Knowledge is power; especially in an agricultural country like Ethiopia. Without the necessary skills and training, farmers will stick with old methods and fail to progress. In turn, the cycle of poverty continues. That is why education, not charity, is essential for development.
On my last day in Ethiopia, I headed to Chencha with Macra representatives to visit a young farmers’ organisation who wish to learn from their Irish counterparts. Again, this meeting proved how the transfer of Irish know-how can encourage positive change.
The farmers, collectively known as the Gendo Gembela Young Growth Association, were enthusiastic and bright. Their chairman, Samuel, spoke in English of various initiatives the group is engaged with, including plans to fatten cattle for sale. Many will soon start using the new potato seeds introduced by Vita and some are interested in beekeeping. Like their peers in Ireland, they are ambitious, progressive and curious.
There were a lot of questions. How can we gain experience with new technologies? How can we progress as a group? What can we do to improve our reading and writing skills?
Macra turns 70 next year and, in a way, it’s origins can be likened to the Gendo Gembela Young Growth Association. Formed to enable the social, professional and personal growth of young farmers, 12 teachers, farmers and agricultural advisors laid the foundations for the organisation. Now Macra has 8,500 members from the ages of 17-35 divided into branches nationwide.
With 84% of the 94 million Ethiopians living in rural areas (the majority farming) and approximately 30% under the age of 30, surely there is scope for a similar national group dedicated to the interests of young people working in agriculture?
In 1944, Macra faced the same issues that farmers in Ethiopia are dealing with today, such as poor literacy levels and land access problems, but managed to foster the development of agricultural leaders and organisations. A path was paved for those who may have not come to the fore otherwise.
The expertise and guidance that Macra can offer farmers in Ethiopia is invaluable. It will be interesting to see how their relationship with the Gendo Gembela Young Growth Association will develop in the future, and if others will emerge.