FAO Regional Office for Africa

Breaking poverty cycles through Africa Solidarity Trust Fund in Ethiopia’s Somali Region

Irrigation and crop intensification transforms livelihoods of rural communities

(Photo: ©FAO/Addis Ababa)

21 April 2016, Addis Ababa - High levels of food insecurity and malnutrition affects Ethiopia’s Somali Region despite general long-term improvements in the overall food security situation of the country. The impacts of recurrent droughts, climate change, environmental degradation and insufficient livelihood options have trapped rural communities in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

To help tackle this challenge, the African Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) supported six communities in Gursum and Erer districts through the project “Enhanced livelihoods and poverty reduction through economic diversification and decent work opportunities”. Two-thousand households in these communities benefited from skills training and input provision for poultry, crop and forage production.

Extension experts from Somali Region’s Agriculture and Livestock Bureaus provided training and follow-up support for the targeted farmers and community-based extension workers, who assisted farmers closely with translating training into practice.     

Supporting crop production cooperatives

ASTF supported six local cooperatives predominantly engaged in crop and forage production with skills training, input provision and close advice and follow up. The cooperatives were trained on crop husbandry, farmland preparation, weed and pest control, fertilizer use, cooperative business skills and marketing, and post-harvest management to reduce crop losses.

The capacity training was followed by provision of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds – including maize, sorghum, haricot beans and vegetables - and fertilizers to improve crop production. In order to improve livestock production, forage seeds and cuttings of Sudan and Elephant grass were provided to grow alongside food crops.

It was found that those cooperatives which have access to irrigation facilities could produce three to four times per year through crop rotation. Vegetables were planted during moisture-stress dry seasons using irrigation. To enhance income diversification, mango and papaya seedlings were given to the cooperatives. 

What the cooperatives achieved   

The Hodan cooperative in Fafan Community earned ETB 36 000 from its production – nearly half (ETB 17 000) from tomato sales. Additionally, members were able to share production among themselves, contributing to household food security.  The cooperative has been able to save and bank their profit, about ETB 17 000, which will enable expand future investments.

Increased income has allowed the cooperative to invest in the farm. With ETB 6 000, the cooperative developed a hand-dug water pump to enhance irrigation capacity to facilitate the expanding of their farm in the coming years. Additionally, the cooperative paid for a tractor service to prepare the farmland for the following season, which is now growing maize and forage crops.

Mohamed Sheik Mohamed, the head of the cooperative said, “Initially the members were very poor, but now they are able to meet their household food needs and even have savings.” The cooperative is becoming more self-sustainable: Mr Mohamed continued, “This season we used seeds saved from the previous year’s production to plant our fields.”

Another cooperative, Ilays, started crop and forage production on 10 hectares of land using irrigation. With the training and input support from FAO, the cooperative was able to produce maize, haricot beans and vegetables. From the sale of the produce, members shared ETB 600 of the income earned among themselves to cover household food needs, and put aside ETB 40 000 to save in their cooperative’s account.

Animal feed production

“Production of Sudan and Elephant grass was newly introduced to our community,” said Hamdi Mohamed Mulid, Hodan Cooperative Chairperson. “We received the training from FAO on the use and benefits of forage production, we planted the grasses, and benefited well for our animals.”

To improve income generation and ensure continuous seed supply, the cooperative harvested nearly 10 quintals of Sudan grass seeds. The cooperative plans to expand forage production using the seeds, and expects to sell the remaining amount for ETB 250 per kilogram.

The cooperative also supported local farmers not belonging to cooperatives with livestock feed when the shortage of rain in 2015/2016 reduced pasture availability.

Elephant grass is very quick to regenerate after harvest, said farmer Abdi Adem, “Since we started feeding the grass to our animals, their body condition and milk production are much better.”

In areas where the drought caused moisture stress, forage production enabled the communities to sustain their animals, said Ahmed Mohamed, FAO’s Somali Region Field Office Coordinator, “And it also improved the productivity level of the animals and encouraged the farmers to start animal fattening.”  

Passing on skills and practices    

The cooperatives’ success inspired other non-cooperative community members that are dependent on livestock to engage in crop and forage production. The cooperative shared seeds saved from the previous year with these farmers to help them start farming. “We shared the skills and crop seeds with our neighbours,” said Hamdi Mohamed Mulid, the chairperson of Hodan cooperative. “These famers have the aspiration to engage in a cooperative, inspired by our success.”

FAO’s Representative in Ethiopia, Amadou Allahoury, commended the success of ASTF’s project in Somali Region: “FAO supported cooperative members to produce enough food for their families and were even able to sell and make an income. The project participants, once purely dependent on fragile pastoralist livelihood systems, have now been fully enabled to become agropastoralists. They are now able to improve their resilience to cope with drought and other shocks.” He went on to encourage the scaling up of such initiatives, and that the project contributes well to the goal of Zero Hunger in the region.    






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