Eritrea: The foot pump that changed the lives of Letina and her family

07 March 2017
Eritrea: The foot pump that changed the lives of Letina and her family
Letina received a foot pump in an ICRC distribution and has used it to provide food and a steady income for herself and her family. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC

Letina Mariam is a farmer in Mai Mine sub-zone, an area close to the Ethiopian border. The inhabitants of this area are among the Eritreans who bore the brunt of the border conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Letina used to grow crops that were barely enough to feed herself and her family.

In response to this the ICRC distributed foot pumps to farmers, in mainly women headed households, to improve the lives of the people and the wider community in general. Letina spoke to us about the impact that this distribution has had in her life.

Tell us about your vegetable production

I have been producing vegetables for more than ten years. I used to grow them in a very small plot of land and watered the land manually with a bucket. We used to grow vegetables for household consumption. Production was not satisfactory, it was not enough for our family. We used to buy from the market. However, in the last two years, after we received the foot pump and improved vegetable seeds, things changed completely.

How has the foot pump affected your life?

The foot pump has changed my life and the lives of my family completely. Now, I am able to grow vegetables in an area almost ten times bigger than in the past, and my production has increased by almost the same proportion. I use the foot pump to grow vegetables on a mountainous area which would be impossible otherwise. Every week I make about 700 Nakfa from the sale of the vegetables. Before getting the foot pump, I would have never dreamt of this. In the past, we would have to sell grain crops to meet other needs of the family  like buying coffee, sugar, clothes, and medicine. The last two or three months before a harvest would be extremely difficult. But now, we are more secure economically. We are able to save money and our agricultural produce, which means we can survive without any problem for at least one year if something like a drought should occur.

As a woman, how did you benefit most from the foot pump?

The good thing about the foot pump is, it is easy to operate. You don't need to be muscular or have special education to use it. I am an old woman but  I can still easily use it and produce enough vegetables. As a single mother my worry has always been to put enough food on the table for my children and send them to school. Before the distribution of the foot pump, our life was very difficult because we were dependent on rain fed agriculture, and I always thought that there is nothing a woman like me can do to change her life and the life of my children. Thanks to the ICRC, the foot pump opened my mind and changed my thinking about life. Now, I believe if I work hard the sky is the limit and I also believe it is never too late to learn.

What effect has the foot pump distribution had on the community?

Maimine sub-zone used to get its vegetables from Asmara and Mendefera, which are 165 and 100 kms away respectively. Prices of the vegetables were far beyond the reach of the majority of the population. But now, the people of the area are getting fresh vegetables at much lower prices thanks to the women farmers who make up the majority of the vegetable producers. More importantly, many people, more than a hundred families, were inspired by our success and started to grow vegetables and are hoping that the ICRC will provide them with the foot pump.

What are your future plans?

I have got big plans for the future. The immediate plan is to buy chicken, more than a hundred, to increase and diversify my income by selling eggs. My strategy to achieve this objective is to buy one chicken every week from the money I make from the sale of vegetables. I have already started it and I have six chicken. And my long term plan is to buy cows and sell milk and milk products. This is the fruit of the foot pumps, I started to plan for the future and I have the confidence to achieve any objective I set for myself.

Do you have any advice for women?

We have to stop telling ourselves that we are not educated, we are weak and poor. We can have dreams, big dreams like any successful man and achieve our dreams. The secret is determination and hard work. We have to rise above our current circumstances and challenges and work hard to change our lives and the lives of our families.