Most farmers in Ethiopia have small plots of land and only cultivate a few species. Many live in drought-prone areas, where climatic conditions make agricultural production a challenging business. The ever more frequent and long-lasting drought periods have also made it difficult for the pastoralist population to make a living from animal husbandry. Some pastoralists have therefore tried their luck as farmers, but they lack knowledge and are forced to produce food under very difficult conditions. For many, the transition involves changes in traditional life styles and diets as well.
To strengthen food security and improve the nutritional situation for farmer and pastoralist families, the Development Fund has, inter alia, worked on training farmers in more sustainable agricultural techniques that increase production, on introducing new plants that secure more varied food production, and on improving consciousness of and knowledge about nutrition. We make use of methods that are adapted to local conditions, and test the methods with various plants on small fields along with the farmers, so they themselves participate in the process of discovering workable solutions and can see the results of the changes. After this, we follow up the farmers when they start using the same methods on their fields. Our approach to improved nutrition involves, primarily, a focus on more varied food production, which will make more, and more varied, food available to poor families. Where conditions are favorable for irrigation systems we develop these, so local farmers have the opportunity to water their fields or make use of various techniques to increase the humidity of the soil. We also make efforts to increase knowledge of nutrition and of how new plants may be used to provide a more varied diet. We furthermore work to increase access to water for households, and to reduce the time used, particularly by women and children, on fetching water. To improve animal health, we seek to increase the production of fodder and to educate local resource people in vaccination and basic veterinary knowledge. In this way, thousands of animals are vaccinated every year. In the areas afflicted most heavily by drought, we seek to reestablish agricultural production and pastoralism. We have also given humanitarian help to such areas; in this work, we cooperate with other Norwegian organizations and conduct a common project with the Norwegian Refugee Council and Norwegian Church Aid.
Food security and nutrition are closely related to other important sectors, such as health and education. In the Somali area in the east of the country we are trying out a school meal solution, in which food is purchased from local farmers. This ensures that children in pastoral families in drought-prone areas will have at least one healthy meal a day.
The most important areas for our work are drought-prone districts in Eastern Ethiopia (Afar, Somali and Amhara).