SOS Sahel Ethiopia is an experienced local organisation, working towards a better future for smallholder farmers and pastoralists across the country. See sossahelethiopia.org for more information.
Despite seeing significant economic gains and improvement in services in recent years, Ethiopians still face substantial challenges. The majority of the population (of approximately 100 million and growing) live in rural areas and rely on farming and livestock rearing for their income and survival. However, faced with recurrent droughts and floods that are being worsened by climate change, as well as disease, environmental degradation and population pressure, rural populations are struggling to continue with their traditional ways of life and are increasingly vulnerable to hunger and poverty.
SOS Sahel Ethiopia has over 25 years of experience working with communities in Ethiopia to reduce inequality, strengthen livelihoods of smallholder farmers and pastoralists, and enhance the sustainability of the fragile environments on which the communities depend. Once a country programme of SOS Sahel International UK, SOS Sahel Ethiopia is now a successful independent NGO in its own right, with an impressive track record in environmental conservation and management, livelihood security, disaster risk management and market linkages. SOS Sahel Ethiopia employs qualified and experienced local staff and has good working relationships with government and community institutions to ensure the smooth running of invaluable projects across the country.
Below are some examples of past projects SOS Sahel UK was involved with in Ethiopia. Since 2005, when SOS Sahel Ethiopia became a fully independent organisation, SOS Sahel UK stopped implementing projects and instead provided a supporting role.
The first project in Ethiopia began in 1990, and worked with families to increase food production and reduce dependency on outside aid. It worked with communities, providing tools and improved seeds to improve income as well as reduce soil erosion. It supported women to produce vegetable gardens, to provide them with a source of income.
This project went through three phases and ended in 1999, with a handover to local organisations and the government to ensure skills, capacities and responsibilities were transferred so that the impact could be long-lasting.
From 1994, the Wollo Agricultural Support Project worked to link farmers to research institutions, in order to test technical options and strategies for building the capacity of local institutions. Four years on, the project was followed by the Meket Development Programme that scaled up activities to strengthen community level initiatives and capacities for self-sufficiency. It worked closely with local government services to develop methods to stabilise and reverse environmental decline in the mountainous and remote region. This project ended in 2004.
In the 1990s and 2000s, SOS Sahel’s conducted various projects to improve Food Security in Ethiopia; working with farmers and pastoralists to improve their practices, in order to increase productivity and care for the land. During this time, the organisation also ran some emergency relief projects, responding to food crises in the country.
A large focus of SOS Sahel Ethiopia’s work was also on sustainable forestry management – a programme focus that remains a priority for them to this day.
This three-year project, which began in 2012, had an incredible impact. SOS Sahel Ethiopia worked in four districts surrounding Lake Boyo, an area suffering from extreme land degradation and flooding – which affected crops, grazing lands, settlements and properties, leaving much of the population increasingly vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.
The programme addressed these issues head-on. It empowered local communities to lead the physical and biological conservation of private and communal land, introduced new agricultural technologies to community members through training and subsidies, and supported income-generating activities specifically for poor women and other vulnerable groups. The effect that it had on land was incredible, and regeneration was much better than planned, expected or hoped for.
This project, which began in 2016, works in Southern Ethiopia where food security, irregular migration and youth unemployment are critical problems. These districts are also badly affected by climate change; recurrent drought is intensifying the food crisis and resulting in irregular migration as an alternative coping mechanism. The project is working in this context to address root causes of displacement and irregular migration through creation of economic opportunities and strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable communities. SOS Sahel Ethiopia is one of five partners undertaking the project, and its role in the consortium is primarily to undertake sustainable natural resource management, crop productivity and livelihood diversification activities.
These projects represent a sample of some of the most significant projects in Ethiopia during SOS Sahel UK’s life, but it is by no means a full list. SOS Sahel Ethiopia are continuing their work with vulnerable communities across Ethiopia. You can read more about what they are doing on their website.