Left: A beneficiary's smile after biogas installation in her home; Centre: Vegetable Farming to boost food security; Right: Residents fetch water at Kore multipurpose spring development scheme in Suha kebele.
Direct beneficiaries of the project total to 4,100 households with approximately 20,500 people living in eight rural kebeles out of which 52% are women; the beneficiaries are generally resource poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.    To build resilience of the target communities against impacts of drought and climate change, the project implemented diversified livelihood options. The target communities actively participated in planning, implementation, and monitoring.  The project planned interventions were successfully implemented with great achievement.
Ethiopia is predominantly rural with a large population depending on agriculture and pastoral activities, but there has been limited development of surface water and groundwater resources for irrigation. Agriculture which is rain-fed accounts for 46.3% of the nation's Gross domestic Product (GDP), 83.9% of exports, and 80% of the labour force.

Unfortunately, drought has frequently plagued Ethiopia and is a major climatic hazard that impacts the long-term sustainability of this rapidly growing African nation. The recurrent drought puts pressure on agricultural production and overall socio-economic development of the country.

Shebel Berenta is among the three food insecure districts in Amhara Regional State; with an estimated population of 130,800 people (52% females) but overall, 92% being rural dwellers. Agriculture, mainly crop and livestock production is the main economic base of the area. Shebele Berenta is divided into two major zones with 72% of the district falling within semi-arid climatic zone while the 28% is midland (Woinadega).  Data from Woreda Agricultural Office show that Shebel Berenta is a highly food insecure district and all Kebeles (wards) are supported by the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) which targets the poorest of the poor with cash or food–for-work programs. 55% of the households in this area face seasonal food shortages especially in the months of July to October.

Agri Service Ethiopia (ASE), a member of the Ethiopian Nile Discourse Forum has been working in Shebel Berenta since 2016; building communities’ resilience against drought risks through an Integrated Community Development Project - generously funded by Brot für die Welt (BftW). The project interventions tackle food insecurity, limited access to potable water supply and sanitation, gender imbalance, poor economic status of women, youth unemployment, negative impacts of climate change, natural resources conservation, and capacity building for communities.

The cause of food insecurity is majorly low agricultural production as a result of erratic rainfall conditions, fragmented and small landholding size, rain-dependent monoculture, traditional and backward agricultural production systems, uncontrollable crop pests and diseases, and soil erosion among other factors. Extreme food insecurity has resulted into food gap, high rate of malnutrition, subsistence livelihood, affected children’s education, and has increased migration in search for employment.

Notably, women suffer from socio-cultural discrimination and have fewer opportunities for personal growth, education, and employment compared to men. There is lack equity in the distribution of power and decision-making between men and women at all levels of the governance structure and local institutions; there are less than 15% of women in leadership as compared to men.

The direct beneficiaries of the project total to 4,100 Households with approximately 20,500 people living in eight rural kebeles out of which 52% are women. The direct beneficiaries are generally resource poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

To build the resilience of the target communities against the impacts of drought and climate change, the project implemented diversified livelihood options. The target communities actively participated in planning, implementation, and monitoring.  The project planned interventions were successfully implemented with great achievement.


The Interventions:

Community learning and organization: ASE used Community Learning Forums (CoLF) combined with Saving clubs involving up to 30 people (50% women) per CoLF, who will regularly meet once a week. Under ASE’s guidance, communities themselves prioritize and select social, economic, and environmental key problems of learning and prepare an annual CoLF action plan. Weekly CoLF learning sessions on the topics identified are cascaded by ASE’s development facilitators and peer learning in their villages. In line with learning, they do savings and internal lending that support small businesses for members.

Project Sustainability: ASE has home-grown experience of phase-in and phase-out strategy; projects are started and taken over by established and organized legal Community-Based Institutions (CBIs). Therefore, Finote Belay community-based Association was established during phase I of the project and remains responsible for mobilizing, coordinating, and leading project activities and development initiatives within their locality

Food Security: Food Security and income of the target small holder farmers were improved through crop & livestock diversification and capacity building trainings. Specifically, farmers were supported to access drought resistant & early maturing crop seeds such as vegetables, lowland fruit seedlings, and trainings on proper agronomic practices and techniques such as the revolving system. In addition, resource poor women and landless youths were trained and supported with shoats & poultry as income generation.

Yedhua gully before intervention in 2017 and after Conservation and tree planting in 2018
Yedhua gully before intervention in 2017 and after Conservation and tree planting in 2018
Natural Resources Management: Degraded lands were rehabilitated through establishing of individual & community tree nurseries, production & plantation of multipurpose tree seedlings, area closure, gully treatment, promotion of agroforestry on the farm lands, organizing capacity building/exposure visits and skill trainings.
 
Introduction of alternative energy sources: Biogas and fuel-efficient stoves were introduced and promoted in the project area. Selected households benefited from these technologies which also reduced the need for firewood. Biogas provides rural households with lighting, and the bio celery is used as composite for vegetable production.

Access to water for multipurpose use: The project developed small scale irrigation schemes using the rivers in the target kebeles and promoted house hold irrigation technologies like the rope & washer pumps by digging wells. These enable farmers to grow vegetables and other food crops three times per year using the irrigation water.  The project also developed springs and shallow wells for communities that do not have access to potable water for drinking. As a result, the communities’ health improved and lessened the burden on women & girls moving long distances to fetch water.


Project impact and Lessons:

The project has had a huge impact on the beneficiary communities and lots of lessons are derived from its implementation:
  • ASE's Community Learning Forums (CoLFs) + Savings Clubs + Community-Based Institutions (CBIs) are effective in mobilizing the community, ensuring benefit, ownership & sustainability of the project.
  • Livelihood intervention is more successful if it encompasses multiple activities targeting both short-term and long-term interventions for example: vegetable farming, sheep/goat rearing, staple food-crop farming, and poultry keeping - integrated with each other.
  • The project’s water preservation initiative for multiple use ensures accessibility and suitability of water for various activities such as drinking, home hygiene, animal feeding, and irrigation of crops.
  • The Natural Resources Management Interventions, mainly the agro-forestry practice and gully rehabilitation, is exemplary, today, it has been replicated beyond the program’s 8 kebele to 22 Kebeles across the woreda. This is a remarkable achievement made possible by involving the local leaders - the Edir and elders.
Development partners, governments, and the NBD network can learn from this success story to design similar projects that build resilience of their communities against drought and other eminent climate change impacts.

Author:
Michael John Hartley,
National Technical Support Expert - Ethiopia NDF