A New Beginning
We are beginning a new chapter in the life of Partners for Change. Some of our major grants have now ended, and some new projects are beginning.
Up till now we have worked in urban communities, among the poorest of the poor. Our new project will work across the rural south of the country, supporting girls at school. Many girls drop out – because the enter forced marriages with older men, or because they cannot manage menstruation with poor sanitary facilities. Our new staff will be educatiing, informing and supporting girls at school.
We are also starting to work in Somaliland, I camps for displaced people. This will support women vulnerable to gender based violence, at alarmingly high rates in the camps. We will train community workers and provide education programmes.
With Ethiopia, at Bahir Dar, we are starting collaborative research between Cambridge and Bahir Dar universities. Our first programmes have researched the nutritional value of finger millet and the provision of new IT services.
More on all these later. They are exciting times.
(Pictures show a guardian who cares for vulnerable children in the community, traditional bee hives, coffee seedlings, and a completed mesob)
Part of my journey has to be the visits to Partners for Change Ethiopia – and if this name is new to you, then have a look at our website www.pfcethiopia.org. Partners for Change Ethiopia is based in London and was set up to work with an Ethiopian agency called JeCCDO – or Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organisation if you want the full title. The strength of PfC/JeCCDO is its string local roots. We work in close cooperation with government and with local communities. There’s first of all a long process of research to identify the most needy community areas in the area, then a careful discussion to agree on what is needed to change the lives of the people. Then work starts.
We end up doing many different kinds of projects – because that’s what the community needs. I’m amazed at the commitment and adaptability of the small JeCCDO staff team and their ability to respond t a wide variety of needs. At the last count 750,000 of the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia had benefitted from theprojects.
One of the most challenging projects we have taken on is working with the Negedde Woitto. This community has been much discriminated against and currently lives in huts on rough ground at the edge of the town. We’re three years in to the project and things are looking up. There are now water points, communal showers and latrines; mamy young unemployed people have been helped with training as drivers, hotel catering business and hair dressers. 163 orphans and vulnerable children, and their guardians, have been supported in building a more secure life.
Most impressively – there are 12 womens self help groups, who meet regularly for mutual support and for saving money. These 12 groups have formed an association to work more widely for the community. Among other activities they coordinate the marketing of the traditional mesob baskets made in the community. They had a grant of 40,000 birr (approx. £1,300) to get started. They have used only 10,000 birr and with that have made a profit of 4,000 birr. The rest is still in the bank. This is a huge achievement for a desperately poor and demoralised community.
The picture above is a mesob, used for keeping injara the Ethiopian bread. Each mesob is large about 2 ft in diameter, and takes one week to make and is sold in the market 200 birr – about £7. So after costs of raw materials are deducted this gives an income of about £5 per week for a family. That shows the importance of the achievement of he womens group in increasing income.
Another part of the visit was to the large piece of land outside town which is our office and training centre. I was impressed at how it was being used for agricultural training. Groups of local farmers come to be trained in growing new kinds of crops, developing bee keeping, and are being introduced to new breeds of cattle which produce ten times more milk than the traditional breeds. Pictures show rows of coffee seedlings ready to be distributed and the manufacture of traditional bee hives made of dung pasted over a wood frame and then smoked over a fire of aromatic herbs. This is then placed high in a tree and attracts bees to settle in it. This training is vital in many ways – increasing the income of poor farmers, developing the productivity of the land and so increasing food production, and also diversifying crops which makes farmers more resilient to climate change.