|An ex-soldier who returned from Ethiopia’s war against Eritrea with nothing of his own and few prospects, Abu Mohammad has seen his life transformed since he became involved in the farmers irrigation co-operative established with the support of Self Help in his native village of Dodota.|
A father of four who returned from his war-time service ‘a landless peasant’, he managed to barely scrape a living before the Self Help Africa intervention, and for much of this time depended on the allocation of grain available monthly in food aid relief to his family and himself.
The arrival to Dodota in 1999 of Self Help’s integrated rural development programme began to transform the life of Abu Mohammad. Within a year the ex-army lieutenant was one of 130 farmers in an irrigation co-operative established at Koro, beside the Awash River in the district’s parched and dry eastern Arsi Zone.
With the support of Self Help Africa and the local Ministry for Agriculture, the co-operative members firstly built a pump house with twin pumps beside the river, and with support from the Ministry of Water and Natural Resources built a series of irrigation canals and locks to carry water to a 40 hectare plot adjacent to the fast flowing Awash.
Workshops and training sessions organised by Self Help assisted the farmers in establishing the necessary administrative and management structures, while training demonstrations were also organised to promote improved farming methods amongst the group.
As the final piece in the jigsaw, Self Help Africa and the local Agricultural Research Institute arranged for the distribution of improved seed stock to Dodota’s Koro Co-Operative – who divided the irrigated site into quarter-hectare plots to grow what became in many cases their first ever ‘cash crops’.
Abu Mohammad, like many of his neighbours, grew onions in their first season – and harvested 21.5 quintals from his plot, which he sold for 4,760 birr (€460). It was a reward far beyond his wildest dreams – far more than his army salary had been.
Since then he has purchased a house in Dera town (10 km away) where his family now live and all four of his children attend the local high school. ‘Everybody wants to stand on their own two feet, and thanks to this project we have been able to’.