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Agricultural Project in Ethiopia: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in order to Fight against the Vulnerability of the Local Population

Jonas Bhend, Marion Künzler

03 / 2010

Climate change affects poor people in particular. They often rely heavily on natural resources and have very limited capacities to adapt. The rapidly changing climatic conditions hence put years of development efforts at peril. Development projects, on the other hand, strengthen the adaptive capacities of local communities and contribute to reduce or increase greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, climate change is often not considered explicitly in planning and managing development projects.

Bread for all and HEKS take climate change more formally into account through a tandem of measures. The project’s impact on the adaptive capacity of the local communities and on net greenhouse gas emissions is assessed in a comprehensive and structured analysis. The Climate Proofing Tool provides guidance to carry out this analysis. Climate change workshops for partners in developing countries provide the basics needed to analyze development projects. Furthermore, the workshops raise awareness on the topic of climate change among the project coordinators and they foster the cooperation between different institutions working on climate change.

Waiting for the Rains

Ethiopia, located in the Horn of Africa, is Africa’s oldest independent country. However, it is better known, unfortunately, for its droughts and famines and the long-lasting civil war with Eritrea. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in Africa, 77.5 percent of the population have to make ends meet with less than 2 dollar a day. Ethiopia is Africa’s leading coffee producer, however, low prices on the international markets have seen many farmers switching to drug production (Khat) for supplement incomes. Subsistence agriculture dominates Ethiopia’s economy, generating 60 percent of the income, and the population growth of 2.9 percent per year puts the natural resources under massive pressure. Malnutrition, insufficient health care, and a high rate of illiteracy among the population are further signs of the disastrous situation.

The main climate risks threatening communities in Ethiopia are late or insufficient rains, droughts, crop pests, and vector-borne diseases such as malaria. Future climate change may also add new hazards such as floods that are not of importance at the moment. Clearly the most severe effects of the above-mentioned climate risks are the impacts on food production. Prevalent famines and widespread malnutrition are the consequences.

The Community-Level Project in the Oromiya Region

HEKS and Bread for all support several community-level projects in Ethiopia. The project analyzed with the Climate Proofing Tool is located in the Guduru and Hababo-Guduru districts, in central Ethiopia. The climate in the project area features two distinct seasons, the wet season from April to August and the dry season in the remaining months. In recent years, however, the rains started as late as mid-June and sometimes ended unusually early as well.

Tree nursery initiated by the organization Gurmuu

The project – carried out by the local organization Gurmuu – aims at improving livelihoods of the local communities and the management of natural resources. A wealth of activities contributes to achieving the overall objective. Formation on natural resources management, land preparation, tree planting, and watering, the establishment of environmental management committees, the introduction of fuel efficient stoves, and improved forage production provide the basics for a sustainable use of the scarce resources. Diversification of cultivation practices and incomes (e.g. beekeeping for the poor and landless farmers) and the introduction of adapted and marketable varieties help to reduce the vulnerability to crop failure. In addition, the local schools are equipped and supported and women’s awareness on their rights is increased and their socioeconomic status improved through trainings in basic business skills and entrepreneurship development.

The information used in the analysis with the Climate Proofing Tool is mainly collected through stakeholder consultations with the beneficiaries and the coordinators of the project. In separate meetings, women and men identify the different climate risks, their impacts, current coping strategies, and livelihood resources important in adapting to climate change. The women emphasize risks related to health and water, whereas the men describe crop pests in more detail, however, the results of the two consultations are largely overlapping. The major risks in the area are the late rains and droughts. Floods and heavy rains are unimportant following the stakeholders. As these risks are projected to increase, they should nevertheless be considered for future project activities.

The overall impact of the project on the vulnerability to climate risks is positive. The project’s activities mainly affect natural resources in a direct way. Fuel efficient stoves, for example, reduce the biomass usage for cooking and thus counter deforestation. Other resources profit rather indirectly from the measures taken. The outreach of the project, however, is low; only about 1000 out of 150’000 people living in the project area profit from project activities. Enlarging the project’s outreach could thus help to significantly increase the population’s resilience to climate risks. In addition, the introduction of drought resistant crops and strengthening water retention capacities can help to ease the negative effects of the main climate risk, the late rains and short rainy season. Further diversification of incomes, especially into activities less dependent on natural resources such as handicrafts and carpentry, and improved linkage to national and international markets should be supported. Even though not important at the moment, roads and other infrastructure could get important to protect in future, if floods and heavy rains are to increase as projected.

The project’s impact on the mitigation of climate change is positive as well, mainly by enhancing the sequestration of carbon in biomass and soils. Even though the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is not the primary concern of the rural poor, the synergies between adaptation and mitigation measures may be used to prioritize activities.

Workshop in Addis Ababa

The workshop on climate change, organized and financed by Bread for all, took place in Addis Ababa, November 2009. The participants in the workshop consist of project coordinators from Ethiopian partner agencies supported by Bread for all and HEKS, local experts from the University, the government, and from development organizations with interest in the topic of climate change, the facilitators from the HEKS branch in Ethiopia and a climate change consultant from Bread for all.

In presentations by local experts and by the international climate change consultant, the participants are introduced to climate change, its global causes and local impacts, strategies to deal with climate change, climate and disaster risk management, and climate politics. Inviting local experts to give presentations during the workshop is a highly successful strategy. Not only do they know the local conditions better than any other expert, but it is also very important for the participants to be able to get local support and advice. Especially the knowhow acquired by World Vision, supervising the first mitigation project in Ethiopia eligible to trade its carbon credits on the international market, could prove very useful for projects trying to commercialize their mitigation activities in the future.

In a series of exercises, the participants learn to use the Climate Proofing Tool. These exercises culminate in a draft project proposal for a development project that explicitly strengthens the adaptive capacities of the local communities.

The participants further visit the Subba State Forest, close to Addis Ababa. During this field trip, they apply what they have learned so far, i.e. they assess how the forest affects the local residents’ vulnerability to climate risks, but also questions of sustainable forest management are discussed. The experiences gained during the field trip complement the introduction to working with the Climate Proofing Tool in the exercises.

Lessons Learned

The third analysis with the Climate Proofing Tool confirms that the tool provides suitable guidance in very different environments. For the first time, stakeholder consultations have been extended to a full day per group. This allows the stakeholders to express and discuss their opinions in a less stressful environment, which in turn strengthens the self-learning process among the participants. New exercises have been introduced in the consultations: Participants identify areas and resources at risk on the hazard map. In a historical timeline, they identify past hazards and their change. The separation of men and women in stakeholder consultations works well, and should be pursued to minimize the influence of gender inequalities on the analysis. Additionally, the project coordinators expressed their satisfaction with the analysis, as they consider it to be helpful in future developments of the projects and programs.

The workshop on climate change held in Addis Ababa has been followed with interest by partner organizations of Bread for all and HEKS and other development agencies. The participants appreciate the workshop in general, providing them the necessary basics for further work related to climate change. The more homogeneous background of the participants and the higher level of education than in previous workshops facilitate the execution of the workshop and the preparation of the presentations. The participants complain about the tight schedule and missing time to discuss everything in detail. Furthermore, some suggest mixing the groups during the exercises in order to allow for more exchange among the participants of different organizations. So far, groups have been formed to best take into account local specifics and the different conditions of living among the participants. This resulted in participants of the same organizations ending up in the same groups. Whether the better possibility to exchange with participants from other organizations in mixed groups outweighs the difficulty in discussing when coming from different regions and environments remains to be seen.

Participants of the workshop in the Subba State Forest


transferência de conhecimentos, mudança climática, segurança alimentar, utilisazação de recursos naturais

, Etiópia


Tackling Climate and Disaster Risks in Development Cooperation


«What has been achieved with the workshop so far is a great beginning. Now it is up to us, to enhance the knowledge about climate change and disaster risks and take actions.» Workshop participant, Addis Ababa

This article is available in french Projets agricoles en Ethiopie : Gestion durable des ressources naturelles pour lutter contre la vulnérabilité de la population locale


For further information: Marion Künzler / Bread for all, In charge of the « Climate » workshops:

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