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Script 68.6

Notes to broadcasters

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Innovators are not only people with a far-sighted vision for a better future, but those who are also willing to invest time and years of labour in finding solutions to improve their situation. The following script provides information about a technique for harvesting water and soil. It is based on innovation by farmers among the Irob people in northern Ethiopia.

The child in the script is meant to be about 9 or 10 years of age. The character has purposely been given no name to allow a choice in casting either a girl or a boy. If you are not able to have a child play the part, the character can be played by an adult, and sounding like a teenaged granddaughter.

Script

Characters Child:
(boy or girl of about 9 or 10 years)
Grandfather

INTRO. THEME MUSIC AND HOLD UNDER ANNOUNCER (5 secs).

HOST
-Today as we continue our series on farmer innovation and success stories from around the world, you’re going to hear about local innovation by farmers among the Irob people who live in Tigray Region in the far north of Ethiopia. It is a dry and mountainous area where the rainy seasons are very short and uncertain, so water is scarce for much of the year. That is why many Irob families find it difficult to grow crops and have to live mainly by keeping livestock. Growing crops is possible only if they can concentrate the water and soil in small patches of level land they create on the mountainsides.

FADE UNDER. SOUND EFFECTS: Sound of a child puffing and panting. Child’s feet are slipping and sliding on loose stones. More sure-footed steps and regular breathing accompany the child.

CHILD
-Grandfather, wait, I can’t keep up with you!

GRANDFATHER
-Your legs aren’t yet as long as mine. And going to school in town doesn’t help you learn how to walk in these mountains. If you lived here, you’d be bounding up this slope like those goats. But we’re almost there – look, that’s the highest terrace just above us now.

SOUND EFFECTS: Sound of footsteps sliding on stones. The child is once again huffing and puffing.

GRANDFATHER
-Here we are. Now you sit for a moment on this rock, while I check to see if the terrace wall is all right. The flash flood last night might have moved some stones.

CHILD
-Wow, look at that! From up here, it looks like big stairs going down the mountain – each step behind a stone dam.

GRANDFATHER
-Do they teach you how to count at your school? How many steps do you see?

CHILD
(beginning quickly): One, two, three, four (more slowly), five, six – it’s hard to see because there’s so much growing on the steps – (more slowly), seven, way down there with that wide strip of maize, is that eight?

GRANDFATHER
-Yes, you’ve got it – I built eight dams to make eight fields on this mountainside.

CHILD
-Why do you grow crops on a mountainside, grandfather? Where I go to school, my friend Assefa’s father has a farm on flat land just outside the town. He doesn’t have to climb at all.

GRANDFATHER
-Do you see any flat land around here? There’s nothing but cliffs and steep slopes. If we didn’t build dams to make terraces, there would be no land to grow anything at all.

CHILD
-Where did you get the idea to build dams to make terraces?

GRANDFATHER
(reflecting)-Ideas come sometimes when you look around and think. But also other people can give you ideas. This idea came from a man who lived over the pass in the next village. His name was Gebray. He’s dead now, but his idea lives on.

CHILD
-Well, where did he get his idea from?

GRANDFATHER
-Many years ago – more than 50 – Gebray was a soldier in a war in the north of Africa, in a very dry area, and he saw how the farmers built small dams to collect water and grow crops. He thought of back home, here in Irob, where the rain runs off and carries away soil with nothing to stop it. So when he came home, he tried to stop it by building a small dam.

CHILD
-Why did he want to do that?

GRANDFATHER
-Because it is dry and stony here, but if he could catch the water and soil, he could use this for farming. Like everyone here, he was selling goats to buy grains for his family to eat. He thought if he could make land to grow crops himself, he wouldn’t have to sell so many goats.

CHILD
-Did he build as many terraces as you have?

GRANDFATHER
-Eventually, yes. But first he built only one small dam. He put a few large stones at a place where a stream of water flows for a short time after it has rained on the plateau – up there where you go to school. It rains more there than down here on the slopes.

CHILD
-And what happened then?

GRANDFATHER
-The rainwater came rushing down through the streambed, carrying soil and leaves with it, and got stopped by his dam. And the soil and leaves stayed there behind the dam.

CHILD
-And then what?

GRANDFATHER
-He put a few seeds into the soil behind the dam and these grew into big maize plants. It was good soil that he had trapped, and it made healthy plants. He harvested an armful of maize and was really happy. He had discovered how to create his own farm. So he decided to add more stones and make the dam longer so more soil and water could be trapped behind it and he could grow more maize.

CHILD
(eagerly)-Did he become very rich, grandfather?

GRANDFATHER
-Well … as the years went by, he worked very hard and built more dams further up the stream bed on the mountainside. He kept making each of the dams longer and tried out different ways of laying the stones so that more water stayed behind the terrace walls instead of jumping over the edge and so that more soil was trapped inside.

CHILD
-Just like you do here.

GRANDFATHER
-Yes, I got a lot of ideas from watching him – and tried out still more ideas of my own. Like planting this grass just above the terrace wall. Do you see how it winds around the stones and holds them together, just like wire? And I can cut the grass and feed it to our animals.

CHILD
-And does that make you even richer than he was?

GRANDFATHER
-Well … rich enough to help pay what it costs to send you to school. Actually, Gebray never became very rich – no-one is here. But he was very respected because he had good ideas and worked hard to make them happen, and he shared his ideas with others. He was always ready to give advice to anyone who asked him, including me.

CHILD
(in a reflecting tone)-Yesterday Grandmother told me that it was the happiest day in her life when she first collected water from below that biggest dam down there at the very bottom.

GRANDFATHER
-Yes, it’s good clean water, filtered by the soil and stones. Before that, she had to walk for hours to a far-away spring and carry the water up the steep slope to the house. But now she can get the water only a few minutes downhill from our house door.

CHILD
-She said that all your lives changed when you started building that first dam.

GRANDFATHER
-And it changed your life, too.

CHILD
-It’s grand to have a grandfather who can make land out of water – and water out of land!

FADE UP THEME MUSIC. RUN 5 SECS. FADE OUT.

HOST
-You’ve been listening to [name of program]. [name of performer] was Grandfather, and _______________ played the child. As their story shows, farmer innovation can result in new ways to capture water and grow crops. And often, these locally developed techniques are spread from farmer to farmer and passed down from older generations of farmers who have spent years – in time and labour – finding solutions to their problems. Do you know someone in your community who has developed new techniques and shared them with others?

Acknowledgements

Contributed by Christine Davet, Toronto, Canada.

Reviewed by Ann Waters-Bayer and Chesha Wettasinha, ETC Ecoculture, The Netherlands, and Mengistu Hailu, Mekelle University, Ethiopia.

Information Sources

Hagos Woldu and Asfaha Zigta. 1997. How to stop erosion: catch the soil. LEISA Magazine. July 1997 16-18.

Hailu, Mengistu. 2003. The soil makers. Thesis, Wageningen University, 2003. Reij, Chris, and Ann Waters-Bayer (eds). 2001. Farmer Innovation in Africa: A Source of Inspiration for Agricultural Development. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.