For families in parts of Ethiopia, drought is a threat to lives and livelihoods. During times of drought, families who rely on the rains to grow food and earn an income have little choice but to watch their crops shrivel, their animals become unproductive and their children grow weak from hunger.
That is why, in 2010, ChildFund launched an appeal to ease the effects of drought for young people and their families in Siraro, Ethiopia.
Donations from Australians totalling over $160,000 went towards:
- Providing drought-tolerant sheep and goats along with animal husbandry training.
- Supplying “improved vegetable seeds” and training on crop management and modern farming techniques.
- Constructing 30 water cisterns to collect water from the two annual rains.
- Building a double-roomed grain storage bank where farmers can safely store some of their grain harvest for future use so that hunger is not such a dire risk in times of drought.
Almost a year after the launch of the project, the training was complete and the cisterns built. Sheep and goats were fattening up and some had already begun to breed. Soon livestock would be born and sold at the market generating family income.
Most of the new farmers had already harvested one crop and another was on the way. Children, who had previously lived on a meagre diet consisting only of maize, could now enjoy a nutritious and diverse diet with delicious vegetables such as cabbage, tomato, and carrot. Consequently, their health and performance at school improved significantly. Parents who previously had no income could now sell any additional vegetables with each harvest improving household income by up to 1,000 birr.
Things were looking promising for the young farmers when the rains failed and parts of Ethiopia were consumed by drought. The 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa was deemed “the worst drought in 60 years” devastating communities across three countries. Two consecutive rainy seasons failed, leaving subsistence farmers with wilted crops and weak animals. ChildFund provided emergency food and water to affected families, assisting almost 75,000 children, women and men in Ethiopia and Kenya.
Water is clearly one of the most essential resources needed by farmers to produce successful crops and healthy livestock. Fortunately, during the drought, the cisterns were not empty because the farmers involved in the project, aware of the unreliable rainy seasons, had been careful to use their water sparingly. This allowed them to continue caring for their crops whilst also using the water for drinking and to support their livestock.
Sadly, though, some families supported by the project had to sell their breeding stock as a way to cope through the drought. However, 65% of livestock remains with the farmers today and are in good condition.
All in all, the project participants were able to cope during the drought and their children and families did not suffer or require emergency food and water.
- Today participants report that they can now feed their children and provide materials for school and medications.
- Those who did not take part in the project have learnt from their neighbours how to make home gardens and some of them have successfully created their own.
- Participants continue to harvest vegetables for both household consumption and for the market.
- The rains have now come to the project area and it is hoped that young farmers will start saving some of their harvest and the cereal bank will soon be put to use.
- Farming goat and sheep has been found to be a lengthy process as breeding the animals to produce offspring to be sold can take some time. If the drought occurred at a later stage, offspring would have been available to sell during the drought as a coping mechanism, meaning the original stock could have been retained.
Families now face a food secure future as told to our staff by Tesfaye: “The seed support has brought the most changes in my life. I and my family have now become food secure. Of all the support which I received from the project, the provision of a cistern and improved seeds of cabbage, carrot, tomato, salad, false banana and onion were most helpful. Even if the weather is changing, I will get a yield because of the improved seeds.”