'Planting Trees Changed My Life,' Says Ethiopia Mother

Published on 18 December 2011

Sindayo Tsegay with the youngest of five children, Rosina. Her other four children are all in school. Sindayo says that wouldn't be possible without a tree-planting project that provides her with seasonal work. Copyright: WFP/Rein Skullerud

Sindayo Tsegay sees herself first and foremost as a mother, a role which brings daily challenges. For Sindayo, who lives in northern Ethiopia, those challenges used to seem insurmountable before a tree-planting project changed her life as well as the lives of neighboring families.

WUKRO – Just a decade ago, the land surrounding Sindayo Tsegay’s home was dry and eroded. In the mountainous terrain common to many remote areas of northern Ethiopia, growing crops was nearly impossible and families often resorted to mashing up cacti to feed their livestock.

As if this wasn’t difficult enough, recurring landslides kept Sindayo fearful for her children’s lives. “We were scared to sleep in our homes during the rainy season,” she remembers.

Since those restless nights ten years ago, WFP-supported projects have helped rehabilitate this area through tree-planting and terracing to prevent further erosion.

Men and women from the surrounding hillsides receive 3 kilos of grain for each day of work, food which Sindayo then turns into porridge or bread to feed her children.

Work when you need it

Sindayo and her neighbors are quick to point out that these "food-for-work" projects are not active year-round, and that’s a good thing. With grasses and small shrubs growing plentifully throughout the area, the small animals many families raise are once again robust and can be sold at nearby markets.

The ability to be self-sufficient is a huge point of pride for women here, and WFP’s support in transforming the land is helping more and more families achieve this.

As a mother, Sindayo is also proud to be able to buy fresh vegetables for her children with the additional income she makes from her animals.

“My children are much healthier; they have much better nutrition these days,” says Sindayo, with her youngest daughter Rosina tied snugly on her back. Where are the rest of her five children? In school, where they each receive a WFP school lunch.

Fond memories

Moving rocks to help terrace a hillside is hard work, especially for women carrying their youngest children on their backs. Yet the mood here is relaxed, cheerful and hopeful. These women know they’ll be able to put food on the table for their children when they get home from school.

They know they’re setting a good example for their kids through dedicated work and positive results. And they can sleep easy at night knowing their families are safe.

Sindayo’s friend and neighbor, Meselesh Hishe, is just happy to see the land returned to what it once was.

At 54 years old, she remembers the way this area was when she was a child – green and lush – and is thankful that her children will now have the same memories of their home.

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Sarah Borchers

Online Fundraising Manager

Sarah Borchers is responsible for online fundraising. She has worked at WFP since 2009.