Hope and stability

Soil conservation bunds constructed in an LWF cash for work program in Lasta. On the top right, a new concrete irrigation trench can be seen. Photo: LWF/S. Gebreyes
Soil conservation bunds constructed in an LWF cash for work program in Lasta. On the top right, a new concrete irrigation trench can be seen. Photo: LWF/S. Gebreyes

Cash for work projects to help drought affected farmers in Ethiopia

(LWI) – To see what climate change looks like, one only needs to talk to Ato Abebe Desale, a 46-year-old farmer and head of a household of seven people. He and his family live in the Amhara region, Ethiopia.

The family lives on farming – some fields, a bit of livestock. As he does not have much farm land, Ato Abebe has struggled in previous years. The family got by because of to sharecropping arrangements – an old practice to rent a piece of land and pay the landowner a part of the harvest in return. This is a hard life where all family members have to contribute. Still their success does not only depend on their work, but mostly favorable weather.

LWF seed distribution in Amhara. Photo: LWF/ Hannah Mornement

In 2015, the spring rains came late and were much less than in a typical year. The family hoped for meher, but the sky remained cloudless.

When the rains stopped in 2015, an entire harvest was lost. Ato Abebes animals produced less milk because he could no longer feed them properly. Life became difficult, apathy and frustration grew among the family members.

LWF staff register beneficiaries for a project, among them Ato Abebe (right). Photo: LWF/ B. Kebede

In this situation, LWF started their emergency response in Ato Abebe’s community. He was enrolled as a foreman in an LWF water and soil conservation project. The money he earned was enough to buy food for his family and fertilizer for the field. With additional support in the form of wheat seeds he is now able to plant his plot in the growing season. The family is self-sufficient again.  “Your help has created hope and stability,” he says.

While the drought has affected the entire district, we see that the beneficiaries of LWF resilience projects have fared better compared to the communities which were not part of the project.
Sophie Gebreyes, LWF Ethiopia Country Representative

Like the Desale family, many were affected by the El Nino induced drought in Ethiopia and have only been able to survive because of the cash-for-work programs LWF is implementing in their project areas. The LWF cash for work-programs aim at providing some of the most vulnerable households with an income, while improving the local infrastructure. The project beneficiaries build stone dams and irrigation trenches; rehabilitate access roads and community ponds. In Amhara they have cleaned farm land from dangerous weeds and bushes and constructed bunds for soil conservation.

Ongoing challenges

“While the drought has affected the entire district, we see that the beneficiaries of LWF resilience projects have fared better compared to the communities which were not part of the project,” Gebreyes notes.

Photo: Wikimedia commons

In Lalibela, Amhara, the summer rains were above average and have helped the farmers start a new crop. In Oromia, in the East of the country, LWF has distributed 12,5 mt of seeds in six communities (kebele), to be sown on 275 hectares of land. In Amhara, farmers have also received seeds and farming tools.  “The majority of the crops are in early growing stages and in good conditions,” Gebreyes says.

A new field planted after the beginning of the summer rains. Photo: LWF/ S. Gebreyes

People will however remain vulnerable until they can harvest the next crops. For some of them, the long-awaited meher rain proved to be devastating. Heavy flooding is expected in Amhara. Government projections expect more than one million people to be affected by the floods during the next months, and half a million displaced.

Funding for the work with drought-affected communities remains a challenge as well. Only one-third of the amount requested in the last ACT appeal has been covered – enough to start the activities, but not to carry out all the relief work as planned. The funding appeal has been extended. LWF Ethiopia urgently calls for donations to prevent more hunger and starvation.

 

The work of LWF Ethiopia with drought-affected communities is supported by Canadian Lutheran World Relief, Church of Sweden, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the European Commission, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Finn Church Aid and the International Rescue Committee.