Dundrum local leads Concern team in Ethiopia dealing with drought

by Gary Ibbotson

A Dundrum native is leading a Concern team in Ethiopia, which to date has planted over 1.5 million trees.

Eileen Morrow has led the team for the past two years in the country which is currently suffering through a drought – their worst in three decades.

The international aid organisation, which has been in Ethiopia since 1973, planted 1,549,819 trees over 2018 and 2019 in areas of the country severely affected by the drought and other harsh weather conditions.

The project, supported with funding from Irish Aid, is improving soil quality, providing food, jobs and helping to reverse the effects of climate change.

“Trees strengthen soil and this gives people food, jobs and safer places to live, so this is critical, life-saving work,” said Morrow.

“They, along with other plants and organisms in our ecosystem, also give us the oxygen we breathe while taking harmful, world-heating carbon dioxide out of our atmosphere – so by planting trees we are providing a lifeline in this worsening climate crisis.”

Concern staff also took part in a separate one day national drive, led by the Ethiopian government, to plant millions of saplings in July.

Overall, the charity says it has had huge success from tree planting in the country in recent months with communities experiencing less flooding and more growth in food production and livelihoods.

“We are improving the productivity of land for crops and livestock to create greater food security and a better environment for everyone,” added Concern’s livelihoods officer in Ethiopia, Dereje Jeba.

Last year, Morrow and her team spoke on the success of introducing potatoes to the northern region of the country, which is regularly hit by drought.

The area in which the potato was introduced – South Wollo – lies roughly 3,000 metres above sea level which means other crops struggle to thrive.

“This incredible success has broken the cycle of dependence on emergency relief and restored dignity and hope in areas that have been hit by recurrent disasters,” she said.

“It is very challenging to increase the yield of crops in high altitudes. Very little can thrive at 3,000 metres, but the Irish potato has proven to be a rare exception.”

The crop now helps feed 704,000 in the highland region.

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