Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Project in Amhara and Oromia regions

By Shekar Anand, Oxfam

Shekar is Programme Director for Oxfam GB in Ethiopia. Past experience includes working with OXFAM, CARE, CIDA, and Government in Aceh, India, Zimbabawe and Afghanistan. He has a post graduate in Rural Development and Management of NGOs and twenty-two years of experience in his field.

The author acknowledges the work of Oxfam GB and the Ethiopia Rift Valley Women and Children Development Association, Ethiopia.

Oxfam UK has been working in Ethiopia for close to 30 years. Oxfam's flagship coffee programme linked with the international coffee house, Starbucks, has enabled the organisation's unique positioning within agriculture and livelihoods programming in Ethiopia. Oxfam UK is also leading Oxfam International efforts to establish a single management structure for the various national Oxfam agencies currently working in Ethiopia.

Oxfam UK currently has three types of programme in Ethiopia:

  1. Humanitarian response, e.g. drought or flood response, interventions to address acute outbreaks of watery diarrhoea.
  2. Pastoral programmes, e.g. the cross border programme in Somali region.1
  3. Livelihood programming, which includes agricultural development.

Agricultural development in Ethiopia

The agricultural development programme in Ethiopia is part of the Global Agricultural Scale Up (GASU) initiative started by Oxfam four years ago. This pilot initiative was initially established in three countries, Ethiopia, Honduras and India covering three continents. Tanzania was subsequently included. If successful the programme is to be scaled up.

Farmers at work

The Commercialisation of Agriculture for Smallholders in Ethiopia (CASHE) programme (called the Ethiopian Agricultural Scale Up Programme until 2009) targets small farmers with at least half a hectare of land and aims to support these farmers in gaining access to, and inclusion in, markets. The programme is operating in three regions in Ethioipa, namely Oromia, Amhara and Benshangul Gumuz Regional States. Beneficiaries are targeted on the basis of land ownership and market constraints. Farmers are supported in a number of ways, e.g. creating an enabling environment, value chain development of select commodities and market service provision.

The Agricultural Scale Up programme in Ethiopia has worked with farmers on many crops. It has now been decided to use a scalable model for three commodities, honey, coffee and sesame. These have also been identified by the government as high value crops for export. The project ensures that farmers are not dependent upon these crops for their livelihoods but also grow other crops.

Oxfam's work has focussed on three domains:

The Agricultural Scale Up programme strategy is about pulling rather than pushing people out of poverty. The approach builds on the assets and capacities of farmers who are not food insecure. The theory is that by focusing on this stratum of society, it will be possible to make a contribution to the overall economy of the country and resulting GDP. It will create greater wealth and development for the country than a strategy which focuses upon the poor and most food insecure. The approach focuses on productive areas and productive capacity.

However, Oxfam are aware that their target farmers are often exposed to emergencies like drought, flood, market turbulence and climate change. Consequently, Oxfam have endeavoured to embed a humanitarian response programme within the Agricultural Scale Up programme for pockets of target farmers, to prevent them from falling into the poverty trap. Small holder farmers who become food insecure do not have access to the national Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). Furthermore, there is very little donor money for supporting agriculture. Oxfam have therefore come up with an approach called the 'emergency food security and livelihoods (EFSL) project' to protect those farmers who are vulnerable to impact of drought and other shocks.

How the EFSL project started

Packed honey ready for market

The failure of short rains in most parts of Ethiopia in 2008 resulted in drought conditions that affected the agricultural scale-up programme in Amhara and Oromia regions. Farmers in at least nine woredas required immediate EFSL support for a three to five month period. Oxfam elected to support the farmers to develop agricultural infrastructure that would help restore normal food production levels by the end of the harvest season, i.e. December 2008.

The Oxfam EFSL project appeal proposed, first, to provide immediate support to affected communities so that they could withstand the shock till the next harvest season and secondly, to stabilise food production in the long run through development of agricultural infrastructures and community-managed systems. There were three primary objectives:

  1. Respond to increasing vulnerability to food insecurity faced by smallholder farmers in nine target woredas of Amhara and Oromia regions through social transfer and a public works project.
  2. Strengthen linkages between social protection and humanitarian response activities and improve sustainability and probability of graduation of beneficiaries. This was to be achieved through developing a strategy for collaboration with PSNP around social protection leading to graduation in target woredas.
  3. Inform long-term agriculture programming on appropriate activities to address the humanitarian context faced by smallholder farmers as part of an integrated approach.

Box 1 outlines the activities planned in the different regions.

Box 1: Project activity plan

Amhara region

  • EFSL assessment and planning with communities
  • Construction of 5 grain banks in five malt barley growing Woredas
  • Construction of 4 honey collection centres in each honey Woreda
  • Construction of access roads- 33 Km
  • Provision of around 150kg bee forage seed and planting on 50 hectares
  • Capacity and skill building of communities on maintenance and use of community structures and CBRM approach and mechanisms
  • Establishing community-managed revolving funds for 50,000 birr in two locations in each woreda

Oromia region

  • EFSL assessment and planning with communities
  • Cleaning and maintaining 22 irrigation schemes
  • Maintenance of rural roads (100 km)
  • Soil and Water conservation structures (25)
  • Provision of vegetable seeds to 780 households
  • Provision of farm tools & equipment to 780 households
  • Establishing/strengthening market information centres
  • Capacity and skill building of communities on maintenance and use of community structures and on the Community Based Resource Management (CBRM) approach and mechanisms
  • Establishing community-managed revolving funds for 50,000 birr in two locations in each woreda

Amhara and Oromia regions

  • Social Security assessments conducted in targeted woredas
  • Consultative review of PSNP and other food security programmes
  • Consultation and strategy development through learning from the response
  • Baseline survey/ assessments
  • Monitoring of project implementation
  • Documenting lessons learnt and dissemination
  • Conducting mid term and final evaluation
  • Application of learning in development programmes and policy advocacy

 

Management and implementing partners

The overall management of the project was supervised by agricultural scale-up programme managers who were in charge of Amhara and Oromia regions respectively. Partners were responsible for project implementation on the ground. The project was implemented over a 16 month period (September 2008 - December 2009). However actual implementation of project activities was completed in the first 12 month period and the remaining four months were used for evaluation, documentation of lessons learnt and wrap-up.

The project was implemented by the Organisation for Rehabilitation and Development (ORDA) in Amhara region, and by Rift Valley Children and Women Development Association (RCWDA) and Rural Organization for the Betterment of Agropastoralists (ROBA) in Oromia region. Relevant government departments at regional, zonal and woreda levels were consulted during the course of implementation.

Target beneficiaries

In Amhara region, a total of 2,300 households (11,500 people) in six woredas were directly involved in and benefited from this project, constituting at least 13% of the affected population in these woredas. All of the beneficiaries were also the beneficiaries of the Agricultural Scale Up Programme (1,080 households targeted on malt barley value chain and around 1,220 households on honey value chain interventions). It was estimated that about 88,000 people in these woredas indirectly benefited from the project interventions.

In Oromia region, a total of 3,050 households (15,250 people) in three woredas (Arsi Negelle, Kore and Kofele), in 15 kebeles of Langano Shala locality, were directly involved in and benefited from this project. It is estimated that about 75,000 people in these woredas indirectly benefited from the project interventions. All of the beneficiaries in Oromia region were also beneficiaries of the Agricultural Scale Up Programme.

Impact of the programme

Changes in household income

According to implementing partners and beneficiaries, the increase in income as a result of the EFSL project has improved households' access to food and assisted households to pay back the loans they received from saving and credit groups/institutions. The extra income has also enabled households to bridge the hunger gap and deal with food price inflation, improved access to agricultural inputs, particularly those that increase the productivity of high value commodities and enabled households to buy productive assets such as livestock. Furthermore, almost all households targeted by the project now send their children to school.

Data show a clear increasing trend in income from Oct/Nov 2008 to May and June, 2009, after which income fluctuated up and down. Most of the beneficiaries interviewed indicated that there has been a considerable increase in income.

Diversification of sources of livelihoods

Implementing partners and beneficiaries cited the following as examples of livelihood diversification due to the project:

Increased availability of food

Coffee production in Ethiopia

According to implementing partners and beneficiaries this has been achieved through a number of means:

Access to potable water supply

Access to potable water has improved through a number of means (more water points (faucets) and construction of pot/calabash stands) leading to improved water consumption both during the wet and dry seasons. It was also reported that the use of safe water supply has significantly contributed to improvements in health status of people, as well as improved children's school enrolment - particularly girls, as the time children spend on fetching water has decreased. The majority of water collection trips used to take 90 minutes but have now reduced to 30 minutes. Furthermore, women were spending less time queuing.

Access to local markets

The construction and maintenance of feeder roads improved access of particularly marginalised communities in the intervention areas to market and also to other social services, such as health.

Asset creation and ownership

Most households have created productive and non productive assets following the project intervention. There has also been a marked increase in holdings of livestock and other productive assets and a reduction in distress sales of assets.

Prices of cereals in local markets

The situation in Kofele woreda is typical of other woredas where the prices of cereal and livestock have declined or remained more or less stable (except for the price of bulls which have shown exceptional fluctuations in the months of December 2008 and March 2009 as shown in Figure 1).

The results of market assessment conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) during the project year are presented in Table 1. These indicate that in Oromia region, the prices of staple food such as maize, wheat and sorghum in quintals have generally declined over the year of the intervention. The same pattern was observed in Amhara region for maize and sorghum, although the price of wheat increased above the normal seasonal patterns. According to WFP, at national level, local prices of major staple foods continued to decrease as a result of the continued market stabilisation programme implemented by government and continued food aid interventions.

Improved awareness about the benefits of organised actions

Knowledge and awareness amongst members of self help groups (SHG) on development related issues has increased. Members explain the importance of organizing into groups by a local saying 'Jirbiin walitti yaatee arba hiiti', which means that 'when threads come together, they could tie an elephant'. The group savings initiated in each SHG has started to play a role in reducing the vulnerability of group members during production shocks. Currently all the SHGs have at least a monthly saving scheme and regular forums for discussion.

Participation of farmers in the construction of the grain banks indicates that there is an increased knowledge among farmers about the benefits of being organised and working together in grain marketing, as they are now in a better position to influence the market.

Saving patterns

Review of the available data indicates that there is still a low level of household saving. For instance, the saving and investment of heads of households in Bugna woreda for the month of March 2009 show that 100 heads of households saved/invested a total of 1,657 birr, i.e. 16.57 birr per household. In Arsi Negelle woreda in February 2009, only 160 birr saved/ invested by 189 households, i.e. 0.846 birr per household.

Changes in gender relations

Interventions in high value crop promotion, public works and cash transfers, potable water supply and the support to off-farm income generating activities have all enabled women to address both their practical and strategic needs. Women have been equipped with important life skills in areas such as small scale business development, entrepreneurship, petty trading and the production of vegetables and fruits.

There are clear indications of changes regarding women's participation in community level processes, including political participation and leadership. Interventions have also started to change gender based division of labour, with men and boys now assisting women and girls in household activities such as fetching water. There has also been a significant shift in decision- making. More than half of women now decide whether or not to participate in community affairs. A considerable number of women are now members of either committees or leaders of community organisations, including their saving and credit cooperatives, and are free to make decisions either to join such community organisations or not. Some of the women pointed out that because they are now economically in a better position, they can express themselves more freely and forcibly.

Key challenges

Due to increasing food prices, the cash provided through cash for work programmes is becoming inadequate to enable recipients to purchase foods similar to those provided in a food for work programme, thereby discouraging participation in the programme. Managing food price instability is a long standing policy challenge. With mixed experiences of agricultural price policy reforms, this has re-emerged as a contemporary policy issue.

The project targeted only a portion of the total population in the woredas worst hit by the food crisis. There has been an increasing demand, particularly for financial support from those areas in the woreda that were not targeted by the project. This has led to a situation where numbers enrolled in public work activities have in some cases almost doubled compared to planned number of beneficiaries. This dilutes financial resources transferred per head.

Stakeholders, government and the community have limited experience, as well as capacity, to effectively manage public work activities and cash transfers to vulnerable groups. This has, in some cases, resulted in the late or untimely delivery of project inputs to beneficiaries. Furthermore, price inflation of important project inputs has forced project expenditures over and above the planned budget.

Case study: Mohamed Kediro

Mohamed Kediro is 28 years old and lives in Kore Woreda, Shifa kebele Biftu village/Got/Ganda. He has a family of nine (three adults and six children below the age of 18 years).

Mohamed described how after the intervention, household income has increased as he is being provided with improved seed (malt barley) while the chronic problem of potable water has also been addressed. Furthermore, availability of household food has increased. Mohamed has participated in training on crop management. The project has provided him with financial support and improved seed varieties. But he reported there has been no change in his livestock management, as this is not well addressed by the project.

As a result of his participation in the project, he has now accrued important productive assets - he has bought one sheep, constructed a new house and has bought a bed.

Increased availability of food

According to implementing partners and beneficiaries this has been achieved through a number of means:

  • The transfer of cash resource to vulnerable households through public work has increased capacity of households to purchase food items from local markets.
  • The provision of farm tools and equipment enabled farmers to undertake farm activities more effectively coupled with the various soil and water conservation measures, e.g. the construction of check dams, cut off drains, and hill side terraces in areas that are highly susceptible to erosion and land degradation. These measures have led to an increase in production and productivity.
  • The training and technical support given to farmers in improved agronomic practices like seed beds preparation, technique of sowing seeds on the beds, mulching system, shading system and improved ways of watering seedling in different stages, have all contributed to increased production of crops.

Access to potable water supply

Access to potable water has improved through a number of means (more water points (faucets) and construction of pot/calabash stands) leading to improved water consumption both during the wet and dry seasons. It was also reported that the use of safe water supply has significantly contributed to improvements in health status of people, as well as improved children's school enrolment - particularly girls, as the time children spend on fetching water has decreased. The majority of water collection trips used to take 90 minutes but have now reduced to 30 minutes. Furthermore, women were spending less time queuing.

Access to local markets

The construction and maintenance of feeder roads improved access of particularly marginalised communities in the intervention areas to market and also to other social services, such as health.

Asset creation and ownership

Most households have created productive and non productive assets following the project intervention. There has also been a marked increase in holdings of livestock and other productive assets and a reduction in distress sales of assets.

Prices of cereals in local markets

The situation in Kofele woreda is typical of other woredas where the prices of cereal and livestock have declined or remained more or less stable (except for the price of bulls which have shown exceptional fluctuations in the months of December 2008 and March 2009 as shown in Figure 1).

 

Lessons learned

Households who are poorer in terms of ownership of physical assets are less able to apply resource management practices (such as land management, improved farming practices, etc) and hence they obtain lower yield and lower income.

Facilitating rural credit facilities and providing credit support to poor rural communities contributes towards enhancing their involvement in different income generating activities that increase income level.

Farmers' access to credit should be improved through the formation of saving and credit groups/cooperatives. More saving and credit cooperatives should be established and their institutional capacity built up through training, provision of materials, seed, money or working capital.

The onset of natural disasters presents new opportunities for microfinance institutions (MFI) especially in rural areas. MFIs can act as a logical mechanism for disaster relief, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and development. Disaster-oriented microfinance services may be in the form of new and temporary services developed as a post-disaster response, or as part of the menu of services already being provided by the institution. Microfinance programmes that target female clients are likely to have the greatest impact on household well being.

Relief and development are not separate entities. They are interdependent and should be considered as such when planning and implementing projects.

Some vulnerable households are labour constrained and hence may not be able to provide the labour required to participate in public works. Hence there is likelihood that children under the age of 18 become involved in public work programmes. Additional information is required to determine whether children have participated in cash for work programmes or not. Other data such as school participation of children and the work loads of women and girls should also be collected and analyzed to monitor and mitigate unintended outcomes.

Implementing this type of project within a short time-frame is a challenge, as there is limited time for community sensitisation, organisation, mobilisation, monitoring and training. More time should be allocated to ensure effective implementation, follow-up and support, as well as to assess progress and monitor impacts.

Conclusions

The project has made significant contributions in protecting consumption during times of food crisis and also saving beneficiaries' by providing cash, credit/loan and other agricultural inputs like high value seeds and farm tools. This has enabled beneficiaries not only to protect their assets but to go beyond that to create/build additional productive and non-productive assets in a short period of time. All of the important results and outcomes achieved so far have positively impacted on the capacity of the community to prevent, manage and mitigate vulnerability and shocks. Project interventions have contributed to the gradual stabilisation of market prices of major agricultural commodities, which in turn improved the access of households to food and enabled them to buy goods at reasonable prices. However, the problems of chronic vulnerability and high level malnutrition still persist in the project intervention areas. More efforts are required to understand and respond to this chronic vulnerability.

Making modern bee hives

The project also contributed to the countries' awareness of social protection, the ways in which it could be implemented, and the opportunities for poverty reduction that it offers. This made the project a welcome support for policy dialogue, demonstrating the possibilities of implementing social protection programmes in the country.

The added value of the project is that it helped maximise opportunities for high-value crop production as an alternative source of income by building the capacity of farmers and farmer-led local institutions. The promotion of market-oriented agricultural products, such as high-value crops, is of paramount importance in the process of quickly changing the lives of farmers who struggle to get out of extreme poverty and vulnerability.

Activities undertaken have directly contributed to improvement in the access of households to local markets. However, the adoption of improved agricultural technologies in general and the use of improved essential agricultural inputs- including organic fertilizer, in particular, is minimal among farmers in the project intervention areas.

In order to improve farmers' access to inputs and to markets, future programmes in the area should build the institutional capacity of local government, community-based organizations such as service cooperatives and saving and credit associations. Efforts should be exerted to introduce a number of new and improved technologies to the farming system in the woredas.

In order for the Agricultural Scale Up programme and EFSLP to become the country approach, Oxfam recognise the need to come up with evidence of impact for Government and donors. Oxfam are no longer alone in advocating this approach. The World Bank has recently invested 300 million dollars into an agricultural growth programme (AGP) that targets food secure districts. Oxfam staff have been employed as consultants to work on an AGP operations manual.

Disseminating lessons to government has been slow although Oxfam have convened the first forum on agriculture, which has been followed by two GoE led national forums. The Oxfam approach converges well with GoE's PASDEP2 (Poverty Reduction Policy) which advocates for agricultural development led industrialisation.

This programme has managed to integrate humanitarian activities into a development project by transferring resources in a different way. Oxfam are hopeful that the approach will continue to be emulated by other agencies including Government.

For more information, contact: Shekhar Anand, email: sanand22@hotmail.com

Show footnotes

1See field article in this issue, p27-30.

2Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty

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Reference this page

Shekar Anand (2011). Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods Project in Amhara and Oromia regions. Field Exchange 40, February 2011. p17. www.ennonline.net/fex/40/emergency