Back to the first week of January, Roots Up realized its first field mission in North Gondar. It was the occasion to meet several farmers who live next to the city of Gondar. Far from being the most remote rural zones of Ethiopia, these farmers are nonetheless facing many challenges. From erratic rainy seasons to debt issue, the whole farming activities are threatened in the long run.
In order to highlight farmer’s situation, we conducted interviews about their farming practices: the soils' property, their yields, and climatic conditions. The greatest challenge they mentioned is soil degradation which is increasing over the years. Several periods of drought have severely eroded the soils. Since they mainly grow cereal crops with very shallow root system, soil is more vulnerable to erosion. Lands have consequently lost their fertility. Chemical fertilizers were subsidised to the smallholder farmers in order to compensate this loss. As a first step, these fertilizers were free of charge and were fulfilling the promise of better farm yields. But, two years later, these inputs lost their gratuity and their beneficial effects have gradually vanished. Farmers had to intensify the application of fertilizers and therefore allocate their income on them. All the farmers we interviewed are now indebted and their income is too low to get out of this spiral.
Interviews with experts of the region convinced us that solutions to increase farmyields are very available for the smallholder farmers and do not need the addition of any agricultural inputs. An increased income would progressively erase their debt.
The challenge: how to spread these practices across the region, especially in the remote zones? This is the backbone of Roots Up: set up trainings on soil improvement practices for the farmers throughout Gondar, providing them the essential tools to resist soil erosion and get out of the debt. The pilot project will take place on the Faculty of Agriculture campus, which is 17km away from the city. This strategic place will facilitate the provision of tools and materials necessary for the organization of the trainings. Besides, there are not less than 70 families living around the campus who can take part of these trainings.