The MERET project, launched by WFP and the Ethiopian government in 2003, helps poor farmers manage land better, so that it becomes more productive and does not become desert. Hiwot Gebre-Tsadkan explains how it changed her life.
Food security in Ethiopia is largely linked to rainfall patterns, land degradation, population density and infrastructure development. In a country where the population is largely rural, as much as 50 percent of land is classed as degraded.
WFP’s MERET programme has concentrated on integrated watershed management in Ethiopia for more than 30 years. Over this period, it has accrued extensive knowledge on how to implement sustainable land management activities using participatory, community-based approaches and these have laid the foundation for many of the Government flagship programmes.
This picture was taken in January 2014 during a handover ceremony of a MERET site to the community in Goncha, Amhara region, Ethiopia Photo WFP/Melese Awoke
Participants to the programme undertake environmentally-focused public works and receive 3 kilograms of wheat per day in return. Their work contributes to sustainable land and water management through practices like crop diversification, terracing and rehabilitating wells that have silted up. This, in turn, builds their protection to floods and drought, while increasing their farms’ productivity.
MERET operates in six regions with 451 communities. More than 400,000 ha of degraded land have been rehabilitated in 72 chronically food insecure districts. Annually 648,000 people have been assisted through MERET (2012-2015)87 mature MERET sites have been exited by WFP. At the UN summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Durban and Cancun, MERET was heralded as a model for resilience against food insecurity that should be replicated across environmentally degraded agro-ecological areas of Africa. Meret has demonstrated to the world that with proper planning and technical support, communities can improve their environment and livelihoods. In 2012, nearly 70 percent of MERET houses reported significantly increased income as a result of improved farm productivity through land rehabilitation interventions. Households who were previously on humanitarian relief are able to cater for their families on their own.
MERET has been described by Ethiopian government officials as a “Center of excellence”, and in close collaboration with the Ministry Of Agriculture MERET’s principles will be slowly integrated into a new framework where WFP will be an important stakeholder as technical advisor. The new scheme within the Ministry of Agriculture will be looking at sustainable land management in food insecure and pastoralist areas.