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Planting seeds of change in Ethiopia

With support from SMEC and Action on Poverty (AOP), potato farmers are reducing hunger and increasing their incomes in Gamo Gofa, Ethiopia.  

While famine may grab headlines, chronic malnutrition and food insecurity are daily struggles for rural communities who have not benefitted equally from Ethiopia’s rapid development.  

AOP works with over 13,000 farmers in south-eastern Africa to improve production of Irish and Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato. Potatoes are the crop of choice for many small-scale farmers because they are nutrient-dense, grow quickly, and fetch good prices at market.    

However, potato farmers face many challenges, including a lack of infrastructure to support local seed industries. 

“With access to affordable seed, the whole community benefits,” says Christine Murphy, AOP’s International Programs Director. 

“Seed storage facilities can make a huge difference, since they enable farmers’ cooperatives to produce and store high-quality seed locally. Seed producers can earn a good living selling the seed to local farmers at reasonable prices.”  

Seed infrastructure boosts local industry

With the construction of two new storage facilities, hundreds of farmers in Gamo Gofa are now enjoying increased opportunities to improve their livelihoods.   

The community has access to two new Diffused Light Stores (DLS), built with support from the SMEC Foundation and SMEC’s Ethiopian team. Each DLS can store 200 tonnes of potato seed each, increasing the availability of seed, which is crucial for increasing farmers’ yields, household nutrition, and income. 

SMEC Ethiopia staff were directly engaged in the project, working with communities to understand their needs, overseeing construction work, and organising the launch event.  

DLS nearing completion   

For SMEC, staff participation is a driving force behind their charitable work.  

“From the beginning, the SMEC Foundation has been inspired and led by employees who are motivated to make a different in the regions where we operate,” said Roger Bayliss, Chairman of the SMEC Foundation.   

“The Foundation was created in 2001 as an employee initiative, driven be employees who saw the needs of the communities around the project environments where we worked, and wanting to get involved.”  

“We believe that our support makes business sustainable and builds trust with the community,” said Tsegaye Borse, SMEC’s Country Manager, Ethiopia. “This leads to strong connections and partnerships with the local stakeholders here in Ethiopia.”  

Mr Bayliss said they chose to partner with AOP because of their focus on grassroots projects.  

Aside from AOP’s strong track record of international development projects, a drawcard for SMEC was their strong network of people on the ground,” she said.   

“Likewise SMEC operates in over 40 countries and we wanted to partner with an organisation where we could mobilise and connect resources at a local level and make a genuine difference on the ground.”  

Find out more about corporate partnerships

We believe that our support makes business sustainable and builds trust with the community. This leads to strong connections and partnerships with the local stakeholders here in Ethiopia.

This project was supported by:

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