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Ethiopian Church Launches Organic Farming Programme

Ethiopia, September 30, 2005:

A new organic farming training programme run by the Orthodox Church in central Ethiopia has introduced farmers, clergy and community leaders to alternative and improved methods of caring for the earth, which it is hoped will be communicated to farmers throughout the country.

A workshop held earlier this year in the town of Assela was the first such conservation project carried out by the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Discussions are now continuing with the Regional President of Oromia on the feasibility of the Orthodox church working with the government on an ambitious five year plan to train many more farmers in bio-farming techniques to increase productivity, conserve the environment and reduce poverty.

The Background to the Church’s involvement

The Ethiopian church states that today, more than ever before, it sees caring for nature as part of its sacred mission and duty. The Church points to the Biblical mandate of concern and care for the environment, as well as to a rich legacy of how its saints, hermits, churches and monasteries have contributed to conservation. In ancient times, monasteries were traditionally surrounded by large forests, which were carefully protected. However, today, only remnants remain, as small patches of trees around churches and monasteries. After land nationalisation, part of the old forests fell under control of the government and were often cut down. The rest still remains under the management of the monastery however even these traditional areas of forest are now under severe threat.


The project was under the aegis of the Ethipian Orthodox Tewahido Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC) assisted by local and international agencies including ARC, the World Bank, Basic Education Africa (BEA), the International Centre of Insect Physiology & Ecology (ICIPE) and IBE.

The Participants

The participants were clergy and farmers selected from the Arsi and Easter Shewa zones of central Ethopia.

It was hoped that they would introduce the techniques into their own practice, and would also share their new knowledge with at least ten other farmers in their home areas.

The Training

The training included learning how to optimise the production of vegetables, dairy products, honey, etc. through sound environmental management. Participants were shown how to maintain soil fertility, conserve resources through reforestation and erosion control, as well as using organic pest control systems. They were also shown the importance of minimising the use of chemical-based fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides.

Trainees were invited to discuss how plant, human, and environmental health and prosperity are improved through integrated organic farming techniques. “The ultimate aim is to attain food security,” a spokesperson for the EOC-DICAC said.

The course included:

* Principles of an organic agriculture production system.
* Organic fertilisers.
* Compost
* Deep soil preparation, including the double digging method.
* Organic pest management.
* Community-based control of tsetse, mosquitoes and ticks.
* Integrated pest management.
* Weeds.
* Beekeeping.
* Soil and water conservation, including drip irrigation and bed preparation.
* Solar energy for household use.
* Poultry farming.
* Poultry feeding and bird health.


Feedback was very positive and the participants were keen to return home and try out some of the new techniques.

Recommendations for future workshops included:
• increasing the length of the training to include greater hands-on experience of the farming techniques being taught
• learning more about biogas production – which participants agreed was a useful way of providing cheap energy for households without depleting the forest. Participants would have liked to have understood more about how to obtain biogas production systems for home use.
• using only equipment and tools that were available in local markets. This would considerably improve the chance of other farmers picking up the techniques.
• Providing training booklets or manuals, which they could refer to once the training was completed – to remind themselves and to teach others.

Such feedback was extremely important, as this was the pilot project in what is hoped will be expanded into training for half a million farmers in the Dioceses of Eastern Shoa and Arsi over a five year period.

Future Plans

Organisers recognized that workshops should be expanded by one or two days and that there needed to be a clearer plan of action of how farmers would implement the training on their own farms – through discussions, resourcing and monitoring - with further back-up support and training resources provided.

Following the training, a project concept document on Natural Resources Conservation and Poverty Alleviation with EOC-DICAC and Biofarm in partnership with Oromiya Regional State has been drawn up and is available for inspection. It is currently under discussion with the Regional President of Oromiya Regional State.

The first EOC-DICAC organic agriculture training programme took place from June 2 to 4, 2005.

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