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Solo pilot Giles Abrey's flying visit to Farm Africa project in Ethiopia

26 November 2019

Solo pilot Giles Abrey's flying visit to Farm Africa project in Ethiopia

Suffolk farmer Giles Abrey is mid-way through a momentous challenge to fly solo from London to Cape Town to raise funds for the charities Farm Africa, GeeWizz and the Institute of Cancer Research. Giles is flying 7,200 miles across 13 countries crossing national borders, mountains, deserts and seas, 100 years on from the first flight to the Cape, all in a plane he built himself.

As part of the third generation family farming business RG Abrey Farms, Giles was keen to see the impact of Farm Africa’s farming projects and last week took a few days to stop to visit a Farm Africa project in the Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia.

The project, funded by the Sida (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency), aims to improve water quality, conserve biodiversity, empower women farmers and increase the production, productivity and value of crops.

Giles’ two days in the field began with a presentation of the project led by Farm Africa project Co-ordinator Haji Meteyissa followed by a visit to the village of Abine Garmama, where he met local farmers who showed him around their growing plots. 

Solo pilot Giles Abrey visiting Farm Africa project in Ethiopia

Giles explains “These farmers now prepare their land with ploughs, making their work easier and resulting in a better seedbeds. This way of working also has a reduced impact on deforestation, working with more metal resources as opposed to wood.”

Irrigation has now become an important part of the growing cycle. The project is providing farmers with pumps, pipes and infrastructure. 

“The water source is a huge lake to the rear of the holdings. Water is pumped through pipes around all the plots.  It then ran by gravity and they used a series of mini dams to direct it to the growing plots that needed it.”

Giles Abrey visiting Farm Africa project in Ethiopia

Giles then went on to meet Zemzem Kedir and her family who has received a new fuel-efficient cookstove from Farm Africa.

“I was surprised when she explained how much of a difference it has made to her life.  She showed me her original open fire where she explained how over all the years of cooking the smoke has affected her eyes, her lungs, and she regularly burnt herself on the flames. 

Zemzem cooking with her fuel-efficient stove

“Her new oven looked similar to a small pizza oven, the fire was lit inside and the thick heatproof walls retained the heat.  There was a large flat cooking surface and a small chimney at the back where the heat exited where she was able to boil food. 

“Due to the new oven being much more efficient, much less wood is used, which is a much more sustainable way of cooking – just one of the ways this project is helping the environment and reduce deforestation, which is an issue in the Rift Valley. I was surprised about how something so simple could make such a difference to health, wellbeing and overall sustainability.”

Giles explains the project was more diverse than he had expected: “It was very much looking at long-term solutions, providing training, then giving ownership to the community so they could make informed decisions about their communities and the environment around them.  This knowledge will then be passed onto future generations.”

“The relationship between Farm Africa, their other supporting organisations and the direct dialogue with local communities seems a great foundation and the perfect long-term solution. The community I visited at Abine Garmama village seemed happy and proud with what they have already achieved.  I was surprised at the attention to detail, the knowledge base and the condition of the crops they were growing, something I would be proud of myself.

Giles Abrey visiting Farm Africa project in Ethiopia

“It was impressive to see that Farm Africa had trained them to appreciate the need for a long-term sustainable approach so their land resource is viable for future generations.  We are very aware in our own farming business that this is absolutely key to long-term success.”

Giles now leaves Ethiopia having learnt a great deal about the impact of this project, which was launched earlier this year and will run until 2022. 

Giles’ journey to Cape Town continues. You can donate here or follow his progress at




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