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Improving livelihoods of women in south west Ethiopia

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers

Gendo Gembela Tsire is a women’s group in Chencha district, Ethiopia who are demonstrating the process of making kocho (to make traditional flatbread) and bula (a flour blend prepared as a porridge) from the enset crop.

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers 

Several women of the Gendo Gembela Tsire group work together to cut an enset plant. Enset is one of Ethiopia's most important root crops and a member of the banana family. It is a traditional staple in the densely populated south and south west of Ethiopia.

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers

The women begin by harvesting the enset crop. The stems are scrapped using modern tools that provide a stable base to hang the stems – unlike traditional tools, which need to be supported against a tree or ground. These tools were developed with the project members and donated as part of the IPAF project. The leaves are cut and given to livestock as feed.

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers 

The stems are scrapped using the edges of bamboo sticks. The residue is squeezed to produce a watery substance that evaporates, leaving a white residue called bula. Once cooked it becomes a delicacy enjoyed by the Gamo people. After squeezing the stems for bula, the rest is chopped and this is what is known as kocho.

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers

Bula is highly valued by the Gamo people. It is given in porridge form to women who have given birth for seven days to help increase breast milk, restore blood lost during delivery and to help ease body aches. Bula is also the first thing given to babies when they are born, before they even take breastmilk, and the elderly, as it is known to strengthen bones.

© IFAD/Petterik Wiggers 

Nothing is wasted with the enset crop. The scrapped stem also produces a fibre or sisal-like thread that is used for making rope and sacks. This crop is said to increase the long-term sustainability of food production by reducing soil erosion and increasing soil fertility through leaf decomposition and manure application.