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Apéro and presentation on May 18th 2017

Join us next Thursday, May 18th, when Ethiopian Enterprises will celebrate its 8th year of endeavour in Ethiopia. If you are a member of our organisation, we look forward to greeting you at 18.30h for our members’ meeting. 

The meeting will be followed at 19.00h by an apéro for our members and all others interested in knowing about our work. Our Information Presentation and Q&A will begin at 19.30h There will be a charge of CHF 20 per person to cover the cost of the apéro, and we will again have an Ethio store at which you can purchase Ethiopian honey and hand-woven cotton/polished-cotton scarves.

Venue: Kulturraum Thalwil, diagonally opposite Thalwil Bahnhof:  http://www.kulturraumthalwil.ch
Parking available.

Please confirm your participation to: info@ethiopianenterprises.org

‘Best Training Ever’

Lesley Stephenson and Thomas Baumann made it back to Switzerland just before the Easter Bunny  after organizing and participating in two special training workshops in our project sites in Hagereselam and Mohoni.

The workshops introduced participant groups to the ‘Permagarden’ concept designed by US Global Nutrition Garden Training Specialist Peter Jensen who has worked throughout Africa for the past 20+ years in agricultural projects addressing the challenges of climate change. Peter Jensen developed the PermaGarden method over ten years ago, and has since trained hundreds of groups throughout Ethiopia and other African countries in this effective method. By applying special garden-protection techniques to deal with the management of excess water in the wet season, as well as unique digging techniques and soil enrichment procedures, Peter helps his participants ensure that the quality of their gardens and the food they grow is far beyond that which can be expected from most ‘normal’ gardens.

In Mohoni, the training was attended by teachers and parents from 6 different schools, and these participants now have the mandate to create a Permagarden in each of their own schools. As at Lemlem Baro, the produce from the gardens will be used exclusively to raise resources to cover school maintenance costs. Teachers are also expected to use their school gardens as teaching models for their wider school communities. The teachers and parents were thrilled with the training, which they described as ‘our best training ever’.

Peter Jensen, creator of the PermaGarden concept, is an internationally recognised acute climate change  and nutritional garden expert. He has worked all over Africa, and now lives in Ethiopia. Lesley met him in Ethiopia 4 years ago and has since linked him to our project partners in Hagereselam and to the schools in Raya.

Peter Jensen, creator of the PermaGarden concept, is an internationally recognised acute climate change and nutritional garden expert. He has worked all over Africa, and now lives in Ethiopia. Lesley met him in Ethiopia 4 years ago and has since linked him to our project partners in Hagereselam and to the schools in Raya.

A bare site at the back of Lemlem Baro School was selected for the Permagarden site.

A bare site at the back of Lemlem Baro School was selected for the Permagarden site.

Teachers and community members from six schools attended the training.

2 1/2 days of hard work was expected from the participants, theory and mainly practical work. Participants learned the crucial advantages of 'double digging' the gardens which means that the gardens require far less watering, a huge benefit in drought-prone Tigray.

2 1/2 days of hard work was expected from the participants, theory and mainly practical work. Participants learned the crucial advantages of ‘double digging’ the gardens which means that the gardens require far less watering, a huge benefit in drought-prone Tigray.

The completed garden has been planted with beans until the wet season begins. Then maize, pumpkin, and other vegetables which require more rain will be planted. The garden is dug and designed to allow water to be held at its corners, and to flow off in other areas. In other words, the form of the garden manages the rainfall.

The completed garden has been planted with beans until the wet season begins. Then maize, pumpkin, and other vegetables which require more rain will be planted. The garden is dug and designed to allow water to be held at its corners, and to flow off in other areas. In other words, the form of the garden manages the rainfall.

Self-Supporting Schools Program

EE president Thomas Baumann and Mohoni School Project leader Lesley Stephenson have arrived safely back in Zurich this week. As so often in the past, they appear to have taken rain with them to Mohoni and Hagereselam – at least that’s what the local people are starting to believe! The day after they arrived, the small rainy season (which hadn’t eventuated for the past 2 years) started almost a month earlier than usual. Mohoni had full rain showers for several days which served to refill the school rainwater collection tanks substantially, and greatly please the local farmers.

A lot of activities took place during this visit, including the orientation meetings for the Triple S (Self-Supporting Schools) Rainwater-Collection Project. This project has been initiated by Lesley and is strongly supported by the local government and the other schools involved in the pilot project. We will be explaining this sub-project in full at our information apéro on May 18th (open to the general public), but basically it will allow us to share the vital committee and rainwater/garden components of the Lemlem Baro School Project with 5 other schools in the Raya region. This will add considerably to the sustainability of the entire program, as additional focus and pressure on these schools will be applied to ensure that creating school resources for maintenance purposes becomes a top priority.

In addition, meetings at government level took place, and Lemlem Baro had it’s semester prize-giving last Saturday, always a very large event at the school. And there was an exciting presentation. The Raya-Azebo Bureau of Education (BofE) with whom we have excellent relations received a long hoped-for gift. Due to scant resources, BofE members have had to rely on public transport to make their school visits to over 170 schools in the region! Even when there is a local bus, they are dropped somewhere on the main road and have to walk literally for hours on the dirt roads to reach some of the schools. But not any more. An EE donor has covered the costs of a sturdy motor bike which can carry two Bureau members to the schools outside Mohoni in a fraction of the time, saving wear and tear and allowing for better school supervision. Bureau members are thrilled and have formally agreed to use the bike only for BofE business.

We will shortly begin our compound consolidation project at Lemlem Baro School, a next and crucial step designed to protect our new school buildings from the effects of heavy rain and flash flooding during wet seasons. A new girls’ toilet block is also foreseen in this next construction phase.

As always, we urgently need further funding for these new projects. If you are able to help us with fund-raising initiatives of any size, please contact us so that we can provide you with any relevant materials/support from our side. And of course, we look forward to seeing you on May 18th for the info-apéro in Zurich-Thalwil. Details to follow.

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Best wishes for the festive season

What a year 2016 has been for our projects in Tigray! Our long-year Hagereselam project has reached its maturity and will be slowly phased out in 2017, and the Lemlem Baro School project is progressing well.  Our Phase 2 construction ended in autumn and the new buildings were opened in a festive ceremony on October 5th. All our students are now in new classrooms.
Then last week the school enclosure was completed, ending a multi-month struggle to settle school- and farming land rights. This was a most important step for the school and the local community. Now the real work begins.

The board members of Ethiopian Enterprises: Thomas Baumann, president; Tatjana Meier, vice president; André Cardinaux, actuary & social media; and Lesley Stephenson, Mohoni School project leader, would like to extend their grateful thanks to all those who have supported us and the projects this year, not only with donations but with that most precious commodity: time. In this context, our thanks go to the members of our fundraising committee Karin Mathis Broeckelmann; Tatjana Meier and Cathy Kennard and their many helpers. Thank you, too, to Mothering Matters with Andrea Snashall and Carol  McGinty-McDonald and their book team; to Ben Nordemann for his terrific initiative in raising money for the Mohoni water emergency at the end of 2015 – early 2016; as well as Mark Diethelm, Stephan Vollert, and Julia Vollert. Huge thanks go to Simon Quinn and his team at DHL for their support and patience with the book sending earlier this year. The Mohoni community is greatly indebted to all of you.

Since it is Christmas time, we want to end with a little story which shows how people have been touched by our work in Mohoni even if they do not attend Lemlem Baro School.
For the first 6 months of 2016 we were able to assist the regional Raya-Azebo government during the terrible drought with extra financial support for several hundred students from over 30 schools in the region, including the 7 schools in Mohoni town. While such help is not part of the official EE mandate, we simply couldn’t stand by and watch these children drop out of school or -far worse – become severely ill due to malnutrition during the drought.  Many of you helped with this special effort, especially those who attended our sold-out Fish’n’Chips dinner in May.

Our help was limited to  6 months, January to June, and helped many students not only to survive but to stay at school and complete their end-of-year exams. Here is a sequel to this help, related by Lesley who was in Mohoni last week:

‘While I was walking down the main street in Mohoni, I was approached by two young men who I recognized immediately: Leuel and Brhan. They were two of the students from the preparatory school where the brightest kids go after high school and from which they can graduate to a university.  I recognized them because they were two of the students we had helped during the drought. Like many students attending school in Mohoni, they live more than half a day’s walk from the town and have to stay in town during the week to attend school. During the drought, their parents were not able to pay for their room rent and food, and the money they earned working when they were not at school was not enough to get through. Like many of the students, they were falling asleep at school from exhaustion and hunger and thirst. They were about to drop out when we intervened.

Anyway, last week they greeted me with big smiles on their faces and said they had been looking for me as they had good news. Leuel explained that they had topped their class in June and had received summer workshop scholarships to Mekelle University in August. Now they were back in their final year of preparatory school and would be going to university in 2017. They both hugged me and thanked me and asked me to pass on their thanks to EE. ‘We will never forget what you all did for us’, said Leuel. ‘We would have had to leave school if we had not had your help. Now we will have a good future’.

Later that week I learned that these two boys were currently coaching weaker classmates in the weekends, free of charge. ‘

Merry Christmas to you all, and thank you so much.

Thomas, Tatjana, André and Lesley

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Enclosure of Lemlem Baro School

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Lesley Stephenson returned from Ethiopia today after an unexpected visit to Mohoni to formally accept the new school enclosure. The enclosure was due to be finished at the time of our second building phase completion in October. However, unforeseen delays occured.

For years, the school borders which separated Lemlem Baro Elementary School from the adjacent farming land have been subject to dispute. Although a rough plan of the school land was available, this was not always respected by the farming community and in any case proved to be inaccurate.  It was common for unauthorized people as well as oxen and other farm animals to cross the school compound, leaving a mess in their wake.

Our enclosure project prodded the regional government  to settle the land disputes surrounding the school once and for all. This was a prerequisite for Ethiopian Enterprises to undertake this part of the project. The government fulfilled their agreement, supported strongly by our Mohoni School Project manager, Melkamu Abate. Farmers who ‘lost’ a meter here and there in the negotiations were compensated for this by the government.

The issue of the  border disputes was far larger than we had originally anticipated and led to lengthy delays in the project. However, the school borders are now finalized and the enclosure has been completed. It provides security for the school and its students, and clarity for the farmers. The over-extended regional government would not have prioritized the settling of these disputes if the incentive of the enclosure had not been present.

 It is standard practice in Ethiopia for schools to be enclosed and guarded. This is due to the fact that widespread poverty means that when people are desperate they will resort to stealing resources from any venue which appears to have them. The investment in this school has to be protected and is now secured. The work of the school guard has also become easier as it is possible for him to patrol the enclosed area far more effectively.

We’re very satisfied with the standard of the work, which was completed by Semere Mezgebo Building Contractors from Mekelle The enclosure, comprising a stone and cement section as well as a wire mesh section, is both strong and attractive.– .   

It’s not over till it’s over

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EE board members Thomas, André, Tatjana and Lesley have returned safely from Ethiopia. For the first time ever, the entire board were in Ethiopia together to attend the official opening of the second new school section at Lemlem Baro School in Mohoni.

The opening ceremony on October 5th was attended by members of the Rayan government, representatives of the Tigray State Bureau of Education, local television and radio, leaders of both the Christian and Muslim communities in Mohoni as well as students, staff and parents. Our board members worked hard with project manager Melkamu Abate and the students to create the opening event, and it was enjoyed by all.

In the days leading up to the opening of Phase 2 buildings at Lemlem Baro School in Mohoni, all the board members could be found at the school hanging educational posters in the classrooms, sorting materials for the school storerooms, preparing lists of library books and other school materials for the regional finance department who had requested a price list for everything we had given to the school, etc. The days were long, and the evenings were helped along considerably by a very nice Chardonnay from the Rift Valley, which runs between southern Ethiopia and neighbouring Kenya. Our family-run hotel owner had plenty of Rift Valley in stock, despite the fact that the hotel is a very simple but clean affair which costs CHF 10 a night per room. The food is good and the owner looks after us nicely.

We were joined shortly before the opening by EE donor Liz McCarthy from Australia, who thoroughly enjoyed her time in Mohoni as well as our wonderful trip a couple of days later to visit our maturing Hagereselam project.

Are we finished in Mohoni now? Far from it. While a lot of the planned new buildings at Lemlem Baro are now standing, we still have further building to do, including toilet blocks for the entire school. This is urgently necessary but will require further fundraising. We are also still seeking funding for the remainder of the new school furniture.

Now the real work at the school begins. Educational standards need to be raised, and the committees which were selected last year to handle maintenance, water and gardens need to be mentored regularly. We are looking for volunteer teachers to help us with the many teacher training- and student teaching assignments which are facing us. Please contact us if you are interested.

The Mohoni School Project was always foreseen as a multi-year project. As we approach the end of the second year of the official EE Mohoni School Project, we can say that, with your help and that of a number of larger institutions, we have done fabulously well. But the real work has only just begun. We are ready for it.

Good news from Mehoni

Lesley Stephenson has reported from Mehoni that the rains have finally arrived in full in our school project area, after an almost total lack of rain in last year’s wet season in large parts of northern Ethiopia. For the past two weeks there has been heavy rain every day in the Mohoni area and many other parts of Raya.

‘Although everything is muddy and difficult at the school as a result of the heavy rain, no-one is complaining. In any case the children are on ‘holiday’ so it’s not a major problem. If we just get another week or so of rain, the terrible cycle of drought which has affected this region so cruelly will be broken. And there will certainly be a harvest in September.
Thank you to all those who provided additional funds and support through our emergency help program over the past nine months, or during the water supply breakdown in Mohoni at the beginning of the drought last autumn. The Lemlem Baro community has asked me to send you their heartfelt thanks. They find it hard to believe that people who don’t know them were willing to support them at such a desperate time.’ Lesley Stephenson

Mehoni School Project: Phase 2 Almost There

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The second and largest phase of our Mehoni School Project is heading for completion in the coming 2-3 weeks. This construction phase has been hugely challenging, especially in the framework of the shocking drought which has affected our project region over the past 9 months. Thanks particularly to the tireless efforts of our local project manager Melkamu Abate and project leader Lesley Stephenson who has spent more than 2 of the past 5 months on site at the project, considerable improvements in building quality have been secured. The pictures above show clearly that constant attention to detail has been worthwhile.

A huge thank-you goes to all our donors who have supported the work on Phase 2 over the past 12  months, and to those who are currently assisting us to raise money for the furnishing of the new buildings. As the school will break for semester ‘holidays’ at the end of June in the Ethiopian calender (mid-July in ours), the official opening of the school will take place on October 6th, a week after the new school year begins. Members and donors still have the opportunity to join our delegation to the school at that time, and to assist us and the school staff in transferring both materials and students into the new school facilities. If you are interested, please contact Lesley Stephenson for further details: info@ethiopianenterprises.org

2015 yearly report now available…

Geschäftsbericht 2015Thomas Baumann has recently completed the yearly report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2015. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved in its sixth year in Hagereselam and Mohoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in german language)

The good, the bad and the ugly

Lesley Stephenson and Thomas Baumann have returned from a challenging working visit to Mohoni. Lesley describes the local situation as follows:

‘First of all, the good news. Mohoni had repeated rainfall in the 2 1/2 weeks we were there. As you can see from the picture of the students taking school garden produce to market, things are looking wet and green at the school. If the rain returns in the main wet season of late June/July/August, we will have a harvest in September and that will help to break this terrible region-wide drought.

However, the green look of the school grounds is deceptive. In areas just outside Mohoni, there has been no rain at all, still! The government is frantic, they were in meetings the entire time I was there. We did have one meeting with the head of the Woreda, a real privilege under the circumstances, and they are doing all they can to deal with our specific issues, i.e. ensuring that the DHL shipment finally gets through. However, the letters we badly need to get the boxes to Mohoni have still not been signed, and this is understandable. When people are dying, a shipment for a special school is just not a priority. However, we expect  this issue to be resolved in the next fortnight, and will keep you posted.

The government asked us if there was anything more we could do to help them with the emergency they are facing as their budget is more or less depleted. Federal wheat aid of 15kgs per family per month is inadequate to keep people alive. As you know, we are already supplying monthly emergency aid to over 460 severely drought-affected kids and their families, but of course there are thousands more. A truck of wheat or grain from Addis to the most affected regions costs about CHF 7’000 (this is for about half a ton) and they are looking for sponsors for these additional supplies.

We cannot go down this path as we have neither the resources nor the mandate. This would only be possible if individuals or companies here in Switzerland were willing to finance special support through us. We would coordinate such efforts and guarantee that the money and food was properly organised and delivered, but that would be our limit. Please let us know if you have contacts to individuals or organisations who would have the resources and interest to help in this way.

However, there is something else we are trying to do just within Mohoni until the end of the school year in June. Thousands of the kids are affected by a brutal skin rash, which is likely scurvy or other nutritional-deficency-based problem. They haven’t had fresh food for months – Vitamin C and A are likely to be severely deficient. The teachers went beserk when they saw me externally treating the worst affected kids at the school as they claim it is contagious. But it’s not. It’s a widespread nutritional disorder in a large population which has been close to starving for months. It’s clear that it’s widespread!

The wounds reacted well to cleaning, disinfecting and creaming. But the kids urgently need Vitamin C. We are currently pricing supplies of oranges from the market in Mekelle as the markets in Mohoni are depleted due to the drought. If this is feasable, we will take one last emergency support step before the end of the school year and finance some fruit transport to the area. We have also bought a large supply of disinfecting soap which has been parceled out to the most affected kids’ families so that the open wounds where they have scratched the rash can be kept clean, a real challenge in this environment.

The school itself has progressed well in many areas, and I’ll be coming back with pictures and an update on this shortly. Thanks to all members of our community for their support and encouragement’.   

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