Exploring rural Ethiopia has given Mauriceville’s Alan Stuart tips on how he can farm when the region’s predicted climate change effects kick in.
A recent NIWA report has predicted that Wairarapa can expect a higher number of days of drought along with more intense rainfall events and Mr Stuart says New Zealand’s future climate is comparable to the African nation’s somewhat barren landscape.
“If we are going to get some kind of climate change, I thought I had better be prepared for it, and what a better place to go — they get massive droughts, they are fairly tropical and they seem to cope,” said Mr Stuart, who returned from his three-week trip last Sunday.
Seeking alternative cropping practices to apply on his farm was his top priority.
But having been a regular donor to an Ethiopian aid programme — Bricks for Life — for about three years, he wanted to offer his farming knowledge to those in the underdeveloped country.
Ahead of the trip, he did a “huge amount” of reading on the country’s agriculture and the crops that best suited the climate.
In Ethiopia, he travelled around the central area of Lalibela for most of his time there, studying its agriculture and unique culture.
He said he was just the second European face to be seen at the Lalibela village, adding that he was welcomed into each community with opening arms.
“They are a waste-less society, and everything they do is for a very good reason. For survival.”
The Ethiopian plains were very green, but the surrounding hills were very dry. Overall, it was a similar climate to New Zealand, but more temperate.
“I learnt about some particular browsing shrubs that are very good for drought resistance and animal fodder we could use if we do get into drought situations — that’s something I could bring home for me.”
In return, he offered advice the local farmers on crop rotation, building bridges and guidance on village initiatives including schooling.
Eight-five per cent of the population live in rural Ethiopia and their biggest constraint was a lack of money, he said.
“I tried to get them to establish food banks in case of droughts. Another project I was keen to introduce was cooperative buying of essential inputs like fertiliser so they could get price advantage by buying in bulk instead of small amounts,” said Mr Stuart, who has lived in rural Masterton for about 40 years.