byDaniel Tesfu M&E and Communications Coord. via web
For Gebreselassie Gebrehiwet and his family, sheep-raising has now become a profitable business. Options for landless households remain extremely limited, and for Gebre and family, they struggled to make ends meet. Through training provided by REST, an implementing partner with the Drylands Development Programme in Tigray, Gebre was convinced to take a small loan and engage in sheep fattening. His loan, taken in August 2016 of 10,000 birr, was used to buy and fatten 8 sheep, yielding 4,200 Ethiopian birr profit (about USD 210), a result of 3 months’ work to house, feed and care for the sheep. Pleased with these results, he went ahead and used his money for a second round of fattening; this time, he fattened 7 sheep and made a profit of 3,250 birr ($162). The results convinced him to continue the approach: went ahead with a third round of fattening making a net profit of another 3,200 birr ($160) from selling 6 sheep. DryDev training enabled him to care for the sheep properly and to engage confidently with the market. He now takes notice of weekly price movements in the local Negash market and the larger market in Wukro to decide when to sell. With these emerging business skills, Gebre has now added poultry-raising as a household enterprise. Profits have allowed his family, including his three kids, wife and grandmother, to diversify their diet. Gebre explained he now has more time to contribute towards community activities. “There is much change to our lives compared to before.”
There is a larger story behind the change taking place in Gebre’s family. Fattening has been made possible only because there is now more water in the valley – and more grass – than before. This came about through massive efforts by the community, working with DryDev and government partners, to restore the landscape.
Village chief, Mr Tigabu Gebre wold, explained the Maego valley was well known for its dry conditions and steep slopes. Plans had been made to shift those living here to a new location. But all that has been put aside: after just 3 years, green areas are now appearing all along the valley floor. Earlier efforts by the government to restore the valley – although useful – were not enough. “Even starting DryDev was a source of fear, a fear of failure for us,” he said. Joint efforts by the programme alongside local government and villagers, addressing a broad range of issues, made the difference.
“DryDev has been participatory and integrated…our efforts to protect the hillside and slow the flow of water has improved the availability of water downstream. Previously, irrigation water was limited and gone by October – but now we are able to expand our irrigation area.”
“Before the project, a large gully divided the village – our animals couldn’t climb up and down the banks, and after collecting firewood, we had to throw the sticks across the gully to the other side. But now, the gully is no longer growing, and the two sides have been brought together once more.”
“Some households left this valley to make a living elsewhere on the other side of these mountains – now they are saying they made the wrong decision.” The community has found that restoration efforts are rewarded when these benefits can be linked with financial services and the market, thus improving and stabilising incomes. A community meeting explained a suite of benefits being derived from usable water: yields have doubled since the cropping season can now be fully finished with irrigation; area available for irrigation has expanded; more intensive cropping (vegetables, fruit) can now be practiced giving better prices; business plans can now be made due to improved confidence in water supply; livestock may be fattened easily due to nearby access to clean water and grass; and a shallow water table has improved water access. Community bylaws to control free-grazing has reduced conflict.
Story by:Rob Kelly