Climate Change in Ethopia: Martha Simon

Martha Simon, 25, a small-scale coffee farmer in Ethiopia, is one of hundreds of thousands of people faced with the effects of climate change.

Martha Simon, 25, a small-scale coffee farmer in Ethiopia, is one of hundreds of thousands of people faced with the effects of climate change. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Martha Simon, a small-scale farmer who grows coffee and chat, a plant used as a stimulant and cultivated as a cash crop in Ethiopia’s Oromia State, is optimistic about the future. The mother of a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl has seen the benefits of long-term development support in the region but is adamant that people have to be able to stand on their own two feet.

“I don’t believe that as part of the community, the external support should continue.,” she says. “I want to be self-reliant. I would like to build a home in a bigger town. If I save enough money, I can buy land and a home there.”

She’s been able to accumulate some savings through a CRS microfinance program called SILC, which also allows her to borrow money. The program is part of a safety net that also provides emergency assistance like food, but it emphasizes self-sufficiency through better farming techniques and business ownership.

“Before the safety net program, we had a lot of problems,” Martha says. “I always had to look for work so I could feed my children. I used to collect wood far away to sell in the market so I could buy food.”

After learning better ways to cultivate and harvest her coffee, Martha is now able to grow more and sell it for a better price, benefiting her whole family. “I only have a small plot of land and earn [about $49] per harvest if it’s good. I was even able to build a home,” she says proudly. “Before, I didn’t have one.”

“We lack productivity because of the shortage of rainfall.”

She’s also able to buy nutritious food and school supplies. But the ever-present effects of changing weather patterns because of climate change aren’t lost on her, especially since she depends on a crop that takes 8 years to mature.

“We lack productivity because of the shortage of rainfall,” she notes. So she plants other crops when necessary. “We’re planting sugar cane on terraces and a variety of grasses. We collect grass and sell it as animal feed.”

To continue her success with selling coffee and saving money, Martha has been selected to participate in a project called REAAP, which stands for Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnerships. The CRS-led project will help 475,000 people adapt innovations to mitigate the impact of climate change. The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Changing weather patterns, including erratic rainfall, prolonged drought and flooding have threatened many farmers and pastoralists’ survival. CRS has partnered with the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat in Oromia State to work hand-in-hand with communities in 100 “kebeles,” or districts, to decrease the risk of climate-related disaster and increase resilience to potential shocks.

Kim Pozniak is a CRS communications officer covering sub-Saharan Africa and global emergencies. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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