A field trip was arranged from August 31 to September 9, 2017 to familiarize PhD candidates with the study area and undertake field observation to understand the terrain features, to see how conservation is being undertaken, discuss what practical problems the farmers are facing and discuss with district agricultural and food security experts. Local promotors and PMT members of Bahir Dar University participated in the field visit.
Our visit was to three districts in the EENSAT study area: Libo Kemkem, Ebinat and Belesa Districts. We contacted the woreda officials and experts from food security and office of agriculture. During our discussion we understand the food insecure are supported by food security programs, of which Productive safety Net Program is linked with development activities, construction of conservation structures to get grain/cash in return. Since 2003 the productive safety net program has been there supporting the poor. As to the experts, the changes brought about due to the support is not visible. The resources (land) are being degraded, forest resources are diminishing, and the productivity decreased. The use of chemical fertilizer by the farmers is increasing to improve fertility and produce more.
Most of the beneficiary Kebeles of food security programs are in the degraded highland areas. As the resources are degraded, from some of the districts a number of people are resettled to the western part of the region where there are fertile lands. In some part of the highlands, land slide is common, which we have also observed during the field visit. Forest resources are very limited to the Churchyards and monasteries. We observed that, in some of the districts, fertile lands are also covered by Eucalyptus trees. This is due to the fact that farmers consider the return from it is better than growing crops.
We made detail observation and discussion with farmers and experts and identified a number of problems including: Shifting of growing period, Late coming and early cessation of rainfall, Erraticity of rainfall, increasing frequency of drought, Invasive alien species highly affecting crops, Stone faced agricultural land, Rugged terrain features, limited irrigation agriculture, Undiversified/limited livelihoods, increasing landless youths, High level of deforestation, Food aid decency, decreasing cattle population, Illegal encroachments into steep slopes and communal lands, Limited and low quality Soil and Water Conservation Structures, hail storm and limited water resources (in a decreasing trend).