Canadian Foodgrains Bank executive director Jim Cornelius surveying an irrigation project near Lalibela, Ethiopia. (Photo: Mike Shillinglaw)
Protecting and improving farmland soil plays a key role in ending hunger for millions of people around the world.
But many countries where we work face serious problems with soil erosion and loss of soil fertility. Much of this stems from the loss of trees and other vegetation on the mountains and hillsides and poor agriculture practices.
During my recent trip to Ethiopia, I was encouraged to see the transformative steps being taken toward improving watersheds that were once badly eroded.
Local governments across Ethiopia are establishing strong by-laws to protect the trees and vegetation on the mountains and hillsides and working with local community groups to rehabilitate and manage these protected areas for the benefit of the community.
The Ethiopian government is aware the traditional agriculture practice of repeated tillage is contributing to soil erosion, loss of organic matter, and soil degradation. Government experts have been closely monitoring the results of minimum tillage conservation agriculture programs being implemented by Foodgrains Bank-supported partners. These experts have concluded conservation agriculture practices are one of the solutions for improving the degraded soil conditions of the farmlands of Ethiopia and, ultimately, helping families improve their ability to earn a living through agriculture.
At a recent national workshop sponsored by the Foodgrains Bank and attended by senior officials from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and regional Bureaus of Agriculture, the Ethiopian government announced its commitment to promote conservation agriculture. With special funding from the Packard Foundation, we will be supporting the government in rolling out regional training of its extension staff on conservation agriculture in the coming months.
I left Ethiopia encouraged by the seriousness with which the problem of soil degradation is being addressed. Protecting and rehabilitating the soil is a critical part of reducing hunger and poverty for people in Ethiopia and around the world.
Thank you for working with us to address long-term solutions for ending global hunger.
—Jim Cornelius, Executive Director