With TRAID’s support, PAN Ethiopia and PAN UK have created an extremely successful participatory model of agroecological farming that has benefited over 7,000 cotton growers in Southern Ethiopia by reducing, and for most, completely eliminating the use of dangerous pesticides and fertilisers.

Now the lessons learned will be used to support 1,200 vegetable farmers, and 20 government development agents in the Lake Ziway area of Ethiopia’s Central Rift Valley to reduce current very high levels of pesticides by using natural crop management techniques developed with cotton farmers, including food spray to attract beneficial insects.

A successful ‘proof of concept’ pilot between 2018 – 2022 saw 600 vegetable farmers reduce their use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) by 60 – 80% while maintaining yields. It’s now time to expand these incredible benefits to more vegetable farmers.

Assessing tomatoes

 

Vegetable production in  Ziway typically uses very high levels of agrochemical inputs, especially HHPs putting farmers and farm workers at risk of pesticide poisoning, as well as health risks to rural communities and consumers. In 2018, an estimated 72% of farmer workers interviewed described symptoms consistent with acute pesticide poisoning.

Excessive use of HHPs also contaminates soils and surface water and has raised concerns of harm to Lake Ziway, Ethiopia’s largest freshwater lake, its tributaries and surrounding wetlands. These ecosystems provide fish and drinking water for local communities and form a landscape of high biodiversity importance, including habitat for many species like hippos and stopover habitat for migratory bird species.

Lake Ziway, a biodiversity hotspot including hippos

Declines in bees and honey production are also blamed on agricultural intensification and in the last decade, we’ve seen firsthand that sustainable crop management by cotton growers has resulted in bees and other pollinators returning to their fields. To protect biodiversity and reduce the harmful effects of pesticides on human health, there is an urgent need to replace pesticide use with more sustainable, agroecological methods.

Smallholder livelihoods have become more precarious due to rapidly rising costs for agrochemical inputs and the effects of the COVID pandemic on availability and pricing generating huge uncertainty for conventional vegetable production, and exposing the vulnerability of farmers’ reliance on external inputs.

600 vegetable farmers participating in the pilot will receive continued training, with an additional 600 new farmers trained by 50 lead farmers, PAN Ethiopia and Bureau of Agriculture staff.

Two new trial fields will be established testing new methods of disease management, newly formed farming groups will be supported on business planning, marketing and links to traders, consumers, and retailers, and findings will be shared with to influence policy including field days, positive media coverage, and presenting field based evidence in national forums.

What a positive footprint from a decade of work on participatory agroecological models with Ethiopian cotton growers to now reduce HHPs, increase incomes and ensure food security for stand alone vegetable farmers.

Meet some of the farmers who have benefitted so far

Courtesy of PAN UK