Prolinnova isn’t the only foreign NGO working outside of Aksum. GTZ is also operating programs in the area, helping farmers develop erosion control systems, irrigation, and integrated pest management (IPM). The erosion here is phenomenal—we teetered over gulleys, some as much as 16 meters deep, which have developed over the years because of bad weather, overgrazing, and unsustainable cropping practices.
But over the last five years, GTZ has worked with farmers to develop intercropping systems, helping build soil fertility and prevent erosion by making sure that the soil is not left exposed. The group has also helped farmers develop zero-grazing systems—instead of allowing sheep, cattle, and goats to graze freely on already eroded land, further impacting the health of the soil and disrupting vegetation, animals are corralled or penned and farmers bring fodder, such as elephant grass, to them.
One of the farmer-leaders we sat with chatting in the shade, Hadegue Beyene, told us that before he started using intercropping, IPM, zero-grazing systems, and crop rotations, the soil wasn’t healthy and his family earned very little income. Today that’s changed. Not only is the soil healthier and erosion visibly reduced, but he estimates that on average he earns 3,000-4,000 Ethiopian Birr (ETB) annually from being able to sell tomatoes to the market. His children also all go to school now, which they couldn’t before. And, not surprisingly, the family eats better.