Thursday, July 9, 2015

Rhino Grinds Trees Well: Ethiopia #12

Admittedly the title of this post sounds weird as a phrase. In a matter of speaking all four words do go together though. Each words represents one of the four different visits we made today to interventions that are all part of the livelihood project with the diocese of Hararghe that I wrote about yesterday.

looking down the cliff
This morning we visited the Rhino cooperative (Auraris in Amharic). They are not raising rhinos. The co-operative consists of ten households, seven of which are headed by women (i.e. single mothers and widows). These families had been pastoralists. Then the droughts came and all their livestock died. One family lost twenty-one cattle. They decided to transition to agro-pastoralists and the project helped them.
Oranges (currently green)
We look down from the cliff we are standing on and see a well and pumping station down below near the dry river bed. It is nearly 15m deep. This well allowed them to irrigate fields. The fields were then planted with Orange and Guava trees. A storehouse was built. Training was given in forming and running a co-operative business. The grove is impressive for only being two and a half years old. “1000 trees were planted” says Muluken, the local project coordinator. They now sell bags of oranges for 500ETB locally and 600ETB in town. This gives them a 75% profit on their sales (since their labour is all contributed). Two of the families in the co-operative have been able to buy two cattle (which we see grazing) and start rebuilding. The next drought will not do them in. 

Cutting the ribbon
Ayan, first co-op member.
Next we were off to Hallewago where there was another ribbon to cut. This time we were inaugurating a grinding mill co-operative. Prior to the mill being there, women had to travel by foot over 10km. “Before we were suffering. Having to carry heavy loads such a distance was difficult. Only the lucky ones had donkeys. It was especially difficult for those of us who were pregnant or who had to carry children,” explains one co-op member. After the ribbon is cut the people cheer and the grinder roars to life. This mill provides benefit in 2 ways: First, it saves all the women in the community from having to walk the 10km. Second, the mill co-operative provides an economic benefit to its 27 members, self-selected in order by the community. The criteria they used to select people were: 1) poorest of the poor 2) households headed by women 3) want to improve their livelihood through hard work. Ayan is the name of the first woman chosen by the community to be in the co-op. After we are thanked and presented with symbolic gifts – a grain bag and a tether rope for a donkey. “Thank-you,” says a leader, “We will never have to use these again.” The name of their co-operative translates into English as ‘Happiness.’

Hallewago hilltop
Planting my tree
The view from the Hallewago hilltop looks down into the cultivated fields below. Before the rains, which come less frequently but more violently now, would gush down this hill and wreck people’s hard work. Not for much longer though. Stretched out before me are dug terraces which will soon be planted with hundreds of seedlings. Today we are planting the first of them with the community. The seedlings we plant all come from the nursery we visited yesterday. The trees we are planting have been especially selected for their resistance to drought. When they grow up, they will keep growing when the rain is gone and stop the rain when it comes gushing down the hill. They will return the soil back to health.

the Well and the Pump.
Engineer is in blue plaid. Walu is
the woman in brown.
It is our last field visit of the whole Solidarity Trip. Hard to believe. The Women from the Elharat kebele are there to greet us, singing the now familiar song of welcome. Even a donkey brays as we arrive. “He too is happy since he won’t have to walk for water now either,” laughs Muluken. We see a smiling young man who introduces himself as the water engineer who oversaw the project. We stand overlooking another dry river bed. “We were drinking black water from here” says one man from the community. Another woman named Walu says, “We had to carry both our babies on our backs as well as sometimes two jugs of water up this hill.” She smiles. “Today we are happy. We have water.”  Both this man and woman are members of the ‘water committee’ that takes care of this new resource for the kebele. What we are here to open is not just a well. We can see the well at the bottom, near the river. Underground pipes from there feed 4 important water points for the community: 1) The taps for drinking water 2) an area for washing clothes etc. 3) a 10,000L fibreglass reservoir and 4) a trough for the animals (hence the happy donkey)
At the Taps

As we thank the community for the wonderful celebration, Rose-Marie explains that we are merely representatives of the thousands of supporters of Development and Peace who have made the day possible. Indeed, all four of these visits today have shown us what can be made possible through the simplest gestures of solidarity made by Canadians through Development and Peace.

1 comment:

Mike Modeste said...

Thanks for posting these, Luke. Seems like your trip is going well. Look forward to hearing more whaen you're back in toronto.