women from the drudgery of collecting firewood, as they use significantly less woord than the traditional three rock stove in use all over Africa.
"I got this stove for 200Br a year ago, and it has reduced fuel consumption by 75%, and smoke in my home too. “
Haricot Bean Co-operative in Arba Minch.
Amtato Azenhe, 46 years old, plans to planning to move all his two hectare cropping from maize and cotton to more drought resistant haricot and mung beans.
He has just started leasing land by Lake Abaya, which he is using to irrigate the land, despite recommendations from government advisors that using the lake-water will lead to salinisation of the soils. Ironically, it is the gradual decrease in rainfall on Amtato's own farm that has pushed him to rent this new farm. Climate change and deforestation are the two issues cited most frequently by farmers when asked to explain why rainfall has decreased. It is also interesting to note that the pressure to clear farmland in the immediate areas around the lake has led to a lot of deforestation over the last 15 years. This has forced the pastoralists that traditionally grazed around the lake further up the hills, where their animals are stripping more of the vegetation from the surrounding hills, exacerbating the run-off from the land into the lake, and an inevitable silting up of Lake Abaya. As a result, the growing lake has swallowed up thousands of acres around itself in recent years. Finally, the irrigation pumps taking water from the lake are likely to disturb the breeding grounds of the tilapia fish that exist close to the shorelines. The tilapia fish have provided a lot of work for fishermen on the lake over the years.
Before engaging with Vita, Lemma Hidoto was totally reliant on maize, but since then he has branched out into other crops such as haricot beans. He's lucky. The bit of maize that he grew last year failed completely due to the prolonged drought that affected the region. "The weather has been problematic for the last four years, and this year will be another tough one to get through. I might even sell one of my better oxen to keep food on the table. The temperature is gradually rising, and the river levels are falling. We were able to irrigate from the river for 6 months 10 years ago, but there is only enough water for 2-3 weeks now. It's partly because there are more farmers irrigating, but also because there are more households. Whereas before there might have been 200 households, now there is 700," said the 65 year-old farmer. Lemma is father of six and believes that the row planting system helps to conserve water because it effectively channels excess water around the field.
Keyaso Lijaso, 32, with his wife Amareche Baro, and two of his seven children, Aweke and Etagenge. He lost almost all of his last maize crop due to the drought, and he is struggling to keep his family fed, even with the government assistance that he receives.