Austria, France, Ethiopia · 13 Days · 32 Moments · March 2018

Excursion: Organic agriculture in Ethiopia


27 March 2018

That's it! Thank you for following my journal! Some of uns decided to travel afterwards and experience the wonders of northern Ethiopia, but in the end we all arrived safely home. What a beautiful country with wonderful people!

25 March 2018

Btw. Coffee arabica originates in Ethiopia! Here you see a traditional nursery and plantation at Zege island.
At our last day of the excursion we went to Zege peninsula (last evidence of a real forest in this region). There we visited a traditional 400yr old clay hut and witnessed a traditional coffee preparation. Another highlight was the visit of the Ure Kidane monestary, which was founded soon after the introduction of Christianity in Ethiopia around 500AD.

24 March 2018

After a morning at the market (not pictured) we got together with the Bahar Dar U students for our last academic meeting, reflecting the whole week and farmers market organisation. Some prices in €/kg. Coffee (green, dried): 3.7, Tomato: 0,28, garlic: 0,71, green chilli: 1, fava bean 1,10. Market organisation for teff (100 kg): farmer 2000ETB (57€), wholesale 2050ETB (58€), consumer pays 2100ETB (58€). Questions for reflection: SWOT? Was it really organic? Which steps have to be taken in order to go organic?

23 March 2018

Tenure insecurity and food security: Since the communist revolution of the Derg regime in the 70s, all Land belongs to the state. In the last years a provincial land lease system was established, guaranteeing use rights for several years. Still, land can be taken away with or without short notice or compensation for other investment projects. Thus, this farmer rather decided to plant mango trees to raise the value of his land(in the case that it gets taken away and he gets a compensation) than to make management decisions towards higher milk production or cropping (which would tremendously increase food security).
Btw. locusts can come in huge numbers, seriously reducing yields and endangering food security.
This smallholder farmer was not only capable of english, but very angry too. His innovative and highly profitable approach in raising mango seedlings and cropping cole was not met by sufficient support by extension services. The avocado trees around the compound (with the cattle and the family house underneath) had to be sprayed with pesticides. Tenure insecurity: this place was close to lake Tana and subject to construction sites. His land could be taken away anytime.
Biogas system constitute often vital parts of development aid in sub-sahara Africa, as the majority of people suffer from lung related diseases from coal burning for cooking. It looked to us, like the cooking system was only seldom used and the traditional cooking of Injera was anyway done by coal. A participatory approach is clearly needed, which includes peoples way of life.

22 March 2018

Enjoying lunch with my friends and fellow Bahar Dar U Students together. It's just incredible nice to eat together from a common plate with your hands and sometimes also feed each other, as is the Ethiopian custom!
Village impressions: the seasonal flooding in June-september can reach up to 2m - you can see it at the outside walls. Therefore beds are under the roof, our Collegues from Bahar Dar Uni told us.
“Teff“, the most important national cereal, get`s its name from amahric “tefa“, which means “lost“, as the grain is incredible small. The make the Injera pancake-bread and Tellar, local fermented beer out of it.
Visiting smallholder farmers - crop rotation: rice, teff (pictured), safflower and no leguminoses in between. Soil: Vertisol, high clay content, very fertile, a typical minute soil, because you have to catch the right moment: either it's flooded, muddy or rockhard dry. The cracks inbetween are up to 80cm deep. Fertilization is unnecessary, as all the fertilizer gets washed out. The kids were shy first but etally nice :) They looked so proud with their sticks!

21 March 2018

Bayenet, a typical Ethiopian dish. veggis and lentils on Injera, sourdough pancakes made from Teff. This is the national food! Teff is high protein, high fiber, high mineral, gluten free cereal. It tastes amazing! Custom is that you feed each other before you eat yoursel. Aaaand ... only eating with hands ...
@Solomon Cedar Agroforestry/Forestry farm: Can you imagine, that five years ago this was barren degraded land? A swedo-german Rastafari community felt called by God and gathered in this holy land. Now they have established a beautiful agroforestry system with straight Sasbanyan trees for construction, other valuable wood, and fruit trees. Key were the sasbanyan as they provided shade, raised the groundwater level and increased N fixation.
Eucalyptus may be a blessing for the construction economy but is a plague for the soil. It's leafs are rich in essential oils which acidify the soil. It is difficult to grow anything else thereafter. After four years it is ready to harvest. A possible substitution would be Grawilea, with intercropping of teff, maize and millet during the first years.
Enjoying incredible good Ethiopian coffee with our friends! Did you know: cafe arabica comes original from Ethiopia! They brew it black, strong and hot and sugar it heavily! Tasty! Btw they are trying to teach me some Amharic, the second national language in Ethiopia
Local hero: An organic dairy! Making milk and cheese from local farmers milk. They get good money, seeds to enhance their grassland, access to health service and a vet. Thus is able ro fulfil a key role for transition to organic and economic development too! By planting forage leguminoses the soil fertility improved strongly! Wanted to taste the milk but no chance ...

20 March 2018

What is a good life? Evening discussion at a candlelight dinner
Sunny under the banana bush and the good waldviertler shoes
Ekki, netherlandish organic farming project. They achieved amazing results with treeluzerne, which is a hedge plant and raises the groundwater table and enhances Nitrogen fixation. Inbetween grafted avocado trees! Hibiscus bush, passion fruit (maracuja) hedge, guave plant. Chica house from straw and clay
Jan the Belgiums Farm, 50ha of conventional farming for the european market: tomatos, butternut pumpkin, squash varieties, watermelons, broccoli, cauliflower. Drop and furrow irrigation, fertilizer use, pesticide use. Contract farmers. He did not knew that for his investment land from locals was given away. They burned his house down, he donated schoolbooks, the helped him build his farm anew.

19 March 2018

Deforestation: some decades ago, the Amhara region was highly forested. Due to population pressure and logging for firewood, construction material and farm land deforestation occured. Consequences are soil erosion and grpund water loss. After logging the topsoil horizon is eroded within years and a barren, acidic and less fertile ferralsoil remains.
If the field is not needed for food, the decision is made towards the most profitable cash crop: A local drug called Khat/Qat for chewing as this brings money. Reportedly it has a slightly stimulating and minimal hallucigenic effect
The fertile eroded soil sedimented on the valley bottom and since the soil protection meassures led to higher groundwater tables, an agroforestry paradise evolved there. Farmers can now grow fruit trees mango avocado banana oranges lemons and coffee like never before! 1000 wells in this catchment! Amazing! This project is financed by some swiss dev agency
Interviewing farmers in order to learn from them and about their soil mgmt techniques, erosion (here gully erosion) can be immense, 40 t/ha/a
Concrete pit for measuring soil erosion. Vegetated soil bunds (rows of heaped soil) with sasbanyan trees to counter soil erosion (but forage cut and carry for cattle). the field is crop rotation with millet, teff and maize (one year) and no covercropping in between, bare soil = erosion = less fertile land
Protect or regret, UVB is extremly high in the highlands of Ethiopia and temperature is about 35°C

18 March 2018

First day: We meet the Bahar Dar Students and start with a general group session on what an organic agticultural system is. Most of them have farming background and study agriculture with a focus on environmental change or soil science.
Later we visited the market, which is rather empty on sundays. Random market impressions ..
Arrival day: We went to Lake Tana and enjoyed a really good traditional Coffee!

16 March 2018

From Paris to Addis, Breakfast, Tire of Taxi broke (traffic is crazy) and on to Bahir Dar via plane

14 March 2018

Hello and welcome to my personal and totally incomplete travel journal. All entries reflect my personal opinion. For the lectures Global Case Studies in Organic Agriculture and Project: Organic farming in tropical and subtropical regions at the University of Natural Resources Management and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU), organic agriculture and soil science students gathered to get special insights on agriculture and livelihoods in Ethiopia. Enjoy this documentation!