POST BY SHAUNA FITE (Staff Member of Michigan Land Use Institute)
Sunday January 23, 2011
It was pretty quiet after the team headed out of town the day before last. What a journey. Our last day together was spent running 10k to Afursa Waro where another huge celebration was held. There must have been 5,000 people there to greet us, along with music, singing, and dancing. The team was presented and dressed with beautiful traditional clothing. It was certainly a moment of accomplishment for the blood, sweat, and tears put in by each and every runner. Chris Treter was asked to say a few words and was clear that building a school is really just the first step when he said, “this is not the first time we have visited Afurso Waro, and it will not be the last.”
We are making our way north back to Addis Ababa with the Coop Coffee folks. Yesterday we visited more schools and a birthing and family planning clinic. We also sat with a family in their home as they shared stories and struggles. We were miles away from the main road. The clearest, most dire problem in these communities is certainly the lack of access to water. It’s amazing how many aspects of life are affected by water. It’s not just about drinking water, it’s about kids not having enough time to study because they have to walk two hours each way to get water. It’s about not having dietary options because there is no water to cook with or not having irrigation to sustain food crops, or coffee.
As I sat in the Coop Sol annual meeting, this was only reiterated by each and every farmer that explained the challenges associated with growing coffee. Top three needs – water, roads, electricity. I tried to relate this to my own life, working for an environmental advocacy organization and something became very clear. Our list is not much different, except the title of our list is consumption of water, roads (driving and oil use), and electricity (energy of all forms).
So as Chris said, this is really just the first step. But, there is defintiley something to celebrate when that first step is hundreds of thousands of footsteps across Ethiopia!