Prior to the GCCA project, the micro-watershed in the Banja district (woreda) had been severely degraded. Grasslands were overgrazed and denuded with deep gullies caused by soil erosion so that livestock could not cross them. For the community of 299 households (~1,120 persons), mainly livestock farmers, the degradation of the micro-watershed and surrounding lands was an economic catastrophe. Women walked up to 15 km to fetch water, and cooking was done using wood, which had bad respiratory effects. The community was too poor to school their children, purchase clothes, and lived from season to season. Much of the topsoil had disappeared leaving the basalt rock beneath exposed.
The GCCA supported the rehabilitation of the hillsides, providing inputs and training for the community to:
- Enrich the forest at the top of the hill which today is densely planted with 1 trees;
- Compost using microbes, which is still being practiced;
- Build biophysical structures covered with forage and planted shrubs to stop run-off when rain falls and wind from blowing away soils – these have been maintained
- Plant a variety of trees up the hillside. , Acacia , robusta, africana and . It was evident that tree planting is ongoing with trees at different stages of maturity ranging from saplings to more mature trees of 3-5 meters, through to areas, including gullies, that are densely planted with mature trees too thick to walk through;
- Enclose animals so that grasses could recover.
Microclimates have emerged. Grass fed bulls raised in this village usually fetch 50% above the market average. Water pumps installed by the project were all still in use and had improved the lives of women who no longer had to walk for miles. Fuel-efficient cook stoves supplied by the project were still in use and had reduced foraging for wood and smoke in houses. The villagers also produce poultry and chicken and eggs are on the menu. Crops have been diversified and include fruit trees, while yields have improved across the board.
Among the most telling impacts of this development progress, all of the children in the village are able to attend a newly built local school that was partially supported by WWF. Using a revolving village fund, villagers support one another in making vital purchases, including a communal flourmill. With these steps, villagers have new dreams for the future: a large irrigation pump, a tractor to plough the land. Dreams that just a decade ago were beyond imagination.