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Down on the farm at SOS Jimma

Everyone enjoys helping out on the farm!
Everyone enjoys helping out on the farm!

At SOS Children's Village Jimma, an exciting project is going from strength to strength. A farm, growing fruit and vegetables as well as coffee and sugarcane, is helping the Village become more sustainable. We asked Ebisa Jaleta the brains behind the project and Eshetu, a young boy who loves spending time on the farm, to tell us more.

Ethiopia's coffee centre

Coffee is central to Ethiopian culture. It plays a key role in the country’s cuisine and is typically served after every meal - although children are only allowed some on special occasions! The green berries on the trees ripen between November and January when they are harvested. Jimma is a significant coffee producing zone. It is the commercial centre of the Kaffa region, the area believed to be the birthplace of coffee. So for Miftah, the farm manager, who grew up in Jimma, the skill of tending to the coffee farm run by SOS Children’s Village Jimma comes naturally.

“My work involves planting coffee seedlings and ensuring that they grow into healthy trees,” he explains.“I also pull out weeds and place them on the ground to act as a covering to keep the soil moist. I then prune the trees so they don’t make too many branches. The bush needs to be strong to produce high yields. Finally, I make sure that the trees are not affected by pests and diseases.” 

Miftah tells how sugarcane is a much less more low maintenance plant. “I only need to water it three weeks after planting, then I put manure on it occasionally and look out for diseases and pests. I also keep the weeds away and harvest the crop once a year,” he says.

Making the most of unused land 

Ebisa Jaleta, the coordinator of the Family Strengthening Programme in Jimma, is the brains behind the farm. He says the idea came to him one day as he was looking at the rough land that had no use in the Village.

We asked Ebisa to tell us more.

The farm at SOS Children's Village Jimma, Ethiopia
The farm is flourishing and is a source of great pride for the Village

What are the ideas behind the project?

“We wanted to reduce the amount the SOS mothers were having to spend on coffee and vegetables. They were always buying these items from the market because they are essentials. So we thought why not plant our own crops and be self-sufficient. It is so much quicker and easier to walk into the garden than it is to walk all the way to the market. The other aim is to use the farm as a teaching tool for the children in the Village. Seeing, touching and caring for the crops is important for them to understand farming practices. The last objective is to simply make the Village look nice and green!”

Does all the produce go to the Village?

“Yes, most of the crops produced are consumed by the families in the Village. Last year however, we sold some of the sugarcane because the yields were so high!”

How do you get the children involved?

“We try to get children involved in as many activities as possible. They water the potatoes and cabbages. They don’t help with the sugarcane or coffee farm because the labour required is intensive and the children are too young! However they do visit the farm to see the crops.

They children also learn about the food they eat. They find out how it is planted, how it is nurtured, how it is harvested and how it finally ends up on their plate.”

"Being in the garden is special to me because memories of my parent's come alive" 

Eshetu on the farm at SOS Jimma
Eshetu loves spending time on the farm
One of Miftah's star helpers on the farm is Eshetu. Orphaned at the age of six, Eshetu finds that spending time on the farm helps him to feel connected to his parents. 

"The farming project in the Village is special to me because it reminds me of time I spent on our farm with my parents," he says. "My mother taught me how to till the soil and remove the weeds so the crops can be healthy."

The farm has helped Eshetu overcome the trauma he suffered early on his life and he is flourishing. "Eshetu is a well-rounded boy," says Ebisa, "In school he skipped two grades because his acadmic perfomance was so outstanding. He is also the president of the SOS Children's Parliament in Ethiopia, but his favourite pastime is caring for the vegetables!"

Eshetu learns something new everyday on the farm. "I did not know that you could water plants using a pipe or a jerry can. I always though that gardens were watered by rain. This is a new experience for me." But it is the joy of watching a plant grow from a tiny seed into a vegetable that can be eaten that fascinates Eshetu the most. 

We have been providing a loving home and care for children like Eshetu at the Children's Village in Jimma since 2012. Find out more about our work there and accross Ethiopia.