Supporting farming communities to develop a sustainable food source

Send a Cow

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taro is a root vegetable, grown and used as a staple food in Southern Ethiopia. As a seasonable crop with a shelf life of just 10 weeks, it floods the market during harvesting season resulting in low prices for farmers during this period. For the rest of the year, food and income is scarce, resulting in wide food insecurity.

Send a Cow Ethiopia worked with local communities to develop a more effective and efficient way of using taro, creating a system to use it as food source all year.

By converting fresh taro into dried chips and then grinding it to flour, the taro can be stored for up to 18 months, creating a reliable source of food and allowing 300 farmers to increase its value at market by up to 72%. Families can now use the taro flour through the hunger months to produce injera, an Ethiopian bread, along with other food from recipes developed by Send a Cow staff. This food provides a valuable source of zinc, starch, and beta carotene throughout the year.

As well as increasing income and food security, the taro project has also helped to build a stronger sense of community by transforming separate groups of farmers into co-operatives which benefit all.

The project has been so successful in part due to the large involvement and buy-in of the farmers themselves. Rather than just offering them a one-off product like a sheep or cow, Send a Cow has empowered local communities by equipping them with practical knowledge to permanently improve their livelihoods. Farmers see the results for themselves, and realise for the potential for long term change, so are willing to push forward with a project they may otherwise deem too risky.

The project is simple, with locally adaptive techniques that can be adopted by all. Send a Cow now plans to work with local and national governments to scale it up to other areas where taro is grown.

The Send a Cow’s Taro project, which was funded by ICCO Foundation, along with CABI Plantwise project, won Bond’s Innovation Award 2017.