Earth Day: How Mesfin’s work help's to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Ethiopia

Published: Apr 19, 2024 Reading time: 5 minutes
Earth Day: How Mesfin’s work help's to mitigate the impacts of climate change in Ethiopia
© Foto: Tereza Hronová

On 22 April, we celebrate Earth Day. However, like our colleague Mesfin Kassa, we should protect our environment every day. Mesfin's expertise is natural resource management—a field dealing with the interaction of people and natural landscapes. We talked with Mesfin not only about his work and most significant success within People in Need but also about the impact of climate change on local farmers and how they adjust to newly occurring conditions.

Mesfin, you deal with natural resource management in People in Need Ethiopia. Where does your excitement for protecting the Earth come from?

I have a background in agriculture, natural resources, and development studies. However, considering my field practice, I have the most experience in natural resource management. It is also my hobby and interest. Before I joined People in Need, I had been working in various organisations dealing with natural resources. Then, I joined People in Need.

What is People in Need's role in relation to other organisations in the natural resource field?

From what I have experienced also in other organisations, I can say that People in Need is notable for focusing on practical issues; for example, when it comes to assessing the basic needs of the community. People in Need also introduces new approaches, like a land management plan, which is crucial, especially in the first phases for effective natural resource management. In short, People in Need focuses on practice, it is community-based and eager to introduce new technologies, which makes us different.

What is the government's approach to tackling environmental issues?

The government has to deal with many issues, but it also focuses on the environment. For instance, they introduced watershed management; another of their priorities is planting trees. However, the government focuses on these challenges more broadly because they have to cover the whole country. Then, there are many NGOs, including People in Need, which fill gaps in different parts of the country or different fields by providing technical assistance or capacity building.

What are the most significant environmental challenges in Ethiopia?

In my opinion, the biggest challenges are land degradation and deforestation, both having severe consequences in various parts of the country. For example, wood is used for different purposes in rural parts of the country, which is approximately 85 %. People use wood for heating, cooking, household purposes, and construction. Therefore, forests are endangered. Climate change only aggravates these problems because it causes shortages of rain or floods. In Ethiopia, there has been seasonal variation, but now, you can see that these patterns have changed.

Climate change undoubtedly also has an impact on farmers and local people. How do they understand the changes in their region?

People might not be aware of why the change is happening, as climate change can be a scientific issue. But they definitely perceive the change in their area and the shift in seasonal patterns and the agricultural timetable. When we talk to those people, they say that there is a lack of rain and they do not know why. Climate change negatively affects the productivity of their fields and, thus, their livelihoods and social situations.

How do you help mitigate these impacts of climate change within the natural resource management team in People in Need?

Within our projects, we focus on addressing the challenges caused by climate change, creating adoption and mitigation measures, and helping our farmers. We enhance the climate resilience of the farmers by providing capacity building training, raising awareness or developing expertise. We have many discussions with the farmers and we explain how to cope with the situation. Through the project intervention practises we enhance farmers resilience to the effects of climate change effects.

Which advice do you give to those farmers?

For instance, in the area where we work, farmers often focus on the monocropping systems; they grow, for example, only maise. And we advise them to diversify their production. If one type of crop is affected, maybe the other can survive. We also support tree planting and nurseries to produce different types of seedlings. But these are just some examples of our work, which is very complex.

Is it important to adjust to the existing conditions?

Yes. Farmers need to shift their livelihood to other agricultural sectors and focus more on fast-growing crops, such as vegetables. They can also start with beekeeping or agroforestry practises. This is what our team tries to do—support farmers in new livelihood activities in order not to be endangered by climate change.

How does the natural resource management team operate?

The natural resource management team consists of field coordinators, field officers and technical experts. I am the manager of the project, and I control the overall things. We regularly visit the farmers in targeted areas. The field officers and field coordinators work in the field from Monday to Friday, and they are in touch with the farmers every day. They assist them technically, provide training and support them.

And where do the members of our field staff come from?

Those people come from our project areas. They are familiar with the local culture, region, and habits. We have specific criteria for choosing these people because, besides their place of origin, they need to meet certain qualification criteria.

What do you consider as your greatest success while working in People in Need?

One of the most visible things which I observed during six years working in People in Need is the large area of land which we have rehabilitated. And although this project has terminated those activities are still being continued by the members of the community. Also, People in Need is a great learning school for me, especially when it comes to practical things. And besides the success of our department, I also need to mention the great work of the other ones. Within People in Need, I can see changes and the impact of our help even within a short period, and this is, for me, one of the biggest successes.

Since we celebrate Earth Day today, is there something you would like to say to our planet?

We live on a beautiful planet, which is now challenged by human activities. And the Earth needs our protection. So, my wish for our planet is to be safe. To withstand the impacts of climate change in order to be able to sustain our future generations.

Autor: Eva Mrázková, Mihiret Wasihun Teklu

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