Reversing Climate Change Perils through Rope and Washer Technology

Reversing Climate Change Perils through Rope and Washer Technology

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Tafesse Qoricho

Climate change is a global phenomenon that is disrupting the livelihoods and lives of innumerable smallholder farmers around the world.

Tusamo Tino, 28 and father of three children, was one of these farmers who was seriously suffering from the adverse effects of climate change and the subsequent failure of his crop four years ago. In the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) where he resides, the majority of farmers heavily depend on the very unreliable rain-fed and subsistence agriculture to feed themselves and others.

Tusamo very well remembers the destructive nature of the series of on-and-off droughts from 2007 through 2012. “During these times, the erratic nature of the rainfall meant that we couldn’t effectively plan the sowing of our seeds, especially in the February to April (belg) rainy season,” he says.

He added that the unpredictable rainfall tied in with problems of pest infestation and soil nutrient draining resulted in frequent periods of total or partial crop failure. This then cascaded into high risks of livestock deaths due to a shortage of fodder, thus greatly worsening the food insecurity in the region.

“When the situation got terrible, I could no longer provide three meals a day for my family. We often had to make do with one meal,” Tusamo explains. The sense of the immense burden on his shoulders was all too obvious.

During those trying times, he had not spent his time negligently. Being of an entrepreneurial nature, he decided that in order to feed his family he would have to undertake additional work other than farming. He travelled around neighboring villages as a barber. The proceeds he retrieved from the venture went into buying food for his family, but it was far from enough.

Due to Tusamo and his family’s uncompromising and harsh reality, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) came to their rescue through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), a jointly-run initiative by the Ethiopian government and humanitarian agencies. The initiative provides food and/or cash assistance to chronically food insecure households in exchange for labor on rural infrastructure projects or direct transfers to households unable to participate in physical labor activities.

The program therefore gave him and his family the chance to get food and money as well as trainings on savings management and healthy feeding practices. He took great advantage of the opportunity and garnered some important and new expertise.

Tusamo was given training on savings, venturing income generating activities, loan repayment schemes and conflict resolution mechanisms. Along with other fellow farmers, he soon organized a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA)/Village Economic and Social Association (VESA) and started saving some money into the group’s account. Soon after, he took out a loan, expanded his hairdressing business and continued to sustain his and his family’s life.

Day by day, life has started to show some signs of progress for Tusamo and his family thanks to his strong character, acute business acumen and foresightedness. He has also strengthened the practice of sharing his skill and know-how to other farmers in his village and beyond. This yielded in his selection for the leadership position in the VSLA.

His perseverance in the fight against abject poverty has also brought him yet another unforeseen big chance – participation in an USAID-funded and CARE-led innovative initiative, Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD). GRAD works with chronically food insecure households and aims to help up to 65,000 such households graduate from the government-run PSNP through some tested interventions, one of which is the rope and washer technology.

The intervention is a novel scheme in the region to provide easy to implement water pumps within rural communities to retrieve water from previously inaccessible or unused underground reserves and aquifers. By increasing water access, households can drastically improve their farm yields and general hygiene standards.

Tusamo is fortunate to have a known water source below his 0.23 hectare of land and was selected to participate in the intervention two years ago in late 2011.

Right away, CARE trained him on climate change adaptation systems and resilience-building mechanisms – engagement on small scale irrigation systems, ways of operating and maintaining the rope and washer technology/pump, planting drought resistant crops, farming vegetables, market linkage creation and gender equality.

CARE also installed the rope and washer technology on his farmland. Since the pump’s installation, Tusamo has seen a stark improvement in his agricultural yields. “I can now harvest many of my crops three times a year. Previously, I was only able to harvest once per year,” he explains.

Tusamo now grows a number of diversified crops: enset (false banana), sugar cane, haricot beans, maize, khat, bananas, onions, tomatoes, carrot and potatoes. The harvested produce is divided with a minor part going to feed his family and the rest being sold. Such extensive diversification is possible through the availability of water all year round and knowledge gained from CARE's training programs.

Now he also has enough produce to sell to a number of different markets. As a result, Tusamo has acquired strong knowledge of the local markets, information he is happy to share with his community members. He keeps an eye on market prices and the supply of different commodities as these dictate what he grows and where he sells his produce.

With the proceeds of the sale of his crops, Tusamo has been able to achieve a remarkable number of benefits. He has been able to pay for household goods, educational material for his children and the construction of an improved house, and set money aside for his wife’s education. 

In addition, the proceeds have enabled Tusamo to contribute towards creating a new hairdressing business in his new house and buy a number of goats that he will proceed to fatten before selling them for a profit.

With pride, Tusamo says that restaurant owners are now coming directly to him to buy his produce; this, he injects, is all thanks to CARE’s rope and washer pump.

Overlooking Tusamo’s property and crops today, it is hard to imagine a life of extreme poverty. Yet, only a few years ago that was the harsh reality.

Written by Yonas Tafesse Qoricho, CARE Ethiopia.


Photo by Tafesse Qoricho/CARE.