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Irrigated banana and cotton zone
Chamo-Abaya: parts of Deramalo, Mirab Abaya and Arba Minch woredas cash cropping for national markets

Melaku Majore has just returned from a visit to Abebe Beleta, a relative who is much better-off than him. They agreed that Abebe will rent half a hectare of Melaku’s land. Melaku really needs the cash he gets from this agreement, but he also realizes that he will lose a future harvest of banana and cotton—a major source of income.

Melaku Majore has an asset that is considered valuable in his area: almost three hectares of land, some of which is irrigated by small rivers that flow from the highlands. Unfortunately, two hectares are left fallow because the soil is barren after many generations of intensive use. Melaku only has one hectare of productive land. The irrigated land is perfect for growing bananas, while his rainfed land is good for cotton. Selling these cash crops is not a problem; there are plenty of traders passing along the main road through his area that are willing to buy them. Any surplus bananas Melaku can usually sell to travellers on their way to Arba Minch.

Unfortunately, Melaku’s expenses are quite high. His children are only three and five years old—too young to help him in his fields, so he has to hire contract labourers to cultivate the land. Right now, he doesn’t have enough money to pay the extra hands. He doesn’t even have enough to buy maize and sweet potato to feed his family. This is why he is renting part of his productive land to Abebe.

Unlike Melaku, Abebe is a well-off farmer. He cultivates over three hectares of land and has eight cows, six goats and several chickens. He also owns two plough oxen, which he loans to Melaku in return for a share of the harvest.
For two years now Melaku has taken care of two of Abebe’s cows. In return he gets to keep half of the cows’ milk, which is a nice addition to his family’s diet of maize, beans and sweet potato. The food crops Melaku grows on his land are enough to feed his family for around seven months each year. The other five months he has to buy food.

Melaku is well aware of his poverty trap: “If I did not rent out my land, I could sell more bananas and cotton. With that money I could hire contract labourers to cultivate my land and buy pesticides, which would result in more bananas and cotton of a better quality. I would earn more, and then I could afford vaccines for my cattle and goats. They would be healthy and I would be able to sell them for a higher price. With that money I could buy an ox which I would fatten and sell before Meskel. Just like Abebe does.”

 

INDICATORS OF EMERGING CRISIS
ERRATIC RAINS Flooding is a chronic problem in Melaku’s area. It can destroy the cotton plants as well as the food
crops. With irrigated land Melaku is less vulnerable to rain
shortages, but these heavily affect families with non-irrigated land.
LIVESTOCK DISEASES Poor families like Melaku’s are unable to afford livestock drugs and vaccinations, which makes their animals vulnerable to livestock diseases that are prevalent in the area.
MALARIA Every year many families have to spend money on malaria treatment; household labour may be stretched during the wet season when malaria is at its worst.

POSSIBLE INTERVENTIONS
LOCAL PROCESSING OF COTTON Melaku’s cotton is processed in Awassa and Addis Ababa. If he could sell his cotton directly to processing facilities in his area, then he could by-pass
intermediaries and get a higher price.
COMMUNITY-BASED TOURISM The area around Arba Minch has potential for community-based tourism, with which people like Melaku could diversify their income.
SILK Silk production is a new source of income in Melaku’s area. With the right knowledge, techniques and access to markets this could become a cash earner.
 
Regions

Afar

Amhara

Beneshangul

Dire Dawa

Harar

Gambella

Oromiya

SNNP

Somali

Tigray

 

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