How MEDA is improving soil health in Amhara, Ethiopia

It’s World Soil Day, and as such, it’s an excellent opportunity to talk about the role that soil plays in ensuring that healthy food can be grown and eaten by societies around the world. While this essential cornerstone of our food systems is easily overlooked, the consequences of poor soil health can be devastating. Soil salinization and sodification cause an estimated loss of US$ 31 million in agricultural productivity per year. They are also recognized as significant problems that affect food production, food security, and sustainability in countries with vulnerable climates.1 

This year, we’re pleased to share some of the great work that farmers are doing through MEDA’s EMERTA project (located in Ethiopia’s Amhara Region) in permaculture, which is a guide on how to grow food, build houses, and create communities, and minimize environmental impact at the same time. Its principles are being constantly developed and refined by people worldwide in very different climates and cultural circumstances.  

At the beginning of the EMERTA project, widespread use of agrochemicals was identified as a critical environmental challenge, particularly for the vegetable sector. Dangerous agrochemicals, including DDT and Endosulfan while banned – were assumed to improve the quality of the product for sale. Farmers had limited awareness of the effects of agrochemicals on soil and human health, despite the clear evidence that agrochemicals increase soil salinization2 and chronic disease3&4     

This is where the benefits of MEDA’s EMERTA project come in. The project raises awareness of good agricultura practices (GAP) and post-harvest management with a focus on permaculture practices to improve soil and reduce risks to human health. In 2018 and 2019, 90 (45 women) producers and 60 agriculture experts were trained by EMERTA in practical permaculture design and implementation. The training was provided by consultants to address the overuse of agrochemicals and soil degradation. In 2021, a refresher training and discussion session were hosted regarding the challenges encountered, and lessons learned from practical experiences among experts, extension agents, and producers. Having closely worked with producers, extension agents (government agricultural consultants) learned that farmers could produce organic vegetables and other fruits on a small plot of land and use best practices to increase soil fertility such as double digging and composting.  

Now, the soil health of the permaculture garden site is improving over time and there appears to be more biodiversity. In addition, important contributors to ecosystem health, such as earthworms, bees, and butterflies, have also returned to the sites. The regional government has also seen the results of EMERTA’s initiative and view permaculture as a valuable practice for the population. It is now ready to include permaculture as one of its agricultural packages. These positive developments will then contribute to further economic benefits for growers, resulting in a better standard of living as well as greater care for the local natural environment in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.  


  1. Soil Salinization: a threat to our global pantry- World Soil Day | United Nations
  2. Earth’s Extraordinary Soil for All Living Organisms
  3. Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture
  4. Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)- CDC Environmental Health- DDT_FactSheet.pdf (
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