Climate Smart Agriculture: Abebech Alemu: Farmer, Mother, Entrepreneur

Abebech Alemu is the mother of two sons and one daughter. Thirty-six years old, Abebech and her family live in the kebele (village) of Chano Dorga in the Arba Minch Zuriya district of Ethiopia’s SNNPR.

Abebech is a born entrepreneur and farmer however, her ability to create a stable and secure livelihood to support her family was severely impacted by climate change and the poor crop seeds she planted on her farm. In 2014, she joined Vita’s Climate-Smart Agriculture programme that is supported by Action on Poverty and Irish Aid. The aim of this project was to improve smallholder livelihoods and their resilience through adaptive agriculture practices and economic development.

Abebech Alemu

Thus, this programme sought to address the main challenges farmers and families like Abebech’s faced in this area. In Abebech’s own words these challenges were: lack of access to good quality grain seed that could produce enough food to feed a family and sell a surplus; no water storage or irrigation facilities which, during the dry season, prevented farmers from accessing a water source; limited knowledge on updated and climate-smart farming practices, particularly land management which was only adding to land aridity in the area; and a lack of access to finance that would enable Abebech and her peers to overcome these problems with the required investment.

Abebech Alemu & crops she has grown

Vita worked with Abebech to dismantle and overcome these barriers to prosperity. Through the vital partnerships established with Irish Aid and Action on Poverty, Vita was able to provide Abebech with improved quality seed for staple crops such as maize, haricot bean, mung bean and teff. Providing acccess to improved seeds of diverse crops meant that not only was Abebech reaping much larger harvests per hectare of her plot, but that the quality of the soil, through this diversity, similarly improved.

Lack of access to water during the dry season was eradicated through Vita’s provision of an irrigation system. This ensures sustainable access to water year-round, which is critical to farmers as erratic weather conditions and unpredictable rainfall due to climate change continues to threaten their crops and livelihoods.

Finally, a lack of finance was countered by the setting up of a link to a local seed union to whom Abebech could directly sell her crops. This meant she got a fairer price for her produce.

Abebech Alemu

All of this was complemented by rigorous training on all aspects of the programme that included: sustainable use and management of the new irrigation system; climate-smart land management practices that would reap the most from the soil while protecting it from overworking and climate change through crop rotation and other research-led methods; business and financial management; and marketing on how best to sell their wares. Most importantly, sharing knowledge with other farmers was a vital part of the training Vita provided.

Since joining the project, Abebech says her life and livelihood have changed completely. Poignantly, she tells us that her family now have the ability to have three regular meals a day, while her children can now attend a better school in Arba Minch which will increase their chances of a more prosperous future down the line.

As for Abebech? Her entrepreneurial skill has been allowed to shine brighter than ever before. Vita’s support – giving her the tools, skills and financial security to achieve lasting and resilient success – has enabled her to expand her livelihood to include cattle fattening. She has started her own livestock business, rearing, fattening and selling oxen and cows. At time of writing in December 2019, Abebech has four oxen, with dreams of having enough to buy a lorry so that she can drive them to the city to sell at larger markets.

This is exactly what Vita’s programmes are all about. Supporting farming communities to not just survive and adapt to climate change and social inequality but to achieve their dreams. If you would like to support Vita in this mission, please click here.