Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Walk Along the Lehama Canal: Ethiopia Day #5

200 year old DaEro tree - a sign that water is near.
Water is life. Especially in Ethiopia. People here say that if you see a DaEro Tree it means water. We see our first one twenty-five bumpy minutes after going off road in the Land rover. We are in the rural community of LemLem to see how D&P is helping Ethiopians adapt to climate change.

Sure enough, there is water nearby this particular beauty. The tree is over 200 years old. “This is the Lehama River,” Tekle Assefa tells us. It looks more like a trickle of water in a dry river bed right now though. The rains still have not come here.

Tekle works for the church and helps to oversee the project we are here to see – a 2km concrete canal that diverts water from the river to the fields of the people.

Children lead us along the canal.
A crowd gathers around us as we exit the cars and start our walk along the canal. The words canal may conjure up an image of ships passing between lakes, but only a tiny toy boat could travel this one. In the next few hours, we are amazed to see what a simple foot-wide channel of concrete can bring to a people suffering from dry lands.

The first beneficiary of the project that we meet is Adey Alemu. She is busy weeding her garlic field with her two young daughters. In total she has six children. The canal has allowed her to have more control over the amount of water going into her fields. Fields that are not irrigated are called “rain-fed.” With rain-fed fields these days, there is either too much water when the rains come, destroying the plants, or there is not enough. As part of the project, Adey has received training on crop production as well as the water from the canal.

Adey and one of her daughters, weeding their garlic bed.

 “Before the canal,” she says, “I could only have one harvest. Now with more control over the water I have two or for some crops even three. I am better able to provide for my family.”

The contrast with the rest of the countryside is readily obvious as we continue our walk. Things are green and growing here. We see tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, cabbage, maize, and more.

canal break to flow water to fields.
Every so often along the canal there are breaks that are stopped up by large rocks. These are what allow the water to flow into the farmer’s field. Their use is carefully managed by the community. In fact, improper use results in a fine of 50ETB.

We come across an herb garden as we continue and women offer us lovely smelling plants. One particular herb is used as a kind of fragrance for a woman’s hair. Others are medicinal.

At another point, one of the project workers stops to talk with a farmer working in his tomato field to give him advice on how to deal with a particular pest.

We see Woman and children coming to the canal to wash their clothes. I watch one child refresh herself by splashing water on her face. I stop and do the same. It is hot today!

Tesfay, 77 years old with hope for the future.
We come to another Daero tree. Here a trough has been diverted out of the canal to feed the cattle. They can also keep cool under the shade of the tree.

Towards the end we meet Tesfay. He is 77 years old. He has lived through the time of war and famine here and lost friends and loved ones. But that is not what he wants to remember. Instead he says, “I remember when I was young, there were many trees here,” he says. “People cut them all down. But today we are trying to bring them back.” By some estimates Ethiopia has lost 98% of its forested areas in the last 50 years. Tesfay is right though - this project is helping to bring the trees back, one small step at a time.

Speaking of small steps, the children of the community have been scampering along with us our whole trek. They wave goodbye to us as we finish our walk and return to our Land Rovers. Tesfay can feel good about their future.
The Future of LemLem.

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