Given the feedback we’ve received over the past two weeks, our annual info-apéro on May 17th was a resounding success. Following our members meeting, first-time guests received an outline of EE’s mission and working principles from president Thomas Baumann. This was followed by a presentation of our work with schools in Raya-Azebo by Mehoni project leader Lesley Stephenson. Donors and members were delighted to hear of the project’s expansion and progress over the past year, as were our visitors. One guest attended the event in order to decide whether she and her childrens’ school would hold an event on our behalf. Following the presentation, she told us happily: ‘I am totally convinced. We will go ahead with our event.’
At the end of the Mehoni presentation, Thomas Baumann returned to our initial project in Hagereselam, delivering a brief update on our recent, positive visit to some of the model farmers in the area.
Having organized the administration of the event, board members Thomas, Lesley, André and Tatjana were able to relax and interact with all of our visitors, thanks to the support of our wonderful team of helpers. The latter prepared and served the apéro, covered the tasks at reception and manned the Wall of Wine and our Ethio-Shop. Our grateful thanks go to: Alois Baumann, Maria Baumann, Caroline Barlow, Jonathan Boroski, Gke Intharotjana, Patricia Leichtfried, Bettina Rinaldi, Beat Schaffner, Christoph Stocker and Julia Svozil.
Thomas Baumann has recently completed the Annual Report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2017. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved during the last year in Mehoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in German)
See the new compound at Lemlem Baro School in this short video.
Our new Mehoni brochure is hot off the press. It’s illustrated with updated project pictures and information. Click HERE to view. Please help us to spread the word about our work in Mehoni by ordering copies for your friends and colleagues from email@example.com ! We will be happy to send you the brochures by post.
Our long-year watershed rehabilitation project in the farming community of Hagereselam notched up its 8th and final year in 2017. Financed by Ethiopian Enterprises and executed by the team of Helvetas-Swiss InterCooperation in Ethiopia, the project in Hagereselam was slowly ‘phased-out’ throughout the past year in mutual agreement with the relevant stakeholders.
Highlights of the phase-out year included a perma-garden workshop run by international expert Peter Jensen which was financed by Ethiopian Enterprises. A group of Hagereselam’s ‘entrepreneur’ farmers attended the training and were able to implement Permagarden digging and planting techniques in their own garden plots.
During the project’s final weeks, a comprehensive survey was carried out by a company hired by Helvetas Ethiopia in order to see just what had been achieved over the duration of the project. The survey reflects both the successes and shortcomings of the project and is a very helpful document. Should further collaboration between the farmers of Hagereselam and Ethiopian Enterprises prove appropriate in the future, the survey document will provide a basis for monitoring the community’s progress between the end of 2017 and any future starting point.
After a challenging 2017 in Mehoni, the good news is that the year ended on a positive note. After nearly a full year without a school principle due to a desperate shortage of school staff in rural districts, our project school Lemlem Baro Elementary School acquired a new and experienced headmaster at the start of the new school year in September. At the same time, the challenging and disruptive building work required to stabilize the school compound and protect the school buildings against flooding and erosion drew to a close. The compound landscaping work was completed in December, and the Swiss flag now flies proudly on its flagpole in the compound along with the flags of Ethiopia and of Tigray.
Ethiopia will celebrate its Christmas on the weekend of January 6th and 7th, which in the Ethiopian calendar is the end of December. School starts up again later in January and we are looking forward to a new semester of progress at the school in which the focus will be on maintenance of the school’s new buildings and the improvement of academic standards.
A short video that gives you an impression of the Permagarden Training given in Mehoni by Peter Jensen in April 2017…
Thomas Baumann has recently completed the yearly report on Ethiopian Enterprises’ activities in 2016. The richly illustrated report provides a detailed overview of all that EE achieved in its seventh year in Hagereselam and Mehoni. Click HERE for pdf-file (only available in German)
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 Mehoni.
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 Mehoni, 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.
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.
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.
EE president Thomas Baumann and Mehoni 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 Mehoni 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. Mehoni 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 Mehoni 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.
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.
André, Tatjana, Lesley and Thomas (from left to right)