Riding with Gemechis Jeleta of Winrock International and driver, Kassahun, on a busy four-lane, divided road through the streets of Addis Ababa to meet my host Guta Abdi of the Education For Development Association, I see a startling sight: donkeys in the air! Yes, a herd of donkeys crossing overhead in a pedestrian crosswalk. I tell Guta about the sight; he laughs, and gives me today’s picture of five people and a donkey sharing a very small dug-out canoe. When a western Ethiopian river was impounded, forming Fincha Lake for hydroelectric power, area farmers lost land and were presented with a transportation problem. The EFDA taught craftsmen to build canoes at Chitu Island to cross the lake. As their boat-building skills improved, the size of their boats increased. With larger boats, the EFDA trained the farmers to fish for tilapia in this western highlands reservoir. The fishermen now face a lifetime of food security. In the next few days, I see first-hand the breadth of EFDA’s work. The boat building and fishing training are just two of EFDA’s job skills training projects designed to upgrade existing skills and introduce new skills. Among those trained are leather workers, blacksmiths, basket weavers, and clay workers who produce “jabena” coffee pots, clay water jugs, and fuel saving stoves. EFDA’s rural livelihood programs work to provide jobs for women. I meet women trained to build low-fuel cook stoves, distribute sacks of cane sugar and dig bicarbonate of soda from volcanic soil for the manufacture of medicine.
Guta states that development should first take place in the minds of the people. The EFDA, which operates in the Oromia and Benish Gumuz regional states, builds schools to increase the quality of life through quality education. Schools encourage children to learn traditional knowledge of their community. EFDA’s health projects include women’s reproductive health, HIV/AIDS programs, and a campaign that abolished female genital mutilation in the Jimma and Horro districts. Oh, I have much more to see.