Amarech clung to hope and determination, knowing there had to be a way to improve her crops in the hilly village of Chifisa, Ethiopia. Despite poor soil due to overtillage and 9 months of drought, she believed that her farm could be a success.
Splitting her inherited land amongst her seven children meant that her plot of soil was both limited and overworked. With no farming techniques other than the ones passed down from generation to generation, and a changing climate making planting season increasingly difficult, starvation was common for her family. Seven months a year were marked with hunger, with only one meal a day to sustain them.
Hearing about Conservation Agriculture changed everything.
Without a second thought, Amarech signed herself up and began attending classes. With incredible tenacity, she absorbed every bit of new information she learned, eager to try it out on her farm at home. She came home telling her husband, Mattheos, about her lessons on moisture retention and soil fertility, with a clear understanding of how to improve her yields through these techniques. But for Mattheos, he could only think that his wife had gone mad! After all, they’ve been farming the same way for generations; how could they abandon their traditional methods?
Despite Mattheos’ disapproval, she decided that she didn’t need his help anyways. She began transforming her traditional maize garden into a healthy and fertile 20 by 15 metre plot, growing both maize and beans as she had been taught. At the time of harvest, Mattheos was amazed and humbled by the bountiful crop Amarech had grown with her new methods.
After two years of convincing, Mattheos finally became fully on board with his wife’s new gardening methods. Together they converted the majority of their farm to conservation agriculture, while saving a small traditional plot to compare with the past.
“She is the leader – I am the follower”, Mattheos tells us. “She is persistent. She just kept talking about conservation agriculture. It made no sense to me, but I let her fulfil her dreams. I was wrong, and she was right”.
Today, their farm has expanded its produce from maize and beans to include cash crops of coffee, taro, and pumpkins. For the first time they are producing enough to eat and extend to neighbours. Storing their produce in PICS bags to sell during the off-season has allowed them to sell their harvests in the market for a source of income. Looking back, they are overjoyed with the ways agriculture training has changed their lives; “Up until 3 years ago, we always experienced lean years and food shortages. Now, we can do it ourselves. We don’t have to beg. This has been done by our own energy. I am determined to do this for the rest of my life”.
Their success has led them to convert the church property to conservation agriculture farms. Amarech and her husband turned the land into a model farm for their community – both church members and non-church members. They deeply desire to see their community be changed by conservation agriculture, and have been teaching the church in these new farming techniques.
The couple can’t help but praise and thank God; “We came to understand that blessing is from God. In the past we didn’t get any results. But we had potential. We learned to care for creation and the land, and we enjoy God’s every blessing now.”