Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a vibrant and dynamic country of 110 million inhabitants, making it Africa’s second most populous nation. It’s home to a wide range of ethnic groups, cultures and languages, with a rich but turbulent history. Ethiopia’s economy is growing faster than any other on the continent, with a predominantly rural population. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, agriculture employs around 72% of Ethiopians, almost all being smallholder farmers. The country relies almost entirely on this cohort of smallholders for approximately 94% of its food.

This dependence on smallholder agricultural food production puts Ethiopia in a perilous position in the context of rapidly accelerating climate change. Droughts, floods and soil erosion caused by extreme weather are already having a devastating effect on food security and levels of poverty.

The land systems upon which rural communities rely are themselves being depleted, with soil, water, forests, and biodiversity being impacted severely. To mitigate the economic and environmental challenges rural communities are facing, immediate and effective climate action is needed.

Vita has been working in Ethiopia since 2005, particularly in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region (SNNPR) and the Amhara Region, creating innovative local solutions to these urgent problems. 

Our work in Ethiopia focuses on:

Food Security

We partner with rural communities to ensure access to nutritious and sufficient food all year round. We support communities in adopting climate-smart agriculture that increases farm yields and household incomes without harming the environment. Vita’s climate smart programmes help farming families to adapt to climate change while protecting and restoring the natural resource base that supports sustainable rural livelihoods. We are helping to build sustainable food production in Ethiopia through community-based seed multiplication systems for strategic food security crops, including the potato. We support families to grow a wider range of food crops so they can have a varied diet and better nutrition.

Inclusive Rural Livelihoods

We support the development of inclusive rural value chains and strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers to engage profitably within them to raise household incomes. We will prioritise climate-smart local economic development strategies that link women and rural youth, including persons with disabilities, to farm, off-farm, and non-farm economic opportunities.

Access to clean water

Vita undertook a large-scale programme of rehabilitating broken-down water points in Ethiopia over the past five years. More than 40,000 people now have access to safe water near their homes. We are continuing to deliver safe water to more rural communities by repairing water points and strengthening community-level capacities in the maintenance and management of water infrastructure.

Access to sustainable household energy

Vita are using an innovation community-led approach to household energy to bring about large-scale adoption and use of fuel-efficient cookstoves in Ethiopia. This delivers many benefits for women, who are normally tasked with collecting firewood and cooking on harmful, polluting open fires. Fuel-efficient stoves also help reduce pressure on forests as there is much less demand for firewood.

Protecting the environment and taking climate action

Our community-managed land and forest restoration programmes help forests to regenerate, reduce soil erosion, converse water and mitigate climate change by protecting and enhancing trees that sequester carbon. 

Projects currently being implemented in Ethiopia include:

Irish Aid, Livelihood Enhancement Through Agriculture for Resilience Network Project, 2017-2022  (LEARN).

We are delighted to partner with Irish Aid on this project, which enhances agricultural food security and livelihoods of 58,000 rural households. It achieves these objectives by ensuring a consistent supply of improved potato seed, which boosts the harvest significantly. Sustainable livelihoods are also supported through support for vegetable and poultry production.

The project also mitigates deforestation and soil erosion by enabling access to fuel efficient cookstoves, thereby reducing the need for firewood and transforming the daily workload, particularly for women and children who bear the brunt of fuel collection. An additional component of the project is the repair of local water points, which means clean water and better health. The quality of life for these communities is significantly improves, as is their level of resilience to ongoing challenges. Vita is planning on extending this project to the end of 2022 and expanding the number of households reached.

EU Cross-Border Transformation, Omo Delta Project, 2018-2021:

This project, targeting over 5,000 households (approximately 45,000 people) over a three-year period, supports small business development and local enterprise. Diversifying the means of livelihood is crucial in building community resilience to economic and environmental shocks. It is also integral in supporting and maintaining the unique traditions and culture of rural communities in Ethiopia, each having their own crafts and traditional products. It gives young people and women access to finance and informal trades markets, creating employment and livelihood options in pastoral communities where opportunities are limited.

 The project will also support small agricultural and agro – processing cooperatives through the much-needed establishment of irrigation infrastructure. This will enable the production of cereals, fruit, vegetables, and crops for animal fodder.

EU EnJOY (Enhancing Job Opportunities and Employability for Youth and Women), 2020-2023:

The EnJOY project enhances access to job opportunities for those often excluded from the local economy and jobs market. These include 16,000 youth, women, and internally displaced persons in the Silte and Wolayeta zones of the SNNPR region of Ethiopia. It involves building the capacity of local and national institutions relevant to job seekers, including those offering technical training, job placement and employment information.

GIZ Forests 4 Future project: Integrated Forest Landscape Restoration for Livelihood Improvement in the Catchment of Lake Chamo, 2021

Deforestation is a serious problem across all regions of Ethiopia This forest restoration project assists international, national and local stakeholders to reverse forest degradation around Lake Chamo in SNNPR. Regional and local community actors are restoring forests by creating tree-rich productive landscapes and managing them in a sustainable way. This will restore important forests, decrease soil erosion and improve the livelihoods of rural communities in the catchment of Lake Chamo. This year, Vita are working with 376 households to engage in income-generating agroforestry practices.

CLT-Stoves project (Community-Led Total Adoption of Improved Cookstoves), 2021 – 2022

After a very successful trial of the CLT-Stoves approach, Vita is extending the CLT-Stoves project to 1335 households in nine rural villages in Gamo Zone, SNNPR. The project aims to bring about 100% adoption of improved cookstoves in these villages. The reduction of fuel wood burnt will reduce local deforestation, while also reducing harmful emissions from cooking. The project will have added benefits for women and children who are disproportionately affected by the use of inefficient cooking methods. Fuel wood collection requires significant daily labor and time, with multiple knock-on effects including school absenteeism and lack of time for other livelihood activities. Vita is establishing a Community-Led Learning Centre which will work closely with the nine village communities, enabling us to further modify and improve our approach with a view to scaling up the CLT – Stoves project to 200,000 households in Gamo Zone from 2022 – 2026.