When Belay got married he went to live with Bizunesh at her mother’s.
Only 90-minutes’ walk away, he was the closest one to his grandfather who lived alone. So, one day the old man asked his grandson if he would come to care for him until his death. In exchange, he would give him his land and house.
His grandfather had once owned a lot of land and many farmworkers during Emperor, Haille Selassie’s time. But if he was a big or a small land-owner, Belay does not know. “He had land down in the lowlands, in the highlands, in all the different growing land the mountains offer.”
But the feudal system and the emperors came to an end with the Derg (marxist) regime. As did land-owning. The “land to the people,” said the government who became the owner of all Ethiopia’s land. Belay’s grandfather was left with five hectares of his less productive land.
Belay accepted his grandfather’s request to give half the land to one of the faithful workers living in the courtyard for over 20 years. Today, the two families do not live comfortably side-by-side and Belay would prefer to have all the yard to himself.
He would also prefer to have 10 hectares to live the life he and his wife have planned, but land is still not for sale and last year the country’s political life again changed the course of Belay’s life. With still too many farmers without land, another land redistribution took place taking another half-hectare of Belay’s land.
He says that the farmer to whom the land was given really needed it, but the decision was not easy to accept and feeding his family is becoming harder and harder. So, with what is left of his land dispersed in the very steep mountains, Belay harvested eight bags of wheat and three bags of barley (9) on the wide land he has near the house and three bags of beans, and one of lentils lower down the mountains where his land is only meters wide.