Introduction to the Nuru Ethiopia Agriculture Team

In February 2013, Nuru International held interviews with applicants from all over Ethiopia who were interested in working in the new Nuru Ethiopia Agriculture Program. The task was to find high-capacity agriculture experts who also held a strong commitment to servant leadership and the eradication of extreme poverty. The group of applicants that walked through the door was spellbinding in their diversity and passion. In the end, four people had to be chosen (but five were eventually chosen, because of the high-capacity of the applicants) and an incredibly talented team was put together for Nuru Ethiopia’s Agriculture Program. In this blog, I want to introduce you to the agriculture team and talk about our progress in Ethiopia over the past two months.

As the Agriculture Program Facilitator, I couldn’t ask for a more impressive cohort of leaders. Our team is composed of people of all backgrounds and walks of life. We have on-the-ground former extension officers like Banchyrga Boyene, Tariku Wubete, and Tewodros Teshone who have a wealth of experience helping improve the livelihoods of farmers in villages throughout the Gamo Gofa zone of southern Ethiopia. Nuru Ethiopia’s Agriculture team have years of experience working in the kebeles (the smallest administrative unit in Ethiopia) with farmers to perfect technical practices and introduce improved varieties of subsistence and income-generating crops. Alemseged Lukas and Nigussie Wasihun are both former management-level coordinators from the Government Agriculture Office in Zefine (the “capital” of Boreda, where Nuru Ethiopia’s project office is located). They have coordinated numerous programs in Boreda and are intimately familiar with local agricultural practices, strengths, and areas of need. Combined, the Nuru Ethiopia Agriculture team has experience with many projects and initiatives in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region of Ethiopia. All of them hold degrees in agricultural sciences and have conducted fascinating research.

Since the initiation of Nuru training two months ago, the staff have taught me an immense amount about agriculture in Ethiopia. They have shared a wealth of information about soils in different kebeles, different agro-ecological zones and the crops that are suitable for them, and the day-to-day challenges that farmers face. On Fridays we take trips into the kebeles and do walkabouts with farmers, asking them about their farming practices and their visions for a better future. Usually, we talk to one “lead farmer” (a farmer who is respected in the community for his or her agricultural practices) and one “poor farmer” (a farmer who typically has a small landholding and a lack of access to inputs). For me, these are crucial participatory activities that remind us of both the strengths of farmers in the kebeles as well as their vulnerabilities.

On a recent trip to Dubana Bullo, a kebele we are working in, we talked to a farmer who has four hectares (ten acres) of land and a successful ginger project that has given him a 500% return on his investment. His farming practices are so successful that he has been able to send all of his children to school and to enroll in programs that further hone his farming skills. In the same kebele, we visited a farmer’s house who only had 0.1 hectares (0.25 acres) of land and could only feed his six children by doing day-labor and buying two kilos of maize per week to feed them. Around his house he had 20 or 30 enset (false banana) plants, a  popular “fall-back” crop for farmers in southern Ethiopia, that he would harvest as needed and cook with maize flour. Comparing and contrasting the situations of these two farmers can inform the agriculture team about what makes the difference between prosperity and hunger, which is crucial to developing the best possible Agriculture Program for Nuru Ethiopia.

When we left Dubano Bullo after talking to the “poor farmer” we were all a bit choked up about the desperate situation in which he was living. One of the agriculture program staff, Tewodros, stopped all of us on our hike back to the main road and said: “When we are co-creating this program, we have to keep someone like Abera (the ‘poor farmer’) fresh in our minds. If our program cannot impact his situation, then it is not an effective program.”

I think all of us who are in this struggle to end extreme poverty couldn’t agree more. And with the right mix of skills and the dedication and passion of servant leaders like the agriculture team in Ethiopia, we are on the right track to putting into motion a program that can change Boreda, change Ethiopia, and change the lives of struggling farmers throughout the world.


About Douglas La Rose

Agriculture Program Specialist — Douglas is an anthropologist and agriculturalist who has been working in rural Africa since 2005. He received his MA in Applied Anthropology from San Diego State University in 2011 after conducting an extensive quantitative and qualitative research project on agricultural adaptations to environmental change in the Volta Region of Ghana. Douglas has extensive experience in agriculture, having managed an agroforestry project in Ghana that focuses on sustainable cocoa, plantain, banana, and palm nut production.

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