Ethiopia: Irrigation Development Improving Livelihoods

The inhabitants of lowlands of Ethiopia are mainly dependent on pastoralism and farming. However, the rainfall distribution in most cases is higher in highland areas than lowland parts. As a result, the lowlands are home to pastoral people who depend, to a high degree, on livestock for their sustenance.

These livestock, in turn, depend entirely on native vegetation for forage, and net primary production is highly variable over time and space. In some parts of lowland areas, eastern and south-eastern parts of the country like Afar State the life of pastoralists lacked permanent settlement and they live as nomadic.

This in turn brought several problems. When they move from place to place, they face conflicts over grazing land; on the other hand, it makes tough the provision of basic social services like heath facilities, education and other necessary components. In order to solve these problems, several efforts have been taken for many decades both at states and national level. Among these, the effort to advance the development of lowland parts in research and technological equipment takes the lion’s share.

Werer Agriculture Research Center in Amibara Wereda, Afar state, is part of the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute and was established before half a century ago, with the mission to discover and domesticate suitable technologies for lowland parts of the country. Accordingly, the center is serving this mission significantly by providing improved species of different cereal and crop products, like Cotton, Sesame, Peanut, Rice, Maize and fruits and vegetables with other kinds of cereals. In addition, it is also working to solve problems that are unique to the lowland parts specially where the irrigation farming is available. These are problems like salinity of soil and relating to watering system. It is also effective in control and prevention of pesticides and diseases in agroeconomy, in domesticating technology and commercialization research, and in other technical and professional researches.

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According to Desta Gebre, Director of Werer Agriculture Research Center, however the center is located there in Afar addressing almost all lowland parts of Ethiopia, through its aforementioned services.

Among all eye-catching success of the center, one inspiring achievement is, its introduction the possibility of production of wheat and other cereal in arid and saline areas like Afar. There are many parts of Ethiopia reassembled to these regions by their climatic condition. Therefore, these solutions could also be functional to those areas like Oromia Fentale Wereda.

What is unique to Afar is the effort of contributing to the permanent settlement of the pastoralists of the state. These could be happening without hindering them from animal husbandry.

Desta said, “The center is now providing more than seven wheat species and different fodder kinds that are highly effective in resisting the arid climate and can be cultivated by irrigation. And also these species have good result in resisting and terminating to the original the salinized soils.”

He also indicated that particularly wheat production with these identified species are more productive in amount in lowland parts than highland areas. According to his explanation, species now being distributed to farmers can give up to 60 quintals per hectare, which is greater than that of the highland parts of Ethiopia.

Zemzem Siraj is a resident at Amibara and working on wheat farming and animal husbandry. She said, “I like these species of wheat, it takes only three months to grow. The wheat has many trash that can be best food for our animals.”

Haji Ahmed Mohammed who has been investing in wheat production for more than 30 hectares of lands at Badahamo Kebele in Amibara also agrees with Zemzem and he stated, “It is very much productive, good in bearing fruits; I suggest everyone to join these farming activities. It can generate more profit and food for our consumption before we look for supply from other producers. It is also a blessing for our camels and cattle.”

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The rest of the people in the area who haven’t start farming when they have land and water supply express their regret. And they said that they would not miss the coming season.

Demlew Gebeyehu who has been farming only cotton has learned from the success of Zemzem and Haji Ahmed. “Until now I see these practical evidence, I couldn’t trust the centers call to start wheat farming, but now I regret for very much. In the coming season I will not miss it,” he said.

According to Desta, the species are distributed after series of examination in the center for many years. This shows the effort can change the lives of nomadic pastoralists, enabling them to settle permanently at specific place and to be more productive and play significant role to the country’s agro economic transformation.

For temperate areas like Afar State, the Director said, “Such types of farming both in summer and winter can greatly help in controlling and normalizing the temperature.”

In spite of the fruitful effort of Werer Agricultural Research Center, there are a lot of homeworks left for governmental structural offices like federal and states as well as wereda agriculture and pastoralist offices.

This includes effective follow up for peoples who already start farming. , Awareness creation and strong support in provision of necessary chemicals, tractor and combining machines as well as warehouses for storage of large amount of products would be essential. In addition to this as these peoples are new for such types of lives, they need timely market opportunity with rewarding prices. These can be maintained through direct support for organizing them through cooperative unions as of other parts of the countries experience or through any possible means.

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