The Ties that Bind – Maria Douglas shares her trip to Ethiopia
What if most of us have got it wrong? What if helping communities move from a place of dependency to a place of independence is not about providing them with skills, inputs, tangibles, but instead about forging relationships which make them feel truly equal to begin with?
These are just some of the thoughts that ran through my head during a recent trip to Ethiopia, courtesy of the organisation Vita…
Onaway and Vita – finding solutions for climate-affected tribesmen in South Omo, Ethiopia
“I want to stay here, with my cattle and my family,” so says Akula, the tribal leader of this Dassanech village on the banks of South Omo, in the southernmost tip of Ethiopia.
Akalu lives with his wife and children in Tumiyerim village, which sits on the banks of the Omo River. His clan occupy a privileged riverside plot, and in years past would have migrated with their cattle in order to find fresh forage. However, there is less and less forage available for their cattle across the whole region – an issue that impacts all of the pastoralist tribes. On top of this, the traditional seasonal flooding of the Omo Delta region, which brought much-needed nutrients and moisture to the soil, has all but ceased in the last few years, making drought a constant danger. Vita, in partnership with Onaway, came together with Akalu and his fellow tribesmen to find solutions to these growing problems. Together, they devised and implemented a program that has greatly benefitted the entire village through irrigation schemes, camel introduction, and increased herd productions.
Women’s Savings & Investment Co-op, Ethiopia
Nothing invigorates a community like a successful enterprise, and the women of the small village of Doko Yoyeri, high in the African Ridge Mountains of Southern Ethiopia, are beginning to realise this for themselves. They have worked closely with Vita, the Sisters of Mercy and the Irish Embassy in Ethiopia to set up a Women’s Saving and Credit Co-operative that teaches them how best to engage in business and improve their standards of living.
The idea that projects like these are community – led is a huge part of Vita’s DNA, and six local villages competed for this innovative new co-op, designed with the most marginalised local families in mind. This community – led approach gives the village council a sense of ownership of the co-operative, and a vested interest in its success. The council themselves have selected the first 20 members of the co-operative from amongst the poorest families in the surrounding area.
The Power of the Potato – Tozene’s Story
Tozene Nada was born in the mountains of the Great Rift Valley in southern Ethiopia.
Despite the steep and hilly countryside and its characteristic high altitudes, Tozene’s homeland was abundant and fertile. However, the strains of having to support, feed, and nourish an ever-growing population began to take its toll on this once bountiful land, resulting in overworked soil and smaller yields for farmers like Tozene.
With the passing of her father-in-law and her husband forced to migrate to Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, to support their family, Tozene took over the running of the two–hectare family farm, alone.
Fuel-Efficient Cookstoves – transforming communities and benefiting women in Eritrea
The traditional stove in Eritrea is called the ‘mogogo’ and, like most homes around the world, forms the central focus point of family life. Here is where women – like Tekea and Desey – spend a significant part of their day, preparing meals, heating water, and feeding the voracious open flame an endless supply of wood gathered from the ever-sparser countryside.
Vita’s Life Saving Programs
Together with its partners, Vita is engaged in livestock breed improvement, provision of livestock fodder and access to water, rangeland rehabilitation, providing access to veterinary services and capacity building for co-operatives, dairy farmers and local government.
One of the major environmental challenges in our partner countries is the use of biomass-burning stoves since most rural households are heavily reliant on firewood for their energy needs. As a result, Vita provides fuel-efficient stoves, which require less fuel and produce fewer emissions.
Based on its work on potatoes with CIP and local partners, Vita recognised the potential that potatoes can provide as a staple food. Potatoes are a highly nutritious crop and are ideal for boosting household food security.
The Coalition is a means of developing, sharing and scaling best practices and models to maximise the potential benefit that potatoes provide to rural communities.