Stories of sustainable farming

Group of people

Meike van Ginneken recently visited SNV projects in Ethiopia. There, she spoke with dairy and horticulture farmers, witnessed bio-digester technology benefiting households; and encouraged farmers to share their knowledge and experience with fellow farmers in terms of how to scale results and ensure sustainability. Here is a collection of interesting stories from this visit.

After cost-benefit analysis: Tayachew Asmare

An energetic and visionary smallholder dairy farmer, Tayachew Asmare, used to be a crop producing farmer. Four years ago he had only three cross-breed cows. The milk from these cows was consumed by the 12 family members. When the government and EDGET dairy experts approached him he was wise enough to make a cost-benefit analysis before he agreed. Once he decided to join the programme, he located a small plot of land for forage development. The advisor from the woreda (i.e. district) provided the technical support on forage planting, management of the barn, heifers, dairy cows, and essential hygiene. Seeing how fast the forage seeds were growing, Tayachew started to increase the number of cows and expand the land dedicated for the feed. Currently, he owns 30 crossbreeds, produces 70 litres of milk and earns more than ETB 27,000 (€830) per month with his dairy cows. Before he started working with the EDGET project, Tayachew earned only ETB 15-20,000 (€460-620) from his farming activities annually. The increase in income has allowed him to send his children to better schools and construct a house in town. He plans to supply 100 litres of milk per day in the near future and in the long term he would like to open a milk processing plant.

Tayachew Asmare explaining what he does with EDGET project

Tayachew Asmare explaining what he does with EDGET project

Unity with a common vision: establishing a group and a cooperative

Farmers like Workneh Genetu decided to engage in dairy activities after learning about the growing milk business. He tells us his story. "I have been acquainted with farming since I was a child. fifteen years ago, If was focused on fattening cows. Dairy was not even on my business wish list. This is because, in our culture, milk is not a commodity for sale. The market linkage created with the support of the EDGET project to Dangila Hiwot Dairy Cooperative lifted my spirits and encouraged me to enter into the dairy production business with full energy. I increased the number of dairy cows from two to 12 crossbreeds within three years. I am supplying 60 litres of milk per day to the cooperative."

Workneh is a member of the Dangila Hiwot Dairy Cooperative which has been established with support from SNV EDGET using its market-based approach. In the beginning, collecting 500 litres of milk per day was a challenge for the cooperative. The members together with SNV worked on raising awareness, and capacity building support in terms of the cooperative management. Also, they helped to create market linkages and offered technical support on dairy cows and milk management. Currently, the cooperative collects 2,200 litres per day and pays around ETB 900,000 (€28,000) to its members. Still, there is a huge gap in demand and supply as the market demands 10,000 litres per day.

The cooperative is linked with Alemtshehay dairy processing plc. The company is opening a branch office in the cooperative shop, collecting 1,000 litres of milk per day, and producing 3,000 kilos of mozzarella cheese and 1,050 kilos of butter per month.

Tayech and her friends’ formed a women's group to produce and supply urea molasses mineral block (UMMB) to Dangila and seven adjacent woredas in the Amhara region. These five women were unemployed and depended on their husbands' income. After the training course on the benefits and production of UMMB, EDGET project granted members with input and machinery for producing the block. The machine has the capacity to produce from 150-200 blocks per day. “We have started to reap the fruits of our effort. We have saved ETB 17,000. We have also regular income” said the chairperson. They have a plan to expand their business and outreach and diversify their products using by accessing credit and their saving.

Integrating activities: Gebeyanesh Alemu is a mother of five and breadwinner for the family. She had started to do all kinds of activities to generate income. SNV’s EDGET project created a good opportunity for her to get regular income. On average, she supplies 20 litres of milk per day after household consumption. The income helped her to diversify her agricultural engagement. Increasing the number of cross breed dairy cows (she has eight) has brought her an additional solution. She was linked with energy experts so that she could gain from the multiple benefits of bio-digester technology and its co-products i.e. light, energy and organic fertiliser (bio-slurry).

Leading horticulture business:  Kelem Sheferaw is one of 1,286 lead farmers working with Horti-LIFE project. Since she started working with the project, Kelem has been active in planting cabbage – a vegetable which was not common in Dera Woreda, Amhara region. After SNV’s training on good horticultural management practice, she keenly started to apply her new knowledge. From the 200 square meters demonstration plot, she has harvested nine quintals and earned ETB 6,700 (€200). With this income, she bought a solar device to allow her children to study at night. Previously they were using a kerosene lamp. In addition, she has bought a smartphone for her daughter who is studying at the university. This season she planted a pepper hybrid seed. “I will expand the experience from the Farmers’ Farm School and diversify my products” vowed Kelem.

People keep on demanding for the modified injera mitad

People keep on demanding for the modified injera mitad

The Gamechanger technology: the bio-gas injera mitad

SNV and the National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia since 2009 have built 22,926 domestic bio-digesters in Ethiopia. This means the technology has benefited more than one million people. However, due to the absence of the biogas injera mitad, which is used for baking the staple food injera, the dissemination has been affected. Injera baking consumes around 60% of the household energy demand. In 2012, SNV looked for a solution to this problem and started the development of a stove in collaboration with the private sector that would be suitable to bake injera.

In 2016, the first prototype product was developed by GM Plc. SNV supported ttesting as well as market trials in the Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray regions. Based on the feedback from the market trial and performance testing, the company modified the product. In January 2019, SNV in collaboration with MoWIE conducted performance testing for the improved version; it shows better results in terms of uniform heat distribution as well as gas consumption.

The owner of GM, Getu Alemayehu, has sold 282 injera mitad during a market trial. GM is in the process of opening a branch office near Addis Ababa to expand its market outreach and increase its production capacity.