For many years, the northern Ethiopian village of Abraha Atsbeha and its 5,000 inhabitants were affected by droughts and famine. Village Chief Ato Gebremichael Gidey Berhe and his community, however, have successfully cultivated the farmland around his village. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and other donors, GIZ has provided assistance over many years to restore soil fertility here as well as in other highland regions of Ethiopia.
We lived in extreme poverty. Rainfall had totally eroded the degraded soils, and sand was all that was left. We couldn’t harvest anything anymore and all the people of Abraha Atsbaha village were dependent on food aid, including myself. The situation was shocking and we were ashamed.
The government and the villagers were aware that it was almost impossible to live in the village in dignity. The government gave us an ultimatum: either to be resettled to another region or to develop our land with government assistance. We chose the second option.
There were three areas in which we received training: crop production, livestock breeding and management of natural resources. The first step was to close the area to livestock and humans. The second step was to build terraces. We managed to save our soil from erosion and to capture water in an underground water reservoir for irrigation. Then we planted various types of crops on the farmland.
The living conditions of the villagers have improved a lot. Grasses, shrubs and trees are now growing everywhere. The farmers are producing their own food throughout the year, so their families can consume a balanced diet with fresh vegetables and fruits. The villagers have access to clean water and electricity. They are sending their children to school, they have more clothes and proper beds. I am proud to be part of that change.
It wasn’t always easy to persuade the villagers to participate and convince them to change their behaviour. As a leader, I tried to set a good example and to show them the benefits of the planned measures. Who would have thought that our village would become an example of excellence and a model for others?