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FEATURE STORYApril 25, 2023

Farmers’ Cooperatives Bear Fruit in Dry Areas of Eastern Ethiopia


  • The project is promoting and expanding alternative sources of water to help solve problems for farmers in dry areas now more often affected by drought as a result of climate change.
  • The project also promotes the use of different varieties of improved seeds, providing technical training and expertise to boost productivity.
  • Sector offices are collaborating to help farmers solve their challenges and build the capacity of cooperatives to meet production challenges.

ADDIS ABABA, April 25, 2023 – Malika Ahmed, 34, and her husband and two children, are residents of Genderige kebele in Dir Dawa City Administration’s rural area. A founder and member of the Hamilton Fruit and Vegetable Production and Horticulture Seedling Suppliers Farmers’ Cooperative, her family is among the millions of smallholder farmers benefiting from the World Bank-supported Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGP-II) in Ethiopia.

The Genderige kebele is known for its production of fruits and vegetables and for export to foreign markets like Djibouti and Somalia. Since 2005, however, the area has been impacted by climate change, with recurrent drought, resulting in a sharp decline in the production of fruit and vegetables that is pushing residents into poverty.

Malika walking in her orange grove. Photo: World Bank

The Hamilton Fruit and Vegetable Production Farmers’ Cooperative was established five years ago. It is led by the strong, hardworking female farmer, Malika Ahmed, who is working to overcome this climate challenge in the area.

Malika, who was in school up to 8th grade, said the fact she had more education than her fellow farmers had pressured her to feel responsible for trying to solve both her and her neighboring farmers’ common challenges of access to water and improving their technical know-how to advance their productivity and production.

Pulling together their resources would help them, she thought, to get their voices heard and to find the support they needed. Malika, along with sector office support, established a cooperative. Her cooperative has eight women members and 17 men. She serves as chairperson and assumes responsibility for the extra work needed to take care of the cooperative and its relations with different sector offices and institutions.

The cooperative owns 25 hectares of agricultural land and grows crops including oranges, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Twenty-one hectares are planted with orange and mango trees; the remaining four hectares are sorghum. Two shallow wells, constructed with money from member contributions, have not been enough for the cooperative to fulfill its vision of producing more fruit. In fact, due to a water shortage, the cooperative is currently farming only 11 hectares of its land. The main factors limiting its capacity are a lack of electricity, the high cost of fuel, a lack of supplies of improved seeds, and the shortage of water, as well as a dip in pepper production due to a fungal disease.

However, with the support of the Bureau of Agriculture, Water and Sewerage, and Mines and Energy, the cooperative has been able to drill a 175-meter-deep well, get its hands on generators and improved seeds, and find technical training and expertise.

Dry as a bone before, now worse

The Dire Dawa area in eastern Ethiopia was dry before droughts became more frequent and pronounced. Even then, farmers could not get enough water for their produce. But Malika has noticed the change. “Now the leaves can witness the change we are having.” 

Cropland of the cooperative. Photo: World Bank

Only water and the technical support provided enable her and her farmers to cultivate their 11 hectares. In the 2021/22 farming season, their average per-hectare yield was 1,500 quintals of oranges; 400 quintals of tomatoes; 320 quintals of onions; and 150 quintals of peppers. The produce was sold to traders from Addis Ababa and Djibouti. The members of the cooperative earned more than 5.4 million Ethiopian Birr in revenue, 2.1 million of it is net profit. “The profit would have been better,” Malika said, “if they’d had access to the electrical grid which would help to cut their huge daily fuel cost for the generators and watering.”

Nonetheless, from her earnings Malika can send her two children to a better school. Three members of the cooperative have bought small vehicles, known locally as bajaji and usually used as taxis, and five, including Malika, were able to buy places to live in the town with the income they generated from the cooperative. Malika said the cooperative is also creating jobs and that its workers are earning their degrees while working on the farm.

In the next five years, members of the cooperative would like to supply products directly to consumers, produce fruit and vegetable seedlings in a greenhouse,  supply the local community with produce at affordable prices and, in the long term, go into agricultural manufacturing to make tomato paste and orange juice to supply local and foreign markets and generate greater profit.

The cooperative experience shows that expanding alternative sources of water for areas with low rains and affected by frequent droughts, access to improved seed varieties and technical support, coupled with farmers' dedication, and strong women leadership, farmers can solve their challenges and better results can be achieved.

Genderige kebele of Dire Dawa City Administration is one of the 4,107 kebeles benefiting from the Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGP2). The project is financed by multiple donors including the World Bank, European Union, Global Affairs Canada, Italian Development Cooperation, Royal Netherlands Embassy, Spanish Development Cooperation, United States Agency for International Development, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.


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