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
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
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
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.”
OF EMERGING CRISIS
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.
families like Melaku’s are unable
to afford livestock drugs and vaccinations,
which makes their animals vulnerable to
livestock diseases that are prevalent in
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.
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.