Environmental degradation, deser tification, and deforestation along with natural disasters like floods or droughts are all factors that result in migration as a coping strategy of households.
The most serious invironmental problems in East Africa are overgrazing, deforestation, water shortages, loss of biodiversity, and urban-industrial pollution. According to UNDP, the environment has become a crucial concern in Ethiopia. The principal environmental challenges in the country include land degradation, soil erosion, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, desertification, recurrent drought, flood, and water and air pollution.
Hence, environmental difficulties, in Ethiopia, caused forced migration since forced migration can occur through environmental concerns and climate changes. Because Ethiopia is vulnerable to climate change-induced disasters such as drought, epidemics, flood, conflict, earthquake, pests, wildfire, and landslide, amongst others. These different hazards occur with varying frequency and severity.
Egide Rwamatwara’s (2005) academic article entitled “Forced migration in Africa: a challenge to development” stated that migration causes and consequences present sociopolitical and economic factors specific to African historical realities. The natural disasters or climate change that have caused mass displacement in Africa include droughts, floods, and famine in countries such as Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Niger. The long-term consequences of these natural disasters and climate changes on national economies have also continued to force people to migrate even after the natural crisis.
Having this fact in mind, and the benefit of curbing climate change into consideration, the Ethiopian government has been mobilizing resources, various technologies, and the human capital to utilize the water resources of the country through irrigation. The government is tirelessly working to enhance agricultural production through irrigation particularly summer wheat production in the irrigable lowland areas and increasing productivity in the rain-fed agro-ecological zones of the nation.
However, Ethiopia has been implementing a summer wheat irrigation development project for the last three years, but this year’s project is different since the project has multiple purposes. The government has given a great deal of attention to the development of irrigation summer wheat production in order to enhance the ongoing efforts aimed at ensuring the food sufficiency of the country and expanding export items. The project is also important to cope with the effects of the war and to ensure the country’s independence.
According to Government Commu nication Service State Minister of Government Communication Service, Selamawit Kassa, efforts are underway to intensify summer wheat production. It is planned to develop a total of 400,000 hectares of land and produce 16 million quintals of produce.
So far, more than 256,000 hectares of land have been cultivated, of which 156,000 hectares have been covered with seeds, she added.
Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture State Minister Dr. Melese Mekonnen said that in order to achieve this year summer irrigation wheat development project, summer wheat irrigation development has been widely implemented in areas where there is no previous experience and that it is not only increasing production and productivity but also modernize the farming and pastoralist practices.
Furthermore, efforts are being made to modernize agriculture, and increase productivity through sustainable technology transfer. Against this background, the question arises to what extent the summer wheat development project currently and in the future is likely to curb migration.
Silte Zone Huliberagi Wereda deputy administrator and head of agriculture office Hirala Sermolo said the summer irrigation wheat development is a new practice for the Woreda farmers; nevertheless, they are working together with experts and stakeholders to provide daily technical support which has led to a change in attitudes and practices.
In fact, it is important to implement new technology and modernize the agriculture sectors to be productive during Ethiopian summer. Because, employment opportunity and engagement highly reduce migration by promoting resilience, thereby enabling individuals to make a choice between staying and migrating.
According to Hirala, summer irrigation wheat development is not a common practice for Silte Woreda farmers. Recognizing that good climate, fertile land, water, and productive manpower, it is one of the development projects that need to be addressed to ensure the food security of the farmers and to alleviate the shortage of wheat in the country. It is also essential to address the issue of migration.
“Out of the 4984 hectares of irrigated land in the woreda, more than 280 hectares of land has been covered and more than 12,000 quintals of wheat is expected to be produced. This is a significant effort to support the country’s efforts to meet wheat demand and to create job opportunities for youth” she noted.
The practice of irrigated wheat in the summer is significant to create job opportunities for the youth. The government, supply tractors, finance, generator benzene, pesticides, and herbicides for weeds, and providing technical advice and support to the farmers, has been facilitated to achieve the goal, she explained.
Ashute Burako, Ajra, and Shelwasho are some kebeles that are being developed in the woreda for summer irrigation wheat development. This area is one of the main destinations for young people migrating to various parts of the world, especially, Arab countries in search of work. Hence, in these kebeles, summer irrigation wheat development is being carried out extensively on individual farms, and youth groups. Because, it is being considered as part of a solution to prevent youth migration, she underlined.
Currently, concerted efforts are underway to complete the woreda’s annual irrigation wheat plan. Farmers, including family members, are busy watering their wheat fields. And the youth are observing the product. The product is promising.
Crop Harvesting Development Youth Association Chairperson Kamala Ahmed said that as a group, youths have been participating and working on summer irrigation wheat development to be self-sufficiency by creating job opportunities in the country.
“We are working in the hope that we can become rich in the short term if we do as much as we do in refugees in the Arab world or elsewhere. So, summer irrigation wheat development important to deter youths from migration” she underlined.
A group of leaders, experts, farmers, investors, and especially, youths from the kebele have taken to the neighboring Oromia Zone, East Shoa Zone, where they have gained experience in irrigating summer wheat production. They are determined to vigorously participate in summer irrigation wheat development, According to Hiralal.
It is true that the farmers, especially the youth have been working hard to make the summer irrigation wheat development more efficient. The government also provides supports via extension workers. Hence, new agricultural extension services with the help of new technology and practice have been implemented so far. This in turn gives various benefits to the youth to believe in the potential of the country in the agriculture sector.
Ethiopia is a country of young people in which more than 80 percent of its population is under the age of 35 years who is prone to migration. Whereas around 80-85 percent of Ethiopians are engaged in the agriculture sector, mainly in subsistence and rain-fed farming along with livestock breeding, Hence, the summer wheat irrigation development, if it is planned and managed properly, is significant to change both the attitude of the youth and the agricultural practices of the country. This is very helpful to prevent irregular migration and internal displaced which is caused by environmental problems including climate change.
BY EPHREM ANDARGACHEW
THE ETHIOPIAN SUNDAY EDITION 9 JANUARY 2022