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Ethiopian mother of five children Workie Womako could do nothing but hope for a better future. She lived in Southwest Ethiopia with Seyoun, her husband, and the rest of their big family. Their conditions were so precarious that they could not afford to buy food or send their children to school. They only owned a piece of land but it only produced grain once a year as it was lacking in nutrients.

Image Courtesy of Alejandro Chicheri, World Food Programme

Today, thanks to the MERET project (Management of Environmental Resources to Enable Transitions), Workie and her family lead a different life. She is not only able to send her children to school but she is also the richest woman in her village. In 2005, Workie and Seyoun were introduced to the MERET project, a World Food Programme initiative which trains women and food-insecurity communities to cultivate lands and to generate an income from their agricultural activities.

By taking part in the MERET project, Workie and Seyoun learned about working agriculture strategies including water harvesting and composting and began their own homestead development activities in 2006. Their production became more and more varied and started producing cereal as well as coffee, vegetables and other seedlings.

After a year they saved about birr 3000 (about US$180) in their first bank account. Today Workie disposes of a potato field as local authorities have given her more land to cultivate because of the progresses she has achieved in the agricultural industry.

Image courtesy of Mercedes Sayagues, World Food Programme

Project MERET is currently responsible for an incredible number of positive achievements throughout Ethiopia; from the construction of 8560 watersheds to the development of 400 million tree seedlings; planting and growing 11,670 km of gully check dams and constructing and rehabilitating 2700 km of feeder roads.

MERET participants receive an incentive of three kilograms of wheat per day for up to three months of work annually. There are many activities included in the programme from treating cultivated land to rehabilitating forest areas and gullies, harvesting water, improving drainage structures and building and maintaining feeder roads to improve access to markets.

MERET is a World Food Programme’s Project, the food agency of the United Nations.

Image courtesy of Alejandro Chicheri, World Food Program