By Makeda Yohannes/ECS
Before drought struck Ethiopia in 2011, Mulu Jaletu owned five oxen, enough to help his farm support his 12 children. But with no rain falling, his crops would often fail. As his money ran out, he was forced to sell one ox at a time so he could buy food for his family. Eventually he had sold all of his oxen.
Mulu and his older children had to walk four hours a day to work as daily laborers in the town center or on big farms. With those wages, they could only meet their basic needs—there wasn’t enough to save up for an ox for the next rainy season. Mulu gave up hoping. He thought he and his family would never be able to farm on their own land again.
Other subsistence farmers in the town of Meki, in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region, were facing the same dilemma. Everything they had was tied up in their small plots of land and their livestock. The successive droughts cost them their oxen, cows, goats and sheep.
Many farmers resorted to borrowing an ox from another farmer in return for ploughing his land before their own. While this arrangement enabled them to work in their farms, it would often limit their ability to make good use of the planting season.
With funds from Caritas members worldwide, the Diocese of Meki helped farmers restock their herds. “The process was fair,” says a farmer named Ebba Gisha. “They selected the poor who did not even own a chicken and those who had land but needed an ox to plough it with. The whole community was part of the selection process.
“I am very happy to be selected and to now have my own ox,” Ebba continues. “This will not only help me to farm my own land but would also benefit my children.”
Another beneficiary is Chaltu Ushe, a widow and a mother of five children. Like many poor farmers, she did not have an ox of her own. She had one cow and fed her family with the income she got by selling the cow’s milk and some vegetables she grew in her backyard. With the drought, she was no longer able to grow vegetables and had to sell her cow to buy food.
She is very happy to have been selected for the programme: “I can use the ox I got from the church to farm my own land and earn income that will improve the life of my family.”
Mulu is happy too. “I am now stronger than ever,” he says. “I have hope. I am all set to work hard in the coming rainy season and harvest.”