In the highlands of Ethiopia, farming communities are faced with droughts and harsh climate conditions. They are left with eroded land, poor crops and not enough food to survive on. Roots Up is an organisation that plans to help the highland families in Gondar with a multi-faceted project aimed at creating a self-reliant farming community.
The organisation’s project is currently underway after a successful crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo this year.
There are many facets to the Roots Up project as the team are addressing numerous issues prevalent in Gondar. Part of the plan is to create crop variety by growing fruit trees, which regrow every year as opposed to the standard legume and cereal crops that only live for one season. The trees will provide a more balanced diet for locals and serve as an extra source of income.
The team will also implement the practice of composting and mulching as a more affordable and eco-friendly alternative to the synthetic nutrients farmers purchase as a means of enriching the dry soil. To reduce construction costs of eucalyptus houses, Roots Up proposed low-cost, low-tech and sustainable earthbag houses made from recycled material and powered by a small windmill on top of the easy-to-build structure.
To address the matter of poor farming conditions, Roots Up have developed the low-cost Dew Collector greenhouse to help farmers grow food and collect water. The design is comprised of a dugout pit, where the crops are planted, and a material canopy.
During the day, the hot weather creates a dome of humidity inside the greenhouse, and at night a farmer opens the top of the canopy to create a cooling effect inside. Vapour condenses and forms water droplets, which collect on a bioplastic sheet and then fall into a water tank. The humidity during the day creates good growing conditions for the plants and the collected water can be used for irrigating the plants or for drinking.
In addition to these developments, the team at Roots Up is also looking at upcycling human waste as an alternative to using charcoal as a source of energy.
Roots Up have used the crowdfunding money to build an earthbag Ecodome at the University of Gondar, which they are now using as a base to implement their project in the local farming communities. The building is a training centre for students and farmers to learn about soil conservation, eco building, energy production, water resource management and intercropping.