An Ethiopian Odyssey

This is a selection of images taken during Ric's travels in Ethiopia in 2015, from meeting Amlaku at the Airport, views of the landscape, improvements to agriculture and infrastructure, through to speaking at a community meeting in Baregota Village.

What a joy to be greeted at Addis International Airport by Amlaku. His grin just lit up the whole entry hall! larger image

Amlaku and me in the Simien Mountains National Park, fabulous scenery, which I would have appreciated more had I not been recovering from some sort of bug, which had left me feeling totally washed out! larger image

One of the many channels Amlaku and the villagers have constructed, to bring water from the river to almost all of the houses in the village. This has enabled them to grow vegetables around their houses, great both for their diet and also for giving them something to sell in the market in Lalibela. For them to have a cash crop is a huge step forward. larger image

Amlaku has also constructed this water tank, fed by pipe from a spring some 500 metres away. Previously the villagers used to get a lot of their domestic water from the spring, which was also used by local animals, so was heavily polluted. Now, beautiful clean safe water flows from here 24/7. Everybody loves it, including some rather smarter cows! Health throughout the community has improved as a result of this tank. larger image

Early morning meeting with the whole community. My first task was to convince them that just because I was from the West, I was neither rich American nor wealthy Aid Agency. Rather, I was just an ordinary New Zealander, backed by family and friends. So, I could make no promise of how we might be able to help them with things that they had no way of attaining for themselves - like improved seed and fertiliser - but that I would do my best to raise the funds needed for these things. I think they 'got it'.  larger image

Traditional method of grinding grain. Back breaking, time consuming and laborious. Now they have their new diesel powered grain mill, the women will be freed up to do much more in their gardens and elsewhere. larger image

 

It was right on harvest time when I was in Ethiopia, and everywhere there were lush crops, ready for harvest. Such a contrast to the 'normal' image of Ethiopia that people carry in their heads - famine, starvation and suffering. The Ethiopia I saw was a country on the move, with building going on everywhere, new infrastructure, cell phones en mass. Cheerful people too. This picture was taken just outside Addis. larger image

Nearing the end of the 8 km walk to Baregota, Amlaku's home village. No way could even a motor bike be used to get to the village, strictly walking only (or possibly riding on a donkey!) The village is in the middle distance. larger image

An example of vegetables being grown near one of the houses. You can see the channel running along the edge of the crop. larger image

Amlaku's father, Yaregal, and brother, Melkamu, in front of their very good wheat crop. These improved crops are a result of the knowledge Amlaku gained while at university doing his degree. Improved seed and fertiliser, which is what we are currently raising funds for, will see further improvements to their crops, thus building community resilience in the face of an uncertain climate, and other variables, that are beyond their control. larger image

A picture of two halves. Running across from right to left in the middle of the picture is the main path into the village. Immediately above the path is a wheat crop, where the farmer has followed Amlaku's suggestions - that he ploughs the land before the rains come, so that the water soaks in rather than running off, and that he sows the seed in rows rather than just scattering it. Result, even without benefit of improved seed and fertiliser, is a much better crop. Contrast this with the crop in the bottom left hand corner of the picture, where that farmer had stuck to the traditional way of doing things - resulting in a sparse crop, which  will obviously give a much lower yield than the other crop. It is important to realise that these people have only been able to grow one crop a year, so that if that fails or is poor, then the implications for that family are very serious. Just after I left, at a village meeting, the farmers who had resisted Amlaku's new techniques got up, apologised to him and to the village, and committed themselves to the new methods. I thought that was hugely significant. larger image

Of course, Amlaku had to translate for me everywhere we went. Here he is at the community meeting, being the link between the villagers and me, and doing it very well too! His stature as a community leader has grown enormously over the past couple of years, as he has put into practice in the village some of the skills and techniques he had learnt at university. But also, because of our funding from New Zealand, he has been able to do things with water - the channels and the water tank - all of which are starting to make life in the village work very much  better. We have a long way to go yet, but slowly, step by step, the building blocks are being put in place, building blocks which will see this community of some 70 families lifted out of the poverty that has dogged them for generations. Life will always be hard in this environment, but the change we are already seeing here  demonstrates just how a community can, with a little outside assistance, lift itself out of dire poverty into something that is rather more sustainable. larger image