Lemma Tura stands overlooking the river that flows past his plot. Head high, posture straight, his time in the military has left its mark. He bends down to check if the water canals are feeding his nearby fields with water from the river. The retired sports coach is now a farmer following in his parent’s footsteps who used to grow vegetables. From them, he also learned about irrigation systems, which he applies on his own cropland. Originally from Arsi zone, he moved to Debre Zeit in 2002, and started farming five years later.

He strides back to his land of 0.25 hectares. The plot is small but the ripe cauliflowers and broccoli loom large having the size of basketballs. “I asked people and some sellers recommended Solagrow to me,” he says. “I have never tried any other seeds, these are just very good.” He shares the fieldwork with his wife, who turned to farming when he was still serving in the military. Around two to three times a week, they also hire daily labourers to do some watering or heavy manual work, as a bullet incident badly injured his right knee.

Continuous learning

Lemma stops and takes out his notebook and pen that he keeps in the breast pocket of his polo shirt. He eagerly scribbles down his observations. The eyes are the best teachers to most Ethiopian farmers. “I really want to work hard and I wish I had more knowledge regarding spacing of seedlings or soil management. I'm just doing it based on my personal experience”. Even though the harvest and his cattle bring him more than a regular worker’s income, it is not enough. He thinks of investing in more land to diversify his crops in order to minimise his risk and be less dependent on the market.

“As long as I am alive I like to develop my land and cattle. I also want to spend time with my family,” he says. His two children both go to school and he hopes for them to become a ‘better person’. The latter is equivalent to the western concept of continuous learning that he lives by: “As a human being, there is always something to learn”. Lemma continues his daily field patrol passing a scarecrow in the middle of his land. A worn-out baseball jacket and wrecked jeans are tied to two wooden sticks. Symbolically he made peace with his past and found a way to still serve his country, in a less dangerous and more fulfilling way.