Makida Mohammed is a self-described “peasant farmer” in Ethiopia, where she raises wheat, maize, barley, peas, potatoes, and livestock.
After the death of her husband, Makida used gifts from her father and his son — four quintals of wheat, two quintals of barley, and one quintal of fertilizer — to begin her farm. The income she derived has allowed her to feed, clothe, and educate her five children.
Like many single mothers, sole breadwinners, and farmers, Makida has a very busy life. “When I come back after cultivating my land, I take the cattle to the compound, tie it up with rope, and have my dinner,” she told interviewers with the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative. “After that I go to the river and fetch water and come back. When it is night I eat my dinner and sleep. I have only night time for my household duties, I have no time during the day. I have no sleep at night. I just work. I have no time to sleep. That is it.
“During the summer, when there is no rain, I engage in small retailing activity. I sell sugarcane, cabbages, onions and things like this. During harvest time I am totally engaged in farming. When the harvest is completed, I continue animal husbandry.”
Makida uses some of the income from the harvest to buy hens and sheep. The offspring produced by her ewes allows her to buy books, supplies, and uniforms for the two children who are still in school.
“We like maize for domestic consumption. And wheat is a cash crop for us. It is so marketable and we earn a lot on wheat. For example, if I sell two 100 kg of wheat it can cover much of the expense of my family for clothes; and if I add one more it can buy shoes for my kids. If I sell 500 kg I can say it is enough for all the things together.”
As the first in her village to grow new rust-resistant varieties of wheat, Makida carefully followed directions provided by seed breeders, even though they countered customary practices.
“The farmers laughed at me by saying 'woman came who protected a crop,'” Makida recalls. But when they saw the fruits of her labor, their ridicule turned to respect, and they began requesting seed.
“This new variety has value; that is why they came and asked for it [seed].” she says. “On my side, I wanted the community to grow, prosper. I gave to them generously without reservation.”
Despite the hardships of unrelenting manual labor, Makida expresses satisfaction with her occupation.
“Since farming is my means of livelihood, I like my work. I am happy with my work since it supports my life.”