With the help of the World Food Programme’s “Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transitions to More Sustainable Livelihoods” program (MERET), Ethiopian farmers in the village Goro Wagilo have witnessed a radical transformation. Fifteen years ago the hillsides were bare from deforestation and every time it rained, the water washed away the fertile top soil. In 1995, villagers signed on to the MERET program, a joint venture between the WFP and Ethiopian government. The intent of MERET was to feed people while they worked on projects to reclaim environmentally degraded land.
During the program, farmers built dams, cleared roads and terraced the hillsides. Eight years after signing on to MERET, nearly all of the farmers in Goro Wagilo were growing enough to support themselves and no longer needed food assistance. Another added bonus is that MERET provided some families with new cook-stoves that are safer to use. This type of stove burns three times less wood than the types that Ethiopians traditionally use, and doesn’t emit tons of smoke into the household.
Goro Wagilo’s struggle to revive its agricultural economy is a reminder of how important environmental sustainability is for development. Due to environmental degradation and deforestation, people’s livelihoods were being affected by the weather and poor soil conditions. Consequently, crop yields were too low or inadequate for families to sell as a means of support. Protecting the environment cannot be an afterthought if we are to achieve better living conditions for the world’s poor. Furthermore, Goro Wagilo’s story is an example of why environmental sustainability is a Millennium Development Goal.
SOURCE: World Food Programme