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Ethiopia's Green Miracle

SLM in Ethiopia – Spreading a recipe for success


Dried-out soil, dwindling ground water - the situation in Abraha Atsbeha seemed hopeless. By changing land use towards Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices, the villagers were able to save their water catchment area. Their method is becoming an export hit - the more it is imitated, the better. Transmedial storytelling helps to spread the success story.


Presenting a surprising success story with lots of personal passion

Development cooperation is sometimes questioned: Does it really help, and if so, to whom? In some cases, the criticism may sometimes be justified. And yet there are many examples of contemporary development cooperation that does a great deal of good through a participatory and sustainable approach. Sustainable Land Management (SLM) in Tigray is one of them.

In Abraha Atsbeha, in the northern Ethiopian state of Tigray, decades of deforestation and overgrazing have meant that hardly anything could be cultivated - the people were chronically dependent on food aid. But with the support of the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and foreign organisations, the villagers have succeeded in reviving completely eroded land - with the help of sustainable land management.


This volunteer project in cooperation with GIZ aimed to apply the instruments of transmedial, visual storytelling to make the exemplary project better known - in Germany, but also locally in Ethiopia, in order to further contribute to its acceptance and the dissemination of the method there.

For the storytelling project, Fabian Brandt travelled to Tigray in northern Ethiopia in April 2013 and produced the material for the story: film, photography and text.

The story about the impressive successes in the fight against erosion and drought has been presented in a variety of ways: as a short film ”Abahaui - the father of fire”, as part of a report on Spiegel Online and on various GIZ communication channels - on the website, on the intranet and on Facebook.

Impressive response for a development topic

The response to the Spiegel online report shows that development topics certainly attract interest when it is possible to present a surprising perspective. For example, the article was recommended around 4,000 times on Facebook - as a rule, the science section of Spiegel Online makes around 100 to 200 Facebook recommendations per article.

The approximately 35,000 views on YouTube reveal a classic “long tail” interest in the topic: visitors come from 75 different countries, with the USA, Saudi Arabia and Germany in the top three places.

A communal planning workshop regarding sustainable future land use.

The community of Abraha Atsbeha working on a dam for rainwater retention.

A live event to complete the project

To conclude the project, we organised a photo exhibition and short film screening in January 2014 in the rooms of the district office in the Frankfurt train station district, where two GIZ experts also answered questions about the work of German development cooperation in Ethiopia. The proceeds from the photographs sold went to the Alliance of Knowledge and Action for Sustainable Livelihoods Management (AKAM), a grassroots NGO based in Addis Ababa.

Concept, Video, Photography, Editing: Fabian Brandt

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