In 2007, a small community garden was started. By 2010, there was over 15 hectares of garden with 97 fee paying members. Each member yields 750kg of maize per year . The community now has enough to feed themselves, and make an income.


agriculture co-operative - project summary 2007-2014

Being pastoralists, the Afar are people whom move, and as one Afar women is quoted as saying "We are the people who move, from the beginning that has been our way and nor is there really any other way to survive in Afar Land”. This is true for the vast majority of the Afar, as much of region is dry and rocky, and therefore unsuitable for agriculture. Cultivated and arable land constitutes 5.24% of an estimated area of 97,250km2. Rainfall is erratic and scarce, and annual precipitation ranges from 200mm to 600mm.

The only fertile soil lies to the south along the Awash River, which is where the community of Yooren is located. For over 50 years this small fertile strip of land has been seen agricultural developments with large commercial farms. Cotton has been the longest and largest crop produced in this area.  As a result of these farms, many of the Afar communities in this area have become semi nomadic and become labourers on these farms.

The leadership and community members from Yooren requested that Barefoot Initiative assist them to set up an agricultural cooperative so that they would be able to grow their own food and receive a cash income. Barefoot Initiative saw this project as a wonderful opportunity for the community to improve their livelihood, their food security and their own development and willingly got on board to support it.

Barefoot Initiative’s role in this project included the following activities:

  •  Supported the establishment of the cooperative by organizing countless meetings with the community, the Halidabi cooperative leaders and the regional agricultural department
  •  Linked the community with the regional government to formerly register the cooperative
  •  Contributed financially to the costs associated with setting up the farm
  • Provided capacity building on good governance to the cooperative members 
  • Provided technical training to selected cooperative members on water pump maintenance

The objectives of this project was:

  • Improve food security
  • Support land ownership and empowerment
  • Improve liveliehoods with increased income
  • Improve nutrition and health outcomes with greater access to food and food variety

 The agricultural community farm now has a total of 15 hectares, with 97 cooperative paying members. The small fee paid annually by each member goes towards pump maintenance and any other fees that the cooperative incurs. The community harvests three crops annually, with each member harvesting approximately 750kg of maize annually. The members informed us that this is enough maize to feed them selves and still have extra to sell for a cash income. In early 2015 the cooperative was provided with a new diesel pump by the regional government as a gesture in support of all their hard work and success.

After supporting and nurturing the cooperative over 8 years, Barefoot Initiative has stepped back and handed full responsibility to the cooperative and it is now completely driven and run by the community.

The model used to set up this cooperative, which was supported by Barefoot Initiative, but developed by the community themselves, has become a gold standard model for establishing Afar cooperatives in the local area. Government officials and private land owners have visited the community farm to seek advise and support from the cooperative leadership to replicate what has been done. The table below maps out the growth of Afar farmed land since the start of this project.