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Born and raised in a small village near to the town of Deber Birhan, 131 kilometers from the capital Addis Ababa, Asgedech Wolde Tensay dreamed of a very different life to the one she is living now. As a child she wanted to go to school and become a teacher.
As her family lives near to the city of Debere Birhan, sending her to school should not have been a problem. “There was even a public school nearby” she says. However, they decided to send her older brother instead and keep her at home so that she could work on the farm and in the household.
Always searching for ways to improve
Growing up on a farm taught Asgedech everything she knows about agriculture. Not only what to do, but also what not to do. “My family owned a very big farm. However, there were always problems in the production. They didn’t produce enough because they were very traditional and never open to any new technology or innovation” she says.
That changed when she became a farmer herself. She now has a very small plot of land of around 1.5 hectares, but Asgedech, who’s now 40, is always searching for ways to improve agriculture productivity and increase her income. That’s why she started breeding animals,producing milk and selling fattened animals like ox and sheep at the market.
She also produces Areke, a very popular local alcoholic drink which is similar to gin. In addition, she rents other people’s land and produces different kinds of vegetables. She says producing vegetables is her favorite part of farming. “I just love and enjoy the work and the result is always very rewarding. I built my house from the revenue I made from producing and selling only carrots” she said happily.
An inspiring award
Asgedech won the 2015 Female Food Heroes award in Ethiopia for her exemplary efforts to increase productivity in her farm by using new technologies and linking up with other villages.
The need for, and relevance of, the FFH project in Ethiopia is high. While the country has experienced economic progress in the last decade, in which agriculture has played an important role, the contributions of women farmers are largely unrecognized, despite the fact more than 70% of food crops are produced by women. This lack of recognition has resulted in women’s discrimination and poor access to agricultural support despite progressive policies.
One of the most significant contributions of the project was changing the lives of FFH awardees, particularly in terms of confidence, exposure and motivation. The award inspired and strengthened their capacity to further grow their agricultural activities, expand their businesses and gain leadership positions.
In bringing individual women, their experiences and their achievements, into the spotlight, it improves the recognition of Ethiopian women farmers and provides them with the opportunity to engage directly with policy makers, which is particularly important given the challenges for farmers, particularly women, in Ethiopia.