Growing a way out of poverty in Wof Washa, Ethiopia

Living in the misty mountains of Wof Washa

Tadesse Gataneh and his wife outside their home

Tadesse Gataneh lives high up on the dramatic slopes at the edge of Wof Washa Forest. At over 3000 metres above sea level, the appearance of the landscape can suddenly change when thick clouds roll in.

Tadesse and his family have struggled to make ends meet for many years. His children often went to school on empty stomachs. They got by on little more than one meal a day, and lack of nutrition was a serious problem.

The village, high up in the Wof Washa mountain range is often swathed in cloud

The main source of both food and income for most families in the area comes from tending to small, sloped agricultural plots. It is obvious from one look at these plots that they suffer badly from soil erosion. What’s worse is they require backbreaking work throughout the year to produce only a few basic grains such as teff, wheat and barley.

Learning new skills

When Tadesse heard about a TREE AID project starting nearby he seized the opportunity to learn new skills and to improve his family’s lot in life.

As he put it; Money goes, but once learned knowledge and skills stay.

This understanding transformed Tadesse’s life. He received training in growing and caring for seedlings and he immediately set about growing apple and plum trees.

The true value of knowledge and trees

When it came to harvesting, just one plum tree was able to give nutritious fruit for his family. He was able to sell extra plums for a total of 3000ETB (around £105). Income from his trees has made an incredible difference to his life. Tadesse has constructed a new home, with an iron roof. His family don’t have to sleep in the same space as their livestock anymore. He and his wife no longer sleep on the floor as they have purchased a bed. Tadesse has bought a solar lamp for his children so they can study at night.

Apple and plum trees provide a vital source of income and are well suited to Wof Washa’s climate

Surviving when the rains fail

Tadesse and his family used to have little to fall back on when the rains failed.

“One of the biggest differences the project has made is that it has given us options. We used to rely on crops, it is only now that we have a variety and we can still send the boys to school even when the rains don’t come.”

Unexpected benefits

Poverty takes its toll in many ways. Tadesse spoke frankly about two things you might not consider immediately. His standing in the local community and his relationship with his wife.

 “I am now regarded as highly skilled in growing and caring for seedlings and other people in village come to me and ask for my help and expertise”

“When you are poor family relations are affected, it’s hard. In my own case, my children used to go to school with an empty stomach. Now they go to school with a full stomach, come home for lunch and can study in the evenings in their own space. This has improved my relationship with my wife.”

It was humbling to hear Tadesse speak so honestly about his relationship with his wife. And thinking about the many effects of poverty, it is obvious now to think about the strain it puts on the most important relationships.

Tadesse explains how the reliable income from growing fruit trees has changed his family’s life

The next generation

Now that Tadesse has improved his life and his independence thanks to the training provided to him by TREE AID supporters, he’s clear about his next ambition

“My dream for the children is that they will all continue in education so that they have the opportunities that I didn’t.”


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