Travel Blog: Ethiopia January 2013
The Macra delegation consisted of two members of Macra na Feirme – Teresa Brennan and Joseph (Joe) Wall. Liam Myles (Vita) acted as “host/leader”. This report is a collaborative effort of all three.
Teresa is the secretary of East Laois Macra branch, from farming background on the Laois border with Kildare (near Athy) and presently completing a H.Dip. in Teaching under NUIG. She is teaching in a secondary school in An Spidéal as part of the H. Dip.
Joe is from a dairy farm in Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny and chairman of the local Macra branch. He works with people with intellectual and physcial disabilities through the medium of agriculture on the Brothers of Charity farm, Ferrybank, Co Waterford. It is a fully commercial farm that also runs school tours teaching primary school students about agriculture.
Vita’s main project, the Potato Centre of Excellence (PCE) is situated in Gama Gofa zone in southern Ethiopia. With a population of 2 million people with its administrative center in Arba Minch it is a rural area in the highlands characterized by very small farms of less than 1 ha in size, with two growing seasons - the belg season (March- August) and the meher season (September-February). Chencha, the Woreda where Vita has a significant presence, is at an altitude of between 2400-3000metres and average rainfall of between 1250-1400 millimeters.
Main objective of visit:
To study and assess the development work by Vita in the Chencha area of the Gama Gofa region in Ethiopia and to report on the potential role of Macra members to support the work of Vita in the region.
The visit clearly showed the different world these people live in. While none were starving or looked hungry the poverty to be seen was overbearing. The lack of basic items – food, cooking utensils, clothing, transport, road infrastructure etc - we in Ireland take for granted was very obvious. Through all of the poverty the wonderful work Vita is doing really shines out in a number of ways:
- The potato seed project –a key part of the Potato Centre of Excellence - is so obviously successful and beneficial in terms of food security.
- The economic benefit of the potato crop to the families is most obvious.
- The complimentary and associated work of Vita in the community projects are giving huge benefit to the rural communities – cooking stoves, water pumps, family and community latrines.
- The Vita cooperatives set up for supporting the farming activities and those based on community employment (weaving and pottery) are helping to change the lives of the people living in those communities.
- Vita’s approach of ensuring local ownership of projects is the correct policy to adopt.
Huge challenges remain however and some of those are beyond the reach of Vita and the people – such as the road and transport system and the small farm/holding size.
Other challenges can and must be tackled. Chief amongst these is the challenge to get more small holders to adopt the technology of new seed and better husbandry and management at ground level. Another one is the “capacity building” of the people themselves through education and training, advice, personal development, etc. Macra should be able to play a role in this area.
The market for produce needs to be developed so that the system is sustainable and long lasting.
Macra na Feirme, Vita, Teresa and Joe wish to acknowledge and thank the Joe Rea Bursary Committee for awarding the Joe Rea Bursary to Teresa and Joe and for funding the study tour. Joe Rea was a former President of Macra, and the IFA, a well known agricultural journalist and farmer. The bursary was established in his memory.