A piece of land only measuring 300 m2, a well, vegetable seeds, some fruit trees and some necessary tools is good for a monthly income of 4000 ETB. In Ziway and surroundings, over 500 households make a living out of Backyard Gardening, an innovative project initiated by SEDA (Sustainable Environmental Development Action), based in Addis with a branch office in the Central Rift Valley.
SEDA lobbies with the government for pieces of land for families that don’t have a stable income. In the last two years, they succeeded in convincing the local authorities to give some land to some of the poorest families of Ziway, capital of the Adami Tulu Jido Kombolcha Woreda (district). Now, many families grow seedlings on their land and sell it to bigger farms and corporation when they are ready for re-planting. Five to six times per year they repeat the growing cycle from seed to seedlings.
On a sunny morning in November, HoA-REC/N employees, including the deputy director Abdirahman Ahmed, visit some backyard gardens in Ziway. Ato Kadhir Abshiro and his family are welcoming us warmly. Carrots, union and cabbage are currently growing on the small vegetable beds. There is papaya hanging in the trees and sugar cane is found at the back of the garden. The water comes from wells that have been dug - fourteen meter deep - and are being controlled by hand.
141 persons in total are benefitting from the area of back yard gardens (this one is called ‘Abene Germama’), and they are very proud and happy to show people around. Together they form a ‘corporation’, which they chair and organize themselves. The neighbor, Badria, is growing false banana, cabbage, hot chili peppers and unions. “I used to work in a big factory for 10 Birr per day, now I make on average 200-300 Birr per day, I am very happy!” She is also the deputy chair of the corporation. Badria is a strong woman and her two kids are smiling.
The project exists for three years now. SEDA provides the seeds, tools and the training. The system is based on sharing: they pass on knowledge, the gardening tools, and the finances. For example, the digging and consolidation of the well costs 2000 ETB. A family invests 1000 ETB (mostly as a loan to be repaid within a year) and SEDA pays the other 1000. When the debt has been paid, then SEDA is able to re-loan this 1000 Birr to the neighbors. Abidrahman Ahmed: “This is a living example of empowering people; it makes them autonomous and responsible. We are impressed with the work of SEDA and we look forward on strengthening their work in the future”