Guta, Tucho, and Gedefa take me to see a number of the projects that the Education For Development Association is supporting. While my part of their effort involves teaching the farmers ways to employ modern bee hives in their beekeeping operations, the EFDA is involved in numerous other efforts to improve the lives of the Ethiopian people. A number of their ongoing projects involve agriculture and the protection of the land. In today’s photo, EFDA staff member Gedefa points out to me terraces being built on the steep, highly erodible hillsides being farmed in the Western Highlands. In the foreground, a trench is planted with vertiver grass which will become a hedge to slow rainy season torrents of water rushing down the hillside and hold the soil. The vertiver hedge slows water run-off and increases water absorption into the soil. The four-foot tall foliage of vertiver grass is a useful agricultural product as well. It is harvested as animal feed; and it makes a good thatch for the roof of their round farm houses, called “toculs.” Vertiver grass is used in traditional medicines, and essential oils extracted from the plant’s roots are used in the production of perfumes.
In the deep valley in the distance, coffee plants are propagated under slatted shades. The coffee trees will be transplanted to grow in the shade of larger trees. Surrounding the coffee tree nursery we see the growth of a forest planted to replace natural forests cleared in times past. Beyond the ridge line, natural forests exist in the mountains leading down to the Blue Nile River. As we cross the ridge line the forest is hidden today in a blanket of heavy rainy season fog. Other projects we visit include training of leather workers, blacksmiths, boat builders, fishermen, and clay workers who build fuel-saving stoves. Almost all Ethiopian farms include honey bee hives. The farmers eagerly embrace my ideas for increasing their family income with transitional top bar hives and modern bee hives