Ethiopia and Italy / 5 min read
a reawakened food for resilient small rural communities
Solen wakes up with the sun. Her children, Hawi and Beza (3 and 1 years old) still sleep, but she is already walking toward her garden. A horticultural mother in Ethiopia takes care of her garden every day. It is that garden that provides most of the food for Hawi and Beza, in a land where nutritional deficiencies abound.
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in Africa. Its population faces acute and chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. According to an EDHS report, 40% of children under five are stunted, 38% are wasted (too thin for their height) and 11% are underweight (CSA, 2014). In the case of women, 27% are chronically malnourished and three in ten women aged 19-25 years are under-nourished. Most undernutrition occurs during pregnancy and the first two years of life (EDHS, 2016; EU, 2016; Headey, 2015; Mason et.al, 2015). The concentrations of maternal and child micronutrient deficiencies (particularly iron, vitamin A, iodine, and zinc) are highly prevalent in rural areas of the country. The rural population depends on cereal-based diets and lacks access to nutrition-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and animal-source foods (such as dairy products, fish, meat, and eggs) (EDHS, 2016; Headey, 2015; Mason et.al, 2015).
For a female farmer like Solen, the garden represents her family’s primary source of subsistence and nutrition. Therefore, it is essential to reinforce the horticulture value chain and make sure that farmers can rely on improved agricultural practices and nutritious food.
In 2017, the development cooperation agents of CIHEAM Bari decided to face this challenge by creating Inclusive Sustainable Value Chain Development in Oromia (ISVCDO) project. It was funded by the Italian Cooperation and aimed at introducing new varieties to home gardens, filling the nutritional needs of the local population. The institutions put together a task force of food and cooperation experts from Italy and Ethiopia, who work together locally and remotely.
The objective of the project was ambitious. The task force wanted to enhance Ethiopian food systems, diversify the diets of local populations, spread a sustainable production system (including organic production), and increase small farmers’ incomes while respecting local cultural traditions. To do so, they looked at Ethiopian farmers’ stories, traditions, and in particular, their lost crops.
That is when Tiglu Tesfaye spotted the anchote, also called Coccinia abyssinica.
Tiglu is a horticulturist and local coordinator of Horticulture, Gender, and Nutrition, with 13 years of experience leading ISVCDO. His colleague, Annarita Antonelli, is the International Project Coordinator and senior expert on socio-economic and development issues at CIHEAM Bari. He knows anchote and its precious qualities because it is a crop of his homeland, Wollega in Western Ethiopia
“Starting from 2017, we selected to reintroduce anchote to smallholder farmers. Originally anchote is from Wollega but we decided to prioritize nutrition over provenance and proposed it to the farmers in the eastern region of Oromia. I was thrilled to finally work with a crop from my home. The decision was taken as a team, of course, and it was a successful one.”
Anchote, indigenous to Ethiopia, is a drought-resistant tuber with unrealized potential despite its significant contributions to local history and food traditions. Farmers mainly grow the crop for its seeds and harvest it in four months. The seed produces yellow flowers, while the edible part grows under the ground. The tuber can be safely stored for extended periods, which provides added food security in times of crop failures and extreme climatic phenomena. Traditionally, it is believed that anchote heals broken or fractured bones, helps sick people to recover, and makes lactating mothers healthier and stronger.
The content of protein, vitamin A, C, potassium, sodium, calcium, and other elements is much higher than other traditional food products consumed by rural communities such as potatoes, sweet potato, or cereals. Thus, a serving of one hundred grams per day can fulfill most nutritional requirements. Anchote may also play a vital role in supplying the calcium requirements of infants and children, where milk and milk products are not easily found or afforded.
Convincing the local farmers to adopt a new crop was a challenge. Tiglu met with the women of the communities regularly, and through innovative participatory methods, he introduced them to this new-old crop, showing them how important it was to cultivate for the well-being of the whole community. He followed them at every stage of the process, from the procurement of seeds to training for cultivation and harvesting to inviting experts who demonstrated how to cook and process the root. A crucial tool for the project’s success was the ‘community conversations’.
“Community conversation is a participatory approach to capacity building that provides opportunities to understand participants' problems, relying on facilitated dialogues in which community members engage in open discussions about obstacles to their development goals. It represents a valuable approach to address diffused unrecognition and underestimation of women’s contributions to agricultural income generation, natural resources protection and management, and household dietary improvements. It is a pro-active, inclusive approach to gender equality in different contexts and sectors.”
- Tiglu, horticulturist
Within the rounds of discussion, one of the issues was to encourage women to integrate anchote into their families’ diets. The community conversations also hosted cooking demonstrations in which women and men in the farming community were invited to assist and interact. The nutrition expert who conducted the demonstrations, with the woreda (what districts are called in Ethiopia) experts and the project team, started by collecting vegetables from gardens, explaining their properties, nutrient content, and uses. Most of the recipes were soups, vegetable stews, and specific recipes for children’s food preparation.
To educate rural communities on diverse diets and the connection between agriculture, nutrition, and health, the project produced community-led videos targeted at both women and men. These videos had more than 5000 views. This stimulating, innovative, and exciting tool was shown to be a viable option to catalyze social and behavioral change.
“Anchote can be used in many ways and has similarities with potatoes. The difference is that, because of its fiber content, it takes a long time to cook. One must cook it for a minimum of 3 hours, then peel the skin off and cut it into pieces. Then you can season it with ground chili, called Daxa. It can be cut into very small pieces, mixed with meat, and eaten with injera, our traditional bread.”
- Tiglu, horticulturist
Tiglu’s commitment and the CIHEAM Bari experience allowed anchote to be introduced in small rural communities of Eastern Oromia. It is now an appreciated component of farmers’ daily diet and contributes to improving the nutritional outcomes of children and women.
Solen took part in several of the community conversations. When asked today about her experience, she says: “Now we finally can have a balanced diet, one that starts from the vegetables and the ingredients that are available in our gardens. Thanks to the cooking demo, we learned that anchote is not a poor food, but a highly nutritious crop. Today we feed anchote to our children”.
Solen’s day begins very early – even today. She walks towards her garden, reawakened by a new valuable crop: anchote. From this, she will prepare wholesome and nutritious food for the well-being of her children and her community.
When farmers grow for biodiversity, their diets are more nutritious, which leads to better health outcomes. Food biodiversity improves nutrient security and helps communities thrive.
The food and drink regularly provided or consumed by people, and their habitual nourishment. A healthy diet is one that helps maintain or improve overall health.
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Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs
Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.
Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield
All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.
Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees
Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation
Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living
The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.
Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product
Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.
Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients
With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.
Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed
Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.
Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem
As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.
THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.
The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.
FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.
Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.
As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.
Who can enter and how selections are made.
A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.
To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.
Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and interacting with the members of our team.
Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.
Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:
Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.
Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.
The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.
Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.
The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.
The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.
All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.
All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.
Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.
If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.
Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.
The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.
The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.
Storytelling lab participation:
Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:
Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.
All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.