Potato Seed Projects, Supported by Irish Aid and Action on Poverty, Transform Rural Livelihoods in Southern Ethiopia

“I plan to buy additional farm land and open a shop in Debre Tabor town” – Layhugni Berihun, Farta, South Gonder, Ethiopia

Layhugni Berihun is 36 and lives with her husband and five children in the Ata kebele of the Farta district in South Gonder, Ethiopia. She is, like many people in the region, a potato farmer.

With two sons and three daughters to feed and clothe, Layhugni relies on her livelihood to keep her family healthy and happy. Yet this was becoming increasingly harder as poor seed meant that Layhugni’s yields were abysmally low – a fact that was only worsened by the traditional agronomy practices that no longer reflected changing environmental conditions.

On top of this, there was no place for Layhugni to store either her seed or crops, meaning that she had no way of preserving a surplus to see her through the increasing hunger months. She, along with other struggling farmers in her area, joined Vita’s programme to find solutions to these challenges.

Vita’s improved potato seed programme is made possible by the support of Irish Aid and Action on Poverty. Together, we supplied Layhugni with improved quality potato seed to replace the low yields of the local “Aballo” variety. We supplied training – from initial land preparation right through to harvesting – on smart land management that showed programme participants how to use fertilizer, rotate and manage their crops, and safeguard their plot from overworking.

To address the issue of storage, Vita helped Layhugni and her farming peers to construct a diffused light storage – a valuable addition to their farms that would enable them to store seeds and thus ensure they had a constant source of guaranteed crops and income.

A lack of access to finance was another significant barrier to a secure and sustainable livelihood for Layhugni and thus Vita also supplied training on managing finance as well as linking these small farmers with markets where they could sell their high-quality potato crops for a fair price.

Most importantly, this project gave in-depth training to each farmer on a fortnightly basis, covering everything from agronomy skills, seed store management, business training to knowledge-sharing initiatives. It is this training – which focuses on equipping farmers with not just tools but with knowledge and understanding – that ensures the longterm success of this programme. It is this specialised training that empowers Layhugni with a resilience and a wealth of skills that will see her face many challenges to her crops, land and livelihood.

Under this programme, Layhugni’s farm – and indeed, her life – has been transformed. On her 0.25 hectare plot, Layhugni’s yields have increased from a measly 8 or 9 quintals (one quintal represents 100 kg) to 20 quintals – that’s more than double her original yields! The effect this has had on Layhugni’s entire family is profound.

Her children can now be better educated by attending a good school, her home has been transformed as she can finally afford to buy proper furniture and Layhugni can now start building her business towards the success she has always dreamed of.

In her own words, “I plan to buy additional farm land and open a shop in Debre Tabor town.”

This is the change every partner of Vita makes possible. To see how you can support this work, click https://vita.ie/donate/