Wednesday, July 17, 2024
InterviewPursuing Climate-smart agriculture

Pursuing Climate-smart agriculture

Farm Africa is an NGO founded by Michael Wood, former principal legal adviser to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and member of the International Law Commission, and agricultural expert David Campbell in 1985 in response to famine in Ethiopia.

Originally called FARM-Africa (Food and Agricultural Resource Management), the charity’s initial aims were to target farmers and herders who had the capacity for expansion; work with them to find solutions to help lift them out of poverty, according to its website.

The NGO has since expanded its operations to include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 2022, Farm Africa became one of the NGOs to get involved in a forest protection initiative in eastern Ethiopia’s Bale forest that the federal government hopes will become a source of forex generation via carbon credit sales. This project began two years ago, and is scheduled to run until 2029.

Shewit Amanuel, Ethiopia country director for Farm Africa, spoke to The Reporter about the NGOs involvement. Excerpts:

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The Reporter: Can you give us a quick overview of Farm Africa’s activities in Ethiopia?

Shewit: It has been 35 years since Farm Africa started working in Ethiopia. Our main focus is improving the productivity of crops and livestock, ensuring environmental protection, maximizing natural resources, and straightening market value chains for farmers.

At this point, we have compiled all our success project implementations and lessons in research documents and policy briefs. We are presenting them to all stakeholders, in order to scale up further.

What are the achievements so far?

Our main success is to detach small scale farmers from rain-based farming, and to shift to small-scale irrigation systems. We have also succeeded in shifting small-scale farmers towards high value crops. The livelihood of our project farmers have substantially improved. We helped farmers to diversify to animal fattening, poultry and others.

The main issue is that landholding size in terms of household per capita has been shrinking in Ethiopia. Farmers have no more land to give to their children. Hence, the only option is maximizing productivity on the available small patches of land. To this end, technological input is critical. That is why we focus on maximizing land utilization, and diversification and productivity on the small lands.

We have achieved a significant productivity increment by intensifying technology uptake. We have also succeeded in shifting from chemical fertilizer towards organic fertilizer. Farmers in several of our projects have transformed from waiting for food assistance to becoming investors and creating jobs for other people.

The other work we do besides agricultural productivity and food security is reforestation. In some parts of Ethiopia, like the Bale Zone, deforestation was very high. We have reduced deforestation by 59 percent currently. People used to cut forests to expand farmland and also for household energy sources. We introduced alternative energy sources, and enabled farmers to increase production on small lands. Plus, we introduced carbon trading, which generates revenues for farmers by protecting the forest.

How are your engagements with the government and interfaces with government policies?

We cannot be experts in everything, so we work with all stakeholders including the government. For instance, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is an expert in water. For our projects in this area, we involve IWMI.

Overpopulation is one major factor behind natural resources depletion. For our projects on health and education, we involve other NGOs like PH. But when we do everything, we involve the government. All our projects are implemented within the government’s policy framework. We do not duplicate government efforts and projects, but intervene where the government has gaps. We work with the government, from federal down to woreda. Even our offices typically interface with government institution offices.

Your projects focus on ‘climate-smart agriculture’. Tell us more about this concept.

This concept is all about adapting agriculture to the changing climate. We have projects on what farmers should do under circumstances of drought, flood or other climate change scenarios. From providing drought-resistant and pest-resistant seeds, to irrigation systems, we capacitate farmers.

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