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Like other countries in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is prone to droughts and floods, which often hit poor farmers and herders hard, eroding their assets further and leaving them with little to fall back on. Timely investments in agriculture and rural development can yield significant returns, says FAO, making rural communities better equipped to withstand the next disaster.
Smallholder farmers know that growing only one type of crop is a huge gamble, more so in the drylands as drought can wipe out an entire season. That is why FAO Ethiopia is helping farmers to diversify their crops, supporting the production and sale of quality seeds and planting materials for vegetables, fruit trees, cassava and sweet potatoes. Farmers can get more from their lands when using improved inputs and water technology. Add proper storage facilities and good market access and those bigger yields become a boon to farmers’ nutrition and incomes.
Promoting animal health and productivity
FAO is helping herders increase their production further by tackling constraints that affect the entire region such as the scarcity of water and pasture. It is supporting the local production of irrigated fodder and livestock feed supplements. It is also promoting animal health by assisting private veterinary pharmacies, which support networks of community animal health workers to carry out routine vaccination campaigns.
Building on local knowledge
FAO Ethiopia has adapted the farmer field school approach – billed as the “school without walls” – to introduce new techniques and practices to farmers and herders. These pastoral field schools, which rely on practical field demonstrations, local knowledge and experimentation, allow participants to share knowledge and experiences, find solutions to their problems and learn how to use limited natural resources more efficiently. The schools foster self-confidence and community spirit and are an excellent entry point for discussing other issues such as HIV prevention, nutrition and violence against women.