Before Hadgu Nuguse began participating in MERET in 2007, he used to make a living by cutting trees and selling them for firewood, until there were no more trees to cut. He continued to farm his land, but nothing grew because the soil was so depleted.
“We didn’t have enough to eat between harvests,” he recalls, “we would go four to five months between harvests without anything to eat.” So he would walk, sometimes for days, in order to find work as a gardener and send money back to his family.
In 2007, Hadgu began participating in MERET (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transition), a joint venture between the Ethiopian government and WFP that helps chronically food-insecure communities rehabilitate their environments and improve livelihoods through the sustainable use of natural resources.
Now five years after he began participating in WFP’s MERET programme, Hadgu has been able to put all his children in school, and he no longer needs to go elsewhere for work. In between sowing his rows of teff (a staple grain widely grown in Ethiopia), while a family member plows the land with oxen, Hadgu cannot stop counting his blessings.
“We learned how to keep our livestock from overgrazing our land, we built terraces to prevent soil erosion, and we built dams and repaired watersheds. We planted trees and now we are watching them grow,” Hagdu says. But perhaps his proudest accomplishment is the increased soil fertility on his farm.
“We are food secure now, we no longer have a hunger gap,” he boasts. “And if we aren’t able to grow enough, I can buy things on credit and then pay it back.”
Hagdu wants his children to go to university and have plans to expand his farm, but he has one more goal: “I want to see everyone participate in MERET, because if they implement what they learn like I did, it will change their lives,” he grins. “It changed mine.”