At a February ceremony in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Migibare Senay Children and Family Support Organization received a first place “green award” from President Girma Wolde-Giorgis. The organization’s work is “a model of sustainable land management,” according to a release put out by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which has partnered with Migibare Senay over the course of the four-year project.
Dan Leonard, who serves as MCC country representative for Ethiopia, along with his wife Karin Kliewer, is excited about the award-winning project. “It turns the popular narrative that one must choose between the economy and the environment on its head,” he said via e-mail. “This project shows that environmental management and restoration is vital to sustainable economic growth. . . . You couldn’t have one without the other here.”
According to the MCC release, the proj-ect has rehabilitated 1,160 hectares of degraded land belonging to 645 households. Wheat and barley yields have doubled. The project included soil and water conservation measures, such as earthen dikes, wood-and-stone check dams, and the planting of fast-growing trees in gullies prone to erosion. Local participants received in-kind payments of livestock for their work on dams and forestation initiatives.
Although the project took place in a region not affected by the food crisis of 2011, Leonard said the area is generally “vulnerable to failed rainy seasons and unpredictable natural hazards.”
Ongoing projects of this nature help address drought before it happens by preparing people economically to better withstand failed rains when they occur.
Such projects also help people address effects of climate change, said Leonard. “We often think of climate change as warming, whereas the bigger issue is climate variability and the unpredictability of rainfall.”
People are most vulnerable to these weather extremes when they have no economic cushion to see them through difficult times. In-kind payments provided by the Migibare Senay project, as well as increased productivity and health of local lands, help provide such a cushion.
The Ethiopian organization was chosen to receive the award by a committee that included the president, elected officials, artists, academics and journalists, as well as business, community and youth representatives. MCC funded the project with funds from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
By participating in the award-winning program run by the Migibare Senay Children and Family Support Organization, a Mennonite Central Committee partner in Ethiopia, Tiruneh Mitiku has doubled the income he can make off his farm in the country’s Amhara region.