In most regions of Ethiopia it never freezes, so crops have the potential to be grown year-round. Most people only grow crops in the rainy season, though, because traditionally that is what is easiest. Morrell Agro Industries implemented the “Ten-Gallon Garden” initiative to teach people how individual gardens could be grown throughout the year. These gardens were designed around a five-by-five square meter plot of ground on which vegetables could be planted. Ten gallons of water from the river, hauled in two five gallon jugs every day, would be used to water the gardens during the dry season. The metrics system is used in Ethiopia, so to make the project easier for local people to understand it is also known as a “40-Liter Garden.”
Two local women were hired to grow these Ten-Gallon Gardens, so that their ease and success could be demonstrated. They were paid $25 a month, to help pay for their food and expenses. One of these women was a typical example of the situation many Ethiopian people find themselves in. She was HIV positive, sleeping on a dirt floor, in worse living conditions than most animals in the US, and living with a few children. She had already lost her husband to AIDS. Individuals like this woman show why projects to improve their lives are so needed.
As part of the gardening effort, garden crops are planted at nursery sites, and the Farmer’s Training Center site near Kersa Illala, and when they are grown they are then transplanted to other places. Among the crops planted are beets, cabbage, Swiss chard, onions, carrots, tomatoes, and other vegetables. Just about anything will grow in Ethiopia if water and fertilizer are used in the process.
Locals were hired to help with the garden planting, upkeep, and harvesting of the MAI’s garden projects. They were sent home with vegetable seeds and starter plants, so that they could plant them in their own gardens.
These garden crops proved to be very lush in the rainy season, producing some of the largest vegetables seen anywhere. During the dry season, vegetables were planted and covered with straw, to keep them moist, so that it would take as little water as possible to help them grow and ripen.
MAI employees have also been working with the Ethiopian people to instruct them how to prepare proper seed beds. There are even garden plots in the Village of Hope compound, where the children are taught how to grow their own vegetables. These very simple acts may help the future generations develop lifelong self reliance.