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Our forests are our banks

Shibre, her husband Alemen and their three sons live on the edge of the forest in western Ethiopia.

The family have a plot of land where they used to grow cereal crops such as teff, millet and wheat. However, a disease outbreak three years ago killed the oxen that drew their plough, leaving them unable to grow enough food or earn a living. The family’s only income came from selling coffee berries collected from nearby bushes once a year, and a few sheep and goats.

Sustainable living

Farm Africa works with forest communities and local government in Ethiopia to teach them how to make a sustainable living from the abundant forest resources.

Shibre said: “Our forests are our banks where we collect edible and marketable products. Forests are sources of water, firewood, ginger, cardamom, gum incense and baobab.”

Shibre’s family had previously collected honey from log hives hung high in the forest canopy, but local baboons had been stealing it. Farm Africa arranged visits with a neighbouring community who were successful honey producers and Shibre learnt some innovative ways to solve the problem. So far she has collected more than 240kg of honey from her 16 hives.

Collecting honey

She said: “I used to sell small ruminants (goats and sheep) in order to cover my children’s school costs but this year I haven’t yet sold a single sheep or goat; I have managed to cover those costs from selling honey.”

As well as educating her children, Shibre has used some of the money to join a village savings and loans group that Farm Africa helped her community establish. She took out a loan to set up a small business trading coffee and honey, and so far has generated more than 100% profit.