Saturday, May 26, 2012

Livelihoods strategies in Zefie watershed, some impressions from the farm household survey

In Zefie watershed, 90 farm households have been interviewed for the NBDC project by the Amhara Regional Agricultural Institute (ARARI). The sample was stratified to insure that the three landscape zone (see as well as the female headed households were represented.
As part of our quality control, I have checked all the 90 surveys, and share with you some impressions. Note that these results are preliminary and are not based on any formal statistical analysis.
A female enumerator, interviewing a female household head

Our questionnaire contained a whole bunch of question allowing to assess the level of hunger in the area. The amount of month a household could feed itself from its own production was ranging from 8-12 months. Also diets are very un-diversified, mainly based on wheat, and sometimes supplemented by beans. (Note that the question asked about the food consumption of the last week, as they just have planted potatoes, they do not have any left for food). Interesting is also that most of the households have little livestock and therefore potentially access to animal proteins. But usually animal proteins are sold on market for cash and never consumed by the household. Finally most of the household have indicated that they do not eat the food they want to eat due to food shortage. Only few household mentioned to not eat at all for a day more than 10 times in the last dry season because of food shortages.
geo-referencing the homestead
In most households, one family member migrates for 2-3 months to the city (Humera) for getting some income. The reason for migrating is or land shortage or food insecurity. This income ranges from 500-2000 birr (30-112 dollars) per migration season. There is no household living as daily laborer. We have not met any landless people. We think this is because land is still big enough (older households have up to 5 Timat = 1,25 ha) to be shared with the younger generation. Also the young people stay on their parents farm, resulting in our survey into bigger households on the same land, but no landless people. There is very little on-farm diversification, some of the household sell charcoal or have off-farm employment.
Quality control : the field supervisor checking the just filled questionnaire
A whole bunch of question looked at livestock exchange. Interestingly many farmer indicated that they let other households keep and feed their livestock. The reason indicated by farmers who give away their livestock is labor shortage. Most commonly the benefit of the animal goes to the animal keeper, but the risk of loss (death or theft) is taken by the owner. Most of the farmers give their livestock to family members nearby (5-20 min walking from their homestead) who have more labor capacity. My logic tells me that if some households give let others household located very nearby keep their livestock, there must be approximately the same amount of households that keep livestock for others. Strangely this is not the case in our survey. Two possible explanations for this : first it might be a sampling problem, secondly smallholders do not perceive helping out their relatives/neighbor who have labor shortage for livestock as "keeping livestock for others".
In terms of rainwater management, most farmers have bunds, both stone and soil and most of them somehow manage their gullies, and enclose their farmland. Nonetheless, livestock grazes freely within the farm boundaries. Nonetheless the farmers mention that they use the cut and carry system. They then refer to the fact that they bring weeds and grasses that are growing on the bunds or on the field contours to the livestock. As groundwater is shallow, some of the farmers have shallow wells from which water is lifted with a bucket. Multipurpose trees are not very common in the area, this might change with the tree nursery (see Despite of this the watershed has many acacia trees in the fields and eucalyptus trees to stabilize the gullies and on farm boundaries. Fruit trees, namely apple is very recent and benefits are not yet observed, but there is a lot of hope that this will be a profitable business. River diversion is not really suitable in the area and are not observed.
Talking to farmers in order to understand what cannot be captured by the survey

Reasons for non-adoption of rainwater management practices are land shortage, lack of market access (for improved breeds or varieties) and sometimes lack of capital.
In the discussion with the farmers, after filling the survey have mentioned the limitation of improving productivity of crop production and therefore wish to be able to access improved livestock breeds and improve livestock productivity.
the joint ARARI-IWMI/ILRI supervision team

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