After Zambia, it was onto Ethiopia and to the Buye Epicentre, which is the site for one of the next Water First projects. Water First was an idea born from one of our Global Investors, Daniel Petre who saw a need to bring water sources closer to villages; and the reason was two-fold.
The most obvious benefit of having water closer to the community is ease of access, which means better sanitation and health practices. But the other less clear benefit is having water close by means less sexual assault of women and young girls. If you have a young girl walking 10 km on her own on a remote track to get water, she is highly vulnerable. In Uganda, we are getting reports that they are seeing a decrease in teenage pregnancy when water is close by. It is confronting to think about, but it is the reality in Africa, and we are fortunate to have Investors like the Petre Foundation who don’t shy away from this problem, but instead are focused on funding solutions.
Ethiopia doesn’t quite approach Epicentres like some of our other program countries in Africa. They do not build infrastructure but rather focus on community mobilisation. It was amazing to spend time in the community and to listen to their challenges and to hear about the work that they’re putting in.
We started working with this community about four years ago and this will be another powerful opportunity for us to support them. This water project is going to make such a massive difference to the people in this community – it’s a vast area that encompasses three large villages with around 12,000 people.
We heard stories about how they walk 1.5 hours round-trip to collect water. Each household needs around 7 to 8 jerry cans of water for their animals and themselves.
It’s one of the most remote places I think I’ve ever been to – ever. After we visited some of the potential Borehole sites, the villagers then invited us to one of their homes for an incredible meal of Injera and beautiful curries and drinks followed by coffee – always superb! All of it was absolutely amazing including the local spirit that we HAD to drink!
The Hunger Project Ethiopia Country Leader Teshome Shibru and his team are doing some very powerful work and it was also an opportunity for me to learn and listen to their approach that is focused on nature and the environment. These projects protect and enrich existing forests, through assisted natural regeneration and other tree-based landscape restoration interventions. Tree-based restoration initiatives will contribute to raising smallholders’ incomes and help communities mitigate the effects of climate change.
I also spent some time visiting communities whose main crop is coffee, I got to see where our fancy and expensive single-origin coffee comes from. I was taken by the huge disconnect and disparity between the places where these items are grown and where they are consumed, and this is reflected in prices that are passed onto largely Western consumers but unfortunately, the local growers do not see the financial benefit. It was tempting to start a Hunger Project social impact coffee business to somehow try and address this imbalance… who’s in?
I left Ethiopia with an absolute desire to continue to support their work.