Editor's Note: Warren Dick, retired professor and soil health scientist, is a longtime friend of No-Till Farmer and president of the Bethel Agricultural Association (BAA), a nonprofit teaching African farmers about no-till and conservation ag. As a no-till and conservation ag educator, Dick's mission is to help alleviate food insecurity in Ethiopia. Because it's Giving Tuesday, we thought it appropriate to publish this letter from the BAA today.
Dear Friends of Bethel Agricultural Association,
Thanksgiving 2023 is here! What are you thankful for this year? Several years ago, my oldest daughter challenged me to list 100 things for which I am thankful. Once I started entering items into my list, I became very much aware of how blessed I am. Just to name a few would include faith, family, shelter, food, clean water and air, and the chance to use my abilities and experiences to serve other people. This includes the Bethel Agricultural Association (BAA) project that had its beginning in 2010 with my first trip to Ethiopia. Since that first trip, I have made 21 additional trips. I was privileged to accumulate a board of wonderful people to develop a vision for our project. That vision is: “people, especially in Ethiopia where we currently focus our work, will experience a vibrant and thriving environmental and agricultural landscape that will lead to food security and a higher quality of life.” Along with this vision, we developed a motto that we have often come back to, and that is: “Train a Farmer — Feed a Nation.”
Each year, during the Thanksgiving holiday, it has become more and more of a tradition to invite support for projects during what has come to be called Giving Tuesday. For our Giving Tuesday emphasis this year, we first look back to this past year, and then ahead to 2024. We are encouraged by how God has blessed us. Below are summaries of past efforts and then areas of focus for 2024.
1. Container Shipment to Ethiopia – On July 15, 2022, a container left Blythe, Calif., on its way to Ethiopia. There were fears it would be confiscated by various parties along the way as it made its journey to Ethiopia, and we often almost gave up hope it would ever be delivered. But then at the end of September 2023, 14 months later, the container was delivered to our project site in Woliso. In it were solar panels, equipment donated by Tilmor company, about 2,000 books, analytical laboratory equipment and other miscellaneous things. 2 of our BAA board members were in Woliso to witness the joyous opening of the container and observe that everything seemed to have made the journey intact.
BAA's shipment route to Ethiopia was almost never completed. After 14 months, the supply container finally arrived in Ethiopia.
2. Progress in Establishing an Analytical Laboratory — Just before COVID made travel almost impossible, we held a field day in Woliso where we asked local officials and farmers what they would recommend as priorities for our project. The 2 top answers were to (i) develop a demonstration farm to test and exhibit higher yielding and sustainable crop production practices and (ii) create an analytical chemistry laboratory. The last request was because knowledge of the fertility needs in farmers’ fields and the environmental quality of urban areas was extremely limited or non-existent. Aron Quist, a board member of BAA, was able to collect and ship in the container a rather complete suite of laboratory equipment along with supporting supplies. Therefore, one of our priorities for 2024 is to train technicians and get the laboratory up and running. A building is currently being constructed to house this laboratory. However, additional funds are needed to provide furnishings, install water and electricity (including the use of solar power), install the equipment, hire and train technicians and develop office support for the laboratory. Estimated costs in 2024 are $55,000 - $70,000.
3. Soybean and Other Field Demonstrations – Now that we have the 30 acres of land in Woliso, we have begun putting out some research and demonstration plots. The government of Ethiopia is promoting the growing of soybeans, and we agree this is a good priority because cooking oil is in short supply in Ethiopia. Soybeans can provide oil, high protein soybean meal and supply the soil with nitrogen for the next crop in a rotation. In October, when our team was in Woliso, the soybeans in our trial plots were in very poor condition due to a wetter than normal rainy season. However, once the rains stopped, the soybeans began to grow again. The attached photo from the middle of November shows a plant at harvest that contains many pods. We learned a lot from this first experiment and will continue to research the best way to grow soybeans in our project area. A professional agronomist is needed to oversee not only the work related to soybean production but also that of other crops such as maize, wheat, vegetables, etc. There are also costs associated with the purchase of fertilizers, additional labor and for maintenance of equipment. Estimated cost in 2024 is $35,000 - $50,000.
In an unusually wet season, the trial plot soybeans suffered but bounced back once the rains stopped. Continued research will help farmers determine the best ways to grow healthy, nutrient rich soybeans.
4. Chencha Prison Irrigation Work – This past April, Warren Dick was invited to view the agricultural works in a federal prison located in the town of Chencha, southern Ethiopia. During this visit, he was also privileged to preach at the Ethiopian Easter service that was held within the prison. The funds obtained by the prison administrator are insufficient to cover the food needs of the prisoners. The prison does have land that allows for the growing of fruits and vegetables during the rainy season. However, during the dry season, obtaining sufficient food supplies becomes difficult. In October, Aron Quist and Warren Dick returned to Chencha. Aron is from southern California and experienced in irrigation technology. We have taken on a project to help establish an irrigation system that will make it possible to grow food year-round. This will include purchasing irrigation equipment such as pumps and tubing, installing a number of water storage tanks and travel costs to southern Ethiopia. Estimated costs in 2024 are $15,000 - $25,000.
To learn more about our project, visit our website, bethelagriculture.org.
Warren K. Dick
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