May 25th is Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Last November our colleagues Ilona Gajdíková and Nadezhda Matoušková visited a farm from our project in southern Ethiopia and sent back this report.
Mr. Wondimu Yunka lives with his family in the village of Lela Honcho, located a few kilometers from the town of Chuko. His home lies in a lush valley that, even during the dry season, has a verdant green canopy. Wondimu is a “model farmer” for our agricultural development project in Chuko, Ethiopia. The project aims to improve food production in rural communities in the area. Model farmers receive training on how to increase harvest yields and learn about sustainable farming techniques and management. A key part to the program’s success are “model farmers” who share their knowledge with others in the community.
Mr. Wondimu welcomes us to his farm so we can see for ourselves what he has been working on. First, we are led behind his house, where he proudly shows us his newly built latrine. He received tiles and other building materials through the project and is in the process of building the roof, which will be completed shortly.
Wondimu takes us further into his enset orchard. Enset, commonly known as “false banana tree,” is a food staple in Ethiopia and one of the main crops grown by local farmers. The large, translucent leaves of the plant cast a pale green sunlight upon the ground, making the heat bearable. Walking among these plants makes one feel as if they have entered a different reality.
But Wondimu doesn’t give us much time to dream. He quickly brings us to a pile of rich, brown decomposing plant material and proudly explains his composting system. The climate of this region enables Wondimu to have high quality compost in two months, which he uses to fertilize, not only his Enset orchard, but his other crops as well. Thanks to our program, he took part in classes and other educational opportunities about composting and sustainable agricultural. And the information he received is not helping his farm; Wondimu is actively sharing his composting and growing methods with farmers throughout the region. The health of his fields was undeniable, and the efficient use of discarded plant material is just one, simple way food security can be improved.
The fields behind the enset orchard have been plowed on an incline. In the past, hard-driving rains would often wash away planted seeds and, if strong enough, healthy crops. To alleviate this serious problem, Wondimu dug drainage ditches throughout his fields, which act as gutters, taking excess water away from his crops. This ingenuity and engineering has saved his coffee, bean, and corn plots. The legumes that Wondimu planted not only serve as a source of protein, but also add nitrogen to the soil, improving the overall health of the soil and the surrounding plants.
Slowly we approach the end of Wondimu’s property. His farm is extremely clean and orderly. In comparison to other farms in the region, Wondimu’s is medium-to-large in size. He has managed to diversify his farm by acquiring cows, which he uses to produce milk and butter, which he sells at the local market.
Upon our return from the fields, we were rewarded with a midday snack: freshly prepared enset, which sticks to our fingers, and milk, which has a soft, sour taste. We were then given a tour of a traditional Sidamo home. The house has a circular base, and is internally divided into two sections: one area of the house is for livestock, and the rest is used as a kitchen, living space, and bedroom. A few families in the region still live in these houses, but many, like Wondimu, have built four-sided, square houses, and use the traditional, circular dwelling as a barn or a living space for children.
Wondimu’s farm is thriving and, because of the skills he is sharing with other farmers, the entire community is benefiting.