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Small-scale irrigation boosts vegetable production

I have now learnt that it is not the size of the land that matters most. A lot can be produced on a small plot of land if it is well managed.



Like many Ethiopian farmers, Gebremichael Gebremeskel used to rely on rainfall alone to water his crops. Living in Ethiopia's Tigray mountains, where rainfall was unpredictable and erratic, he frequently struggled to grow enough food to support his family.

Gebremichael’s fortunes changed when he started working with Farm Africa to implement small-scale irrigation on his land, meaning he now has year-round access to a reliable water supply. 

"I have a small plot of land down near the river, which was unproductive because I couldn't buy fertiliser. We just watched the river flow by our farmland as it was too deep to irrigate our land. I produced just two quintals of sorghum, wheat or teff a year, which was hardly enough to feed my family. As I didn't have any other income, I couldn't send my children to school or afford to go to health facilities when we were sick. We lived a miserable life.

"Then, Farm Africa provided a water lifting motor pump and farming tools to serve 15 very poor farmers including mine, who have land adjacent to the river. We were also given training on irrigation farming. Soon we started irrigating our individual farms turn by turn.

"I have benefited a lot over the last two years since I started using the water pump. Last year I grew tomatoes, onions, garlic, cabbages, spinach and peppercorns and earnt over ETB 23,000 (£760). This sum does not include the vegetables we used for home consumption.

"My family and I have seen tremendous changes in our lives. We now have new items added to our daily diet, such as meat and vegetables. I have bought oxen and the number of my goats has reached 20 as I do not have to sell them to buy food like I did in the past.

"I have now learnt that it is not the size of the land that matters most. A lot can be produced on a small plot of land if it is well managed. In the last two years we have grown more produce and earnt more money than farmers who have larger plots but do not use irrigation. We were also less affected by last year's drought as most of us had some money to buy food for our families. Farm Africa's community facilitators follow-up and support has contributed a great deal to our success."

Gebremichael was one of more than 6,000 people in Tigray’s Ahferom woreda whose food security and earning potential have benefited from support from Farm Africa. His story is featured in a new collection of briefing papers published by Farm Africa to share the lessons learnt from over 25 years of working in Tigray.