Improving Crop and livestock development is a major area of focus in strengthening house hold food security and Agricultural livelihoods. Smallholder farmers engaged cereal Production and Horticultural development, Dairy Production, small rumint fattening and Production, Poultry production, bee keeping development for consumption and income generation received support new technological Inputs and capacity building.
In economies like those that exist in Tigray, income diversification is an absolute necessity if the poor are to move permanently out of poverty. There are constraints however to immediately realizing this goal: agricultural households are generally poor and few produce surpluses. Lack of capital to invest in yield increases by way of improved knowledge, equipment, seeds and technologies, are main causes. The grim reality is that only 20 percent of cropped land in Tigray is devoted to the production of cash crops, severely inhibiting the potential to grow household incomes from within agriculture. Imperfect markets and limited non-farm opportunities are compounding factors.
For several years now, REST, through its Smallholder Livelihoods Program has invested heavily in removing the obstacles to better futures by creating alternative income opportunities for the rural poor. Our program relies on best-bet solutions that can progressively and sequentially build diverse and durable rural livelihoods using innovative agricultural technologies; and by diversifying both crop and livestock production. Strategies that strengthen markets and increase farmer capacity complete the market chain cycle.
There are several categories of activities that make up the REST Smallholder Livelihoods Program:
Water Harvesting and Small Scale Irrigation Development
With worsening impacts of climate change on hydrological cycles and rainfall patterns, we are assisting farmers to access and control water resources, raise on-farm productivity and build resiliency into rural livelihoods through small-plot crop irrigation. Employing water efficient and labor saving irrigation technologies, we developed different structures and set-up Water User Management Committees after conducting social and economic feasibility assessments, and hydrology and land surveys.
To exploit the newly available water, Rope and Washer Pumps, Family Drip Kits and Motorized Water Pumps were distributed to farmers on a credit basis, along with technical training enabling the irrigation of hectares of farmland.
Production of Economically Valuable Crops
Given the centrality of crop production in farming systems in Tigray, REST has sought to augment farmer incomes and diets by encouraging the adoption of agricultural production systems that bring high rates of return, and have good market potential such as fruit, vegetables and other drought-tolerant crops.
Enhancing the Productivity of Livestock
Lack of adequate fodder and water are main hindrances to maximizing the income and nutritional potentials of livestock ownership. Serious land degradation along with pasture depletion and overstocking are main causes. To reverse these constraints and capitalize on the current high demand for animal products in Tigray, we strategically work on improving livestock quality and expanding opportunities for income from livestock products by developing forage and water supplies, and overstocking are main causes. To reverse these constraints and capitalize on the current high demand for animal products in Tigray, we strategically work on improving livestock quality and expanding opportunities for income from livestock products by developing forage and water supplies, and creating livestock agro-enterprises.
Catalyzing Agricultural Enterprises
Several innovative and contextually viable agricultural enterprises have been offered to farmers throughout the last 20 years:
Found in Western Tigray, REST has promoted the adoption of ‘Begait’ cows and bulls to low and midland areas of Tigray. Known for their ability to survive in harsh conditions, high milk yields and short gestation times, Begait dairy cows were distributed to farmers, enabling them to establish dairy enterprises and to assist family nutrition through the consumption of dairy products. Training on shelter and feed preparation was also given to ensure proper care of the animals.
Honey production is a long time tradition in Tigray, most commonly practiced in backyards, and now in enclosures. To enhance honey production levels, skills, and incomes, landless youth and poor households each received modern bee hives and complimentary training on aspects of honey production, and beekeeping management.
Livestock Production and Fattening
Distribution of Small Ruminant Rearing and Animal Fattening (3 month cycle), Cattle Fattening has been implemented in order households to generate good earnings from their livestock assets.
Because of the rapid economic returns, 420 farmers, mostly women, received 5-6 day old chicks and training on poultry management and marketing across 6 Waredas. Support was also given to all 10 existing poultry cooperatives set-up by REST last year, to ensure proper operations.
Livestock Watering Point Development
Water is the most important nutrient in animal feed and for animal health, and constitutes 88 percent of the content of milk, but like livestock feed, it is in short supply. To therefore protect livestock assets, we constructed livestock watering ponds, with water holding capacity of 1583 m3 of water.