about the progress of      Slope Farming

In academic exchange and collaboration with

RUVIVAL - www.ruvival.de


Weather conditions in Arba Minch: Approaching dry season until April 2018

Slope Farming Logo by Jan Wibbing
Slope Farming Logo by Jan Wibbing

New yearly update on betterplace.org in english and german (click on the language you like!)

January 2018: Moringas grown tall up to app. 8m in just 7,5 months. Full of seeds, which we will propagate in the next months. 

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Mid of December: Grass has grown nicely, when it is not grazed all the time by free-roaming animals. Our measures of Rain Water Harvesting also help a lot. Where the soil was turned, the plants grow especially nice, like Moringa, Pigeon Pea, Elephant and Guatemala grass. For the next rainy season, we plan to plow all the area once and then bring all the nice plants inside. Then we really make a change for good in the project site in Arba Minch.

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Mid of December: Rainy season is over, but still some plants are doing well. Especially the Moringa trees in the farm of Elias grow fast thanks to good access to surface-near groundwater and overwelming good seed quality. About 7 meters in just 6,5 months!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

End of November 2017: Amazing, what the retention of rain water and keeping off grazing animals can do in just some weeks of rainy season! The grass is growing, stabilizing the soil. Less erosion, more fertile soil!

All photos: Asfaw Anko

Hamburg, 24.11.2017: The Slope Farming Project won the first prize of the 5th Harburger Nachhaltigkeitspreis for the year 2017. This is great news, as the prize money enables us to further implement the measures to make a long-lasting, sustainable change in Arba Minch. Many thanks for the award and the support of the HARBURG21 team!

Click the photo for the link (in german):

Alle Bewerberinnen und Bewerber mit Birgit Rajski (Mitte), Tülin Akkoc und der Jury- und HARBURG21-Lenkungsgruppen-Mitgliedern (Foto Gisela Baudy)
Alle Bewerberinnen und Bewerber mit Birgit Rajski (Mitte), Tülin Akkoc und der Jury- und HARBURG21-Lenkungsgruppen-Mitgliedern (Foto Gisela Baudy)

August until October 3:

A demonstration site near Sodo by the Terepeza Development Association shows very nicely, how productive, yet resilient and sustainable with little inputs only can be done by advised local farmers, increasing their yields reliably. Mulching, intercropping, crop rotation, relay-cropping, all is practiced. The papayas seem to like it very much! We are just starting to establish those measures of Conservation Agriculture in our side, along Water Conservation, Soil Conservation, mixed up with our resource-oriented sanitation and energy system! Topped by our plant system. What will happen?

All photos: Jan Wibbing

August until October 2:

Chicken like to eat Moringa very much! Sometime a little Azolla adds some special flavor, definitely the taste they like more than the dry standard fodder. They reward the special feed with nice eggs, yolks deep-orange in color and strong shell, and many a day. Maybe the added pyrolysed and crushed bones helps? The Moringa trees grew in just about 16 weeks up to 5 meters, so far. Very good seed indeed!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

August until October 1:

With the upcoming rain, we started the planting of beneficial trees and plants inside our project site. To prevent from grasing, a neighbourhood agreement was signed with the local Bere Kebele with support of the Mayors Office of Arba Minch. Many thanks to all people involved! Now our foreman and caretaker of the site Asfaw will live permanently on the site to take care! 


All photos: Jan Wibbing

June till end of August:

We finalized the implementation of our Rain Water Harvesting measures. on about 3 hectares of space, we established trenches, terraces, stonewalls, earthbunds. Alll topped by a app. 50m³ overflow reservoir linked to the trenches. In case of a tremendous rain event (like 60mm or more in just one hour), we expect to fill all this volume with ease.


Now, with the starting rainy seasons, and all means for retention and infiltration of the water in place, we start the establishment of our planting system. First plants are sown, mostly Moringa and Leucaena. Lets hope for continous rainfall and the absence of grazing animals. 


We will construct a house for our caretaking guard soon, in order for him to be present in the site and facilitate and protect the measures 24h per day, if needed. 


Now the actual restoration of the degraded area can begin!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

April till early June 2017:

This year’s main rainy season came late – but intense. Due to a changing climate, weather conditions change drastically, people, animals and plants are suffering big time. The more important becomes research and activities in the field of Restoration Engineering, combating drought stress and low productivity of agricultural practice. All for the improved access to food and water, especially with a fast growing number of inhabitants, like in Ethiopia.
Thirsty for the rain, the environment really was struggling. Even deep rooting trees like Leucaena thinned out their canopy. But in the end of April the rain came, with astonishing rain events. Lots of rain on a dried out soil with little or no vegetation cover at all means too very often little rates of infiltration and high rates of surface runoff. Therefore our lately enhanced living Checkdam in the erosion gully had to withstand heavy floods, and only could partially manage. The  riverbank without mesh stabilisation collapsed due to severe overflow, in the following nights with again strong rain, the bank collapsed and eroded, almost all the way down to the fundament of the Checkdam.
So, we adapted, and constructed a new riverbank stabilisation with mesh, wood and a lot of stones. This wall will direct the water from the riverbanks (the most fragile part of the dam) towards the centre of the erosion gully, where it overflows towards the scour protection.
Also, by this strong rains, we could retain lots of water within our Rain Water Harvesting measures on-site in our project site. Currently, we construct more measures (a diverse mix: trenches, terraces, eyebrow terraces, keyline furrows, earth bunds, rain water pons with a distribution system) on the site, to exemplary demonstrate adapted to the very circumstances the functioning of the measures to interested people.
Now the water has come (and is retained in the site, where its percolated into the soil layers) we can start the planting of our adapted planting system soon. A living fence and “gardening guards” (caretakers of the green area) will manage to keep any free grazing goat or cow outside, so no harm is done to the plants. Only then there is a chance to improve the soil of the eroded site and have a well functioning, sustainable approach to show and evaluate.
The Azolla ponds became functioning mirco-ecosystems, with frogs swimming around (and eating mosquito larvae). The only additive so far is bone meal, which we pyrolyse in our wood gas stove from bones (and currently there are many because of the dying cattle from the drought). We hope to extend the research on this and produce a high-value organic fertilizer from waste residues.
We thank all supporters for their great contribution.
Jan Wibbing for the Slope Farming Team

September till December 2016: 4 students from TUHH joined the project in Arba Minch! During the month, many great things were accomplished by a great team!

Project Site: Measures of Rain Water Harvesting were started! With our self-constructed mason level, we marked the contour lines of the plateau in the project site to establish water harvesting keyline trenches. A suiting, beneficial vegetation cover will follow soon, benefiting from the stored water and non-eroded, fertile topsoil! Erosion can be stopped by adapted system, beneficial also for the farmer implementing them!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Productive Ponds: In ponds, we started to grow Azolla. The system basically only needs some cow manure and soil supplied weekly. Then the amazing Azolla starts growing non-stop. We aim to develope an integrated "waste and wastewater"-treatment system around this, with production of high-value organic fertilizer, mulch or even livestock fodder, for closed nutrient cycles!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Small Scale Farm: On the Mission Compound we implement a Small Scale Farm for research and demonstration purpose. How productive can we get by our system on a limited farming area? Here, on 1.400 m² we can see...

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Chicken House: We constructed a chicken house from local materials (loam bricks, partly wood and bamboo) in the Moringa Tree Nursery for organic, free-ranged poultry, fed also by Azolla plants. No more weeding between the Moringas!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

Check Dam: We enlarged the well working checkdams from last year to creat a flood plain. Much stones had to be carried, much soil to be dug out for strong fundaments. Within the the first following rain events, substantial amounts of sediments rich in organic matter have been accumulated. Now we can green the area with many beneficial plants!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

July and August 2016: We started to do more experiments on loam bricks. The best mixture of sand, silt and clay along with water and additional material like teff straw is worked out right now by Jana. Asfaw will produce some more bricks for the construction of a house, soon.

June 2016: Thomas is working on the construction of an improved wood gas stove from metal. Along with a local metal worker a big stove was constructed, which works sufficient. Experiments on using saw dust as a wood residue instead of wood are still running.

All photos: Jan Wibbing

May 2016: The experimental area was set up in the compound of the Catholic Church in Arba Minch. Trenches allow to retain water from stron rain events (up to 60mm in some hours) and infiltrate it into the soil. 

All photos: Jan Wibbing

April 2016: The mission compound shall be turned into an experimental demonstration site for Slope Farming - with autark supply of agricultural goods! Therefore some measures were implemented: Rain Water Harvesting, Moringa plantings, living fences. We created some useful tools for adapted management of the measures: Moringa seed harvester, Mason level and charcoal grinder!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

March 2016: Oliviero built a wood gas stove along with a local blacksmith! Pyrolysis is running good, but still too fast...producing charcoal WHILE you cook your dinner. Nice!

All photos: Jan Wibbing

March 2016: The rainy season started. First rain events in the night - also one heavy one. The improved check-dams did their job and accumulated loads and loads of sediments! Great work! Now we have to increase them...

All photos: Jan Wibbing

March 2016: Congratulations to Stefan Hügel for his great project work on plant selection in course of our "Slope Farming Project"!

Februar 2016: Giovanni, with the help of Pauline, Oliviero and Carla, built some new check-dams to support the big check-dam. Water rushing in the erosion gully is to be slowed down. This way our main check-dam can be protected efficiently.

All photos: Jan Wibbing

January 2016: Carla and Oliviero arrived in Arba Minch to conduct work on a Terra Preta System, respectively on Wood Gas Stoves for the production of charcoal. Meanwhile, Moringa grew up to 4,7m, 8 month after sowing!

Photos: Jan Wibbing

December 2015: Due to the weather phenomenon "El Nino" this years rainy season was unpredictable - even less than before. Heavy, erratic rain falls destroyed our established check-dams. Stones of more than a couple of 100kg were washed away. So Giovanni, with the help of Alessandro, constructed an improved check-dam, which should be able to sustain even that heavy floods.

All photos: Giovanni Timillero

December 2015: For an alternative housing construction with local materials, Melina managed to produce some loam bricks. These are now tested back in Hamburg for their suitability for construction.



Photo: Melina Buriks

December 2015: Due to plenty of rain fall, the Moringa trees in our tree nursery are doing good! The largest trees are already 4,5m - half a year after their sowing! The plants sown in the extension of the tree nursery also germinated!

All photos: Melina Buriks

December 2015: Alessandro worked on a low-cost hydroseeding system to easily establish a dense vegetation cover. Let us hope the goats do not find their way into the area!


Photos: Giovanni Timillero

15.11.2015: Giovanni is coming to Arba Minch for watershed management and implementation of Rain Water Harvesting measures in the project site!

06.11.2015: Alessandro is joining the team and arrives in Arba Minch to conduct his work on a hydroseeding system!

02.11.2015: Thanks for the donations so far! We constructed some more check-dams to retain sediments and infiltrate rain water!



All photos: Claas Menke

16.10.2015: Melina made here way safely to Arba Minch and starts her work on a concept for alternative housing construction with local materials and waste products!

08.10.2015: After only one strong rain event at night, our check-dams passed their first real test and are already full of sediments. So we have to enlarge them!





All photos: Claas Menke

05.10.2015: First actions were performed in the project site...the first two check-dams were constructed testwise. Many more will follow!





All photos: Asfaw Anko

10.09.2015: Stefan, Claas and Asfaw are working on the extension of the tree nursery "Moringa Fields"...for many more Moringas!

All photos: Stefan Hügel