“We are now aware that our future is in our hands. We believe we were not on the right truck with regard to conservation of our biodiversity, including our local seed varieties. We have to work for change. Today, MELCA opened our eyes to envision a lot more and work for change in various dimensions; but this will be just the beginning. We will be in charge of continuous changes in conservation of local seed and indigenous trees, protection of our soil and water resources contributing to the mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change.” A farmer from Haroberbabo kebele in Gindeberet woreda of West Showa zone
Case story 1: Ato Kifle Mulatu
Ato Kifle Mulugeta is a member of HaroBerbabo farmers group. He is 38 and married; a father of 4 sons and 2 daughters. Kifle joined the group at the beginning of 2014. Kifle dropped out from grade 8 despite the fact that he is sending all his children to school of which two of them have completed their university and have got employment. Referring back to how he got the opportunity to be a member of the farmers’ group, he says, “…first the Woreda agriculture office identified strong farmers in the area; I happened to be one of these. Following the selection, we were informed about MELCA’s objective and we all agreed to be part of this great plan. Before MELCA has come to our Kebele, Menchen for Menchen, an international NGO supported us on other programs like school construction and water shade management. But, what MELCA brought was a new dimension and we were all keen to work on conservation of our lost seed varieties. We did not have a clue on what is happening to our local seed varieties and the consequences.
Initially, our association began with 60 members. Later, the number of members increased to 135. Finally, after a review meeting with general assembly in the past 6 month, we jointly decided to avoid members with passive involvement and participation. As a result, we identified 32 members who didn’t take part in our joint on farm activities and PVC exercises properly. In addition, they made no contribution in labor or other works in the construction of seed bank. Now, the association has 103 strong and active members.”
Kifle also explained the benefits he got from being a member of the group. Regarding the benefits gained so far, Kifle says, “Firstly, there was no forum that brings our Kebele farmers to such socio-economic collaboration. But now, we all are brothers and sisters. We support each other. Love and companionship have become our traits since this group has been formed. Secondly, the attitudinal change is rather inexpressible. We haven’t really realized the values we lose as a result of the loss of our local seed varieties. We were just focusing on increasing productivity.
The other benefit is the increase in our personal confidence. Previously, I had a problem to speak in public and unable to express my ideas. Look at me now; I only stop talking when you request me to stop.
On top of these, before we participated on the trainings organized by MELCA, we did not give much care for the trees and the forest. We even do not recognize the relationship between climate change, forest, local seed varieties, water and soil conservation and various other related concepts. As a matter of fact, it is MELCA that bridged our knowledge and work towards prevention of the adverse effects of deforestation, soil degradation, losing local seed varieties and so much more concepts, which have both short and long term impacts on our existence.
Due to series of capacity building and technical supports provided by Shanko, the Agronomist of MELCA, I become an advisor in my community on how to do soil and water conservation through physical works such as terracing. Most importantly, I am now a proactive farmer who stands for the forest conservation at the front line. As a result of MELCA’s training, other farmers in our area have started to do soil and water conservation structures in their private farmlands.
On the other hand, we are also now aware of the value of our forests with indigenous trees and practically working on conservation of the remaining few local trees in the area. Our forests, which were full of biodiversity, including flora and fauna, have been lost rapidly in the past 3-4 decades. In the last 10 years we remained only with Eucalyptus trees, which are becoming the dominant cash crops in the area. We don’t know where our indigenous trees gone. It is a total disaster to lose all within this short period of time. Now, it is time for us to search and restore our indigenous trees. We are coming to a situation where there is no even a single tree to serve as a shade for our livestock from rain and sun, as it was in the past. I remember there were much big trees here and there to give shadow for our livestock. But now they have totally gone and we are suffering the consequences of our own acts” Kifle lamented.
With regard to replication of local seed varieties, kifle initially borrowed 10 kg of beans and planted them as per the trainings he got. Later, he harvested 300 kg and returned the seed he borrowed from the association with a 10% mark-up. Then, his fellow group members took the seed he repaid and the replication goes on like this. In the second round, Kifle borrowed 15 kg of white teff local seed and harvested 400 kg. Similarly he repaid his loan with 10% interest. He also participated on the group farming on one hectare of experiment field they received from the woreda administration. As explained by Kifle, they harvested 12 Quintals from the experiment field in the seed bank compound because they all worked with good interest and at most good faith.
On top of this, the research conducted by the farmers themselves on participatory variety selection was Kifle’s most remarkable story to narrate. According to him, the farmers in the group did a research on various crop types with compost, with fertilizer and without any input to see the productivity of each crop variety in a practical form. He says, “That was the crucial part of our learning; where all farmers have got concise knowledge. It is interesting to see and understand the factors that contribute to getting the best out of the seed varieties and soil quality.”
A final message from Kifle goes as follows: “We are now aware that our future is in our hands. We believe we were not on the right truck with regard to conservation of our biodiversity, including our local seed varieties. We have to work for change. Today, MELCA opened our eyes to envision a lot more and work for change in various dimensions; but this will be just the beginning. We will be in charge of continuous changes in conservation of local seed and indigenous trees, protection of our soil and water resources contributing to the mitigation of the adverse effects of climate change. We are thankful for MELCA for all the support and the government too for provision of the experiment field where we are conducting our research.”
Case story 2: Derane Motera
Derane is a female farmer in Haroberbabo kebele of Gindeberet woreda. She is a member of the local seed conservators association formed two years back. Her husband is a development facilitator in the Kebele. It is unusual in rural Ethiopia for a woman to be a member of a farmers’ association while he husband is alive. Asked why she became a member of the association instead of her husband, Derane explains, “being a development worker of the government, my husband runs here and there in the community; as a result, I take the responsibility of my internal household affairs as well as attending the farm works and contributing to such memberships. Hence, I take the lead to be part of this famer’s group. I joined the group being recommended by the Kebele representatives to involve strong women in the Kebele. So, I am very happy to be part of this group.
Speaking of the benefits she gained as a member, Derane says, “A better platform has been created for us to enhance our knowledge and skill on farm related issues. I had no clue on environmental protection issues, local seed varieties, saving and loan management, entrepreneurship, working in-group and much more community based initiatives. However, MELCA introduced us to all these experiences that we didn’t have in our previous lifetime.
Derane is one of the 20 women who got seed money of 2000ETB to be engaged in Alternative Income Generating Activities (IGAs) provided by the project as a revolving fund. The total principal of the sum will be paid back to their group in 2 years period and re-loaned for other needy members. With this money, she has bought a cow four months ago and now the cow is about to produce a calf. According to Derane, the group has highly favored their female members. This is witnessed by the loan for IGA being provided to only female members in the first round.
With regard to their main objective of conservation and multiplication of local seed varieties, Derane took 10 kg of bean during the first round and got 250 kg of harvest. She repaid the principal seed with 10% addition to the association. Again, she took 10 kg of red Teff and planted this using compost. She got 350 kg from the harvest of this, despite the fact that the wrong seasoned rain has damaged some of the crop on field. During both rounds, Derane was happy that she has got the opportunity either to plant and conserve the local seed varieties or provide for others to get loan of the seed through returning to the association.
Accordint to Derane, her plan for the next season is to get 25 Kilogram of white Teff local seed variety from the association and plant it on her farmland. Derane has got 5 different capacity building trainings so far. According to her, the trainings were on how to use compost for productivity, participatory variety seed selection, promotion of on farm conservation and P3MD.
Apart from these, similar to other members of the group, Derane has been putting a monthly saving of ETB 10 in the group’s account. She has been regularly attending the monthly meeting of the group that enabled her to enhance her decision-making and negotiation power. According to Derane, previously we has no room to speak in public and especially in front of meetings together with male participants. Comparing her current status with the previous one, she says, “Now I am raising different questions, suggest my ideas and speak when asked by committees on various issues. Except some few female members, most of us can now freely express our ideas and feelings and actively participate in meetings.”