Thanks to the improved food security and the additional income gained, farming families are looking to the future with hope and confidence. They remain sedentary, they can provide school access for their children and they are finally able to live independently.
In rural Ethiopia, poverty have a strong impact among the farmers. People are living on the crop of their small fields and on the few livestock they rear. To generate an income in these rural areas is almost impossible.
Women are the one who suffer the most. They carry too many heavy loads that often goes beyond the reasonable. They consequently find themselves trapped in a cycle of daily struggle for survival, lack of perspectives, limited natural resources and hard work to ensure the survival of the family. In this context, many men work as day labourer, and young men remain landless because the family’s land cannot be divided among male descendants. The girls marry far too young or are married in the hope of having a better life in their new family. The same applies even for rural exodus, which is seen as an opportunity to have a better life in the city. We oppose this vicious circle with a wonderful circle of life, through trees and reforestation projects :
Trees – Forests – Water – Food – Life
Trees and forests actually improve the basis of agriculture and therefore the life in rural Ethiopia. Changes in water reserves, soil quality and biodiversity are leading to increased harvests, crop diversity and various new perspectives. But as is often the case, the poorest people can benefit more or less quickly from these advantages: farming families with only one ox have to rent a second one and give up half of their harvest to this end, single women and their family, i.e widowed or disregarded women, have to work harder and live on the fringes of society, or landless young people look unsuccessfully for work in the city, because such job opportunities are not available in their rural home.
In addition to the benefits for nature and the environment, all of our projects aim to improve the living conditions of farmers and their families in our reforestation areas in rural Ethiopia. We achieve this goal by expanding the reforestation with subsequent projects that offer farmers, women and young people new income opportunities and perspectives. In doing so, we take into account the needs of those concerned and respect their traditional knowledge. We do not act as “know-it-all” but offer each of them the help they need. Where money is lacking, we help by financing the use of technical and useful equipment such as water pumps, threshing machine, mills, etc
Trees and forests – our reforestation projects – are the starting point to achieve a basic improvement of the farmers living conditions. Forests store water, make water projects possible, promote the biodiversity, protect against erosion, what allows more cereal cultivation, improve the soil quality and protect the climate in the long term. Through the reforestation, groups are also formed in women’s groups in tree nurseries or in youth groups that guard and run the forests. Together with these groups of small holders, we can implement our projects such as the collective vegetable cultivation or the plantation of fruit trees. But these farmers, women and young people also pursue their own ideas independently from our project and can therefore change their life in many ways.
Donkey and school projects are also particularly close to our hearts. The donkey projects are only successful if the donkeys have enough fresh food and water thanks to the reforestation, so that they can grow into strong and healthy donkeys and hopefully give birth to another colt. School projects are also a kind of icing on the cake, as a successful reforestation requires sufficient and balanced diet for the pupils and, very important, enough time to attend school and do their homework. In rural Ethiopia, school only lasts a half-day, and the children spend the other part of the day helping at home on the farm. But when there is too much work to do or when the drinking water is too far away, there is not enough time to go to school.
This is, in a nutshell, the incredible story of how forests can change the life of people. However, it is not only about the forests, but above all about the people who, recognizing the benefits of the forest, protect the trees, work hard with water to cultivate vegetable and take care of fruit trees, and tirelessly find new perspectives to improve their own life with great self-responsibility on their ancestral piece of land.