For years they fought in vain against the drought in the southern part of the country. But with the help of Bread for the World and the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY, also called Mekane Yesus Church), the people of Konso are now free from their plight and harness thousands of hectares of land from the dry bush. From a mile-long network of irrigation canals, about 100,000 people will soon have enough to eat, from a reliable source.
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A canal of enormous dimensions
The symphony of the shovel work can be heard long before one can actually see it. The metal meets the sand a hundred times, ensuring the uprising and abating crunch, accompanied by a cheering singing. The source of this composition is hidden behind the golden sea of corn plants with splendid ripening corncobs. 500 men and women of the people of Konso here in southern Ethiopia dig a canal of enormous dimensions: 1.2 kilometers long, three meters deep and three meters wide. Halgete Orano, a chairman of the Jarso Farmers' Union, wipes the dust from his sweaty face with his t-shirt, "In the past we would have had troubles finding the workers who can work as hard and fast as we can work today. The people were as thin as a beanpole. "
Everybody was starving
The villages of Konso hang like swallow’s nests on the mountain tops, with their fields lying underneath. The terraced fields use the scanty rainwater efficiently and prevent the erosion of the thin humus layer. But in recent decades, corn and sorghum grew worse and worse. Drought was the reason for the frequent crop failures and the soil was exhausted. "Everybody was starving," recalls Halgete Orano. "Instead of three times a day we ate only once. And some days we didn’t eat at all." But the people of Konso didn’t give up. "We have tried to grow corn on the lowland of our traditional ownership. However it was too dry there, so we could only graze cows and goats. The rivers were flowing only after two short rainy seasons, and the water floated unused into the plane. With the self-made dam made of branches and brushwood we managed not to let the river to divert from its course.”
The farmers contacted their former elementary school teacher who had been working for the development program of the Mekane Yesus Church. With the help of “Bread for the World” and guidance from the engineers, they developed an impressive soil irrigation project. Thanks to almost 50 kilometers of canals, which they dug with their own hands, the farmers can now grow corn on 4,000 hectares of land. The nourishment of 100,000 people is soon to be ensured; not only because of the corn cultivation, but also due to the sales of chili, sesame and tomato, which could not be grown before due to the water shortage.