World Bank Group

05/30/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/30/2024 07:58

From quarry dust to emerald fields: The transformative impact of irrigation in Ethiopia’s Dire Dawa

In the arid outskirts of Dire Dawa - a City Administration in the eastern Ethiopia - where the sun beats down relentlessly on the parched earth, a remarkable tale of resilience and triumph has taken root. This is the story of Mohamed Aduse and his band of determined young friends, who have risen from the depths of backbreaking labor to become pioneers of agricultural prosperity, thanks to the support they received through the World Bank's Ethiopia Agricultural Growth Project II (AGP II). The project's objective is to increase agricultural productivity and commercialization of smallholder farmers in targeted locations.

Not so long ago, the sound of hammers striking rock echoed through the quarries, where Mohamed and his comrades spent their days chiseling and dressing cobblestones for the local road authority. The dust settled heavily on their sweat-drenched brows, and their callused hands bore the marks of their toil. Each day's labor yielded a paltry 200 birr (about $3.50)- a meager sum that barely kept hunger at bay.

In 2018, Mohamed and his friends took a leap of faith, forming the Burka Aneni small holder irrigation farm group. With little more than determination and a shared dream, they embarked on a journey that would test their resolve at every turn.

Wielding shovels instead of hammers, they dug deep into the unyielding earth, carving out a hand-dug well that would become the wellspring of their newfound livelihood. With the help of a diesel pump they bought through the project's support, they started irrigating their onion, tomato, and pepper seeds. Skeptics scoffed, doubting their ability to transform this barren landscape into a verdant oasis. But the group's unwavering belief propelled them forward, defying the naysayers with each shovelful of soil they displaced.

Support from the project has been offering a lifeline to those brave enough to grasp it. Specifically, the project provided inputs like seeds, fertilizer and pesticides in amount of $2,000. Also, trainings were given on seedbed preparation, row planting, irrigation water management, postharvest handling, and more. With financial assistance and technical expertise, the group constructed a protective wall around their well and facilitated the connection to the electric grid - a modern marvel that would power their dreams. Cost of fuel for the diesel pump for a single day was nearly equivalent to an entire month's electricity bill, so with assistance in amount of about $8,000 from the project, they switched to grid electricity, significantly lowering their operational expenses.

As the first seeds took root, a transformation began to unfold. The once-desolate landscape erupted with life, as vibrant papaya trees, fragrant citrus groves, and lush vegetable patches painted a new canvas of abundance. Mohamed and his friends became masters of their domain, tending to their crops with a reverence born of hard-won knowledge and perseverance.

Their yields multiplied, and with each bountiful harvest, their fortunes soared. From a modest 3 hectares, their domain expanded to a sprawling 20-hectare oasis, a testament to their unwavering dedication. The fruits of their labor extended beyond the fields, as they invested in dairy farming, acquired a three-wheeled vehicle for transportation, and even constructed their own homes - tangible symbols of their newfound prosperity.

But perhaps the most profound impact of their journey lies in the ripples it has cast upon the surrounding community. Like a pebble tossed into a still pond, Mohamed and his friends have inspired a wave of change, influencing eight other farmer groups to follow in their footsteps and embrace the transformative power of irrigation-based agriculture. What began with a hand-dug well and backbreaking labor gradually blossomed into a 20-hectare oasis, as Mohamed Aduse's group mastered coaxing life from the arid soil. Now they have vibrant papaya trees, fragrant citrus groves, and lush vegetable patches and their annual income has risen to $15,000. The farmers embraced environmentally friendly practices by switching from diesel pumps to grid electricity, reducing operational costs and their carbon footprint - a transition facilitated by AGP II's vital assistance in constructing protective walls, water reservoirs, and electric grid connection.

As Mohamed Aduse's unwavering mantra echoes across the fields, "Here we came together, here we struggled to change our lives and win the hearts and minds of our community," a testament to the indomitable spirit of those who dared to dream, and a beacon of hope for all who seek to forge their own paths to prosperity.

Ripples of Change and Hopes for the Future

The impact of Mohamed's group has extended far beyond their own fields, sparking a wave of transformation that has rippled across the region. Inspired by their success, other groups of resilient youths have embarked on parallel journeys, following in their trailblazing footsteps.

One such group is Omer Abdulahi's Mimosa collective, established in 2022. Like Mohamed before him, Omer rallied his peers who were trapped in the cycle of unproductive labor and subsistence farming. Together, they uncovered the potential of the arid lands, once cultivated solely through rain-fed agriculture, by digging their own hand-dug well and gaining support from AGP II.

Another testament to the ripple effect is the story of Omer Mohamed, a 54-year-old resident of Ijanani kebele. Witnessing the success of Mohamed Aduse's group, Omer mobilized 22 local farmers to form their own irrigation collective in 2020. Despite facing initial challenges, including the crumbling walls of their hand-dug well and community skepticism, with vital support (what specifically?) from AGP II, their perseverance paid off.

From constructing protective well casings and storage ponds to facilitating access to the electrical grid, these groups have followed in the footsteps of Mohamed's pioneering enterprise, transforming their modest farms into thriving oases of productivity. Crops like tomatoes, onions, peppers, and citrus fruits now flourish where once only the whims of erratic rainfall dictated yields.

The impact has been profound, with these newfound agricultural entrepreneurs achieving food security and economic stability for their families and also becoming agents of change within their communities. Children are attending better schools, residential homes are being constructed, and surplus income is being invested in assets like vehicles and dairy operations, paving the way for even greater prosperity.

As the echoes of these success stories reverberate through the region, a powerful truth resonates: the transformation sparked by Mohamed Aduse's group has ignited a ripple effect, empowering others to follow in their footsteps and forge their own paths to abundance.

With slogans like "Resource is everywhere, but looking into and properly utilizing it to change the situation is the wise means for all," and "We have taken a lesson from our experience which enables us to move faster and attain a higher level of achievement," these groups have embraced the indomitable spirit that propelled Mohamed's journey, serving as beacons of hope for all who dare to dream.

In the heart of these desert oases, a testament to the power of collective action and unwavering determination now stands tall, its roots firmly embedded in the soil that has nurtured important, life-sustaining crops and the dreams of an entire community. As the emerald fields continue to spread, so too does the belief that even the most formidable challenges can be surmounted when hearts and minds unite in pursuit of a shared vision.