Stories from Ethiopia

Step-by-step towards independence

Peter Lüthi - Communication & Campaigns

Sunday, 17 January 2016 was a happy day for Hado Gemechu; it saw the birth of a baby goat on the farm – successfully completing her first step towards independence and an end to reliance on emergency aid.

Next generation: the first kid goat has now been born

Mrs Gemechu has clear plans on how she will achieve this independence: “When the young billy is fully-grown, I will be able to sell him for 1,000 Birr. Two more will follow and with 3,000 Birr I can buy a young cow”. Eventually, she wants to have two cows, eight nanny goats and of course their young. The milk from the cows will be used for the children and she also plans to make and sell butter. In addition, she will breed from the young females. Hado is optimistic that she can spend some of this new income on renting an additional 2.5 acres of land. The family currently owns just over one acre. “If we rented more land, we could safeguard our livelihood,” she says confidently. That is not the case at present as the current plot is too small. “Even if the rains come on time, the harvest is only enough for five months,” she says. “For the remaining seven months, we rely on food aid”.

Prevent hunger
Gemechu and her husband live with their 4 children in Luke Hada, a scattered community in the drought-prone Ethiopian district of Siraro, a region that has experienced five drought periods – and with it famine - in the last 11 years. The Gemechu family did not escape the effects and had to rely on emergency aid for food. During drought periods, the family received considerable support from Caritas Vorarlberg. Based on their experience during the droughts, the Austrian NGO decided that it wanted to try and reduce this reliance. It sought a partner with knowledge and experience of sustainable agriculture and knocked on Biovision’s door. The two organisations, working with representatives from the “Social Development Coordination Office” in Meki (Catholic Church in Ethiopia) and the local population, established the project “Food Security in Siraro”. The project is designed to strengthen resistance to famine.

The current goatherd (at the front), her successor (middle) and the future goatherd (in the arms of her mother)
The Gemechu family with the goats
The goat herd
The Gemechu family on their land with some of their neighbours
Family of Hado Gemechu
Husband Gemecho Wako
Hado Gemechu


Baseline study paved the wayThe project started with a scientific baseline study to identify how local people in Siraro could reduce their reliance on emergency aid. It showed that the people needed additional income-generating opportunities. With an additional income, they could buy food in short supply during drought periods and in good times they could invest the money in new sources of income. In addition, and working with local communities, they needed to conserve and enhance natural resources.  That could only be achieved with measures to prevent soil erosion and the introduction of energy-efficient stoves. The baseline study also identified several potential income sources, e.g. rearing and selling goats, beekeeping and selling honey, poultry rearing and egg sales, sustainable kitchen gardens and sale of vegetables and tree planting for fruit and timber.

Improving food security in Siraro
Local committees selected the project participants with preference given to those who had suffered particularly badly during the droughts. Amongst them were Hado Gemechu and her family. The project started with training and Gemechu and her husband, along with the other 400 trainee goat farmers, were taught how to look after the goats, how to feed them a balanced diet and recognise early signs of animal diseases. In October, two pregnant nanny goats arrived at the farm and since the birth of the baby goat in mid-January the mother has been producing milk. For the time being, the milk is just for the baby goat so that it grows up strong and healthy.

Leyu Gemechu, the seven-year old daughter was entrusted with the task of looking after the goat. However, she will soon start school and so will pass the mantle to her younger brother and when the youngest daughter is old enough she will hopefully be looking after an impressive herd. However, for now, that is just a dream for the future. The project “Food Security in Siraro” is only just beginning. We won’t know for a few years whether the people succeed in increasing their resilience to famine.