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Women beat hunger in Ethiopia

Many families in rural areas of Ethiopia struggle to put food on the table throughout the year. Lack of access to quality seed, increasingly erratic weather patterns, and low levels of agronomic training combine to create ‘hungry seasons’ which can last for months. Women and children are often the last to eat during times of scarcity, when men take priority.

Yeshiwork’s story

Yeshiwork is a mother of four from Amhara in northern Ethiopia, where about 26 per cent of people live below the poverty line. A potato farmer for many years, she struggled to provide meals for her family and never had extra crops to sell for cash.

With support from the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and our local partner, Vita Ethiopia, Yeshiwork trained as a seed producer and joined a cooperative that provides high-quality seed to local farmers.

The seed she produces is high-yield and more drought- and disease-resilient than local varieties she used previously, which means she has more crops for household meals, and surplus to sell at market.

“The training given by the agronomist opened my eyes,” she said. “I am a member of the Guasa Potato Seed Multiplication Cooperative. I actively participate and share my experience of using the improved potato seed on my private farm, which has changed my entire life.”

With her increased income, Yeshiwork built a larger house and sends her children to a good school. She also invested in a new business raising cattle, further diversifying her income.

Yeshiwork is now a role model for others in her community and her neighbours say she has given hope to many other female farmers.

Tirunesh’s story

Tirunesh faced many of the same challenges as Yeshiwork, struggling to feed her family from August to November each year.

When Tirunesh joined the regional potato project, she learned new farming techniques such as ploughing, ridge-making, and pest management. Like Yeshiwork, she also began using higher-quality planting material.

Last season, Tirunesh sold 500kg of potatoes for $130, and kept another 25kg for the next cropping season. She allocated the rest to household consumption.

Tirunesh also built a ‘dark storage’ facility to cut down on post-harvest crop loss, hiring a carpenter to complete the facility using locally-sourced materials. The facility can store and protect potatoes for over four months, providing food security during the leaner months.

“Before the construction of the dark storage, I kept the potatoes under the soil and that exposed them to disease and reduced the shelf life of the product,” said Tirunesh. “I reduced the hungry season by two months and used my income to buy a cow and a sheep.”

These animals have helped her further diversify her income and pay for her children’s education.

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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I reduced the hungry season by two months and used my income to buy a cow and a sheep.

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