>Sharing Pieces of Mother Africa with the Diaspora

>I have wanted to share information about various countries within Africa with the diaspora for some time now…today is the day…Let me share highlights on three countries (states), Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa.

ETHIOPIA

Part of my roots come from this country…on my mother’s side of the family. I look forward to the day when my feet touch ground here. My curiosity keeps this researching queen focused on the latest happenings throughout Ethiopia. I hope my findings encourage you to learn about this country and others throughout Mother Africa. 

We may hear stories about larger cities and villages within Ethiopia…many of us know the name Addis Ababa, but how many of us know about the village and people of Abreha we Atsebeha? The village of Abreha we Atsebeha, in northern Ethiopia, about 45km from Mekele, (capital of the Tigray region) is confident that in another 10 years they will not need food aid, according to their chairman, Gebremichael Giday. 

It took 10 years for this village to see a rise in the water table allowing them the chance to dig shallow wells for irrigation.  They learned the process with the help of Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transitions to More Sustainable Livelihoods,  also known by the acronym, MERET, meaning “land” in Amharic, the local language. MERET is a program developed by the World Food Programme (WFP) and implemented by the government. 

According to IRIN humanitarian news and analysis, “MERET provided Giday with the opportunity to learn about cross-breeding techniques and obtain new seeds for quick-growing varieties of maize. Since then he has cross-bred mangoes with apples – a delicacy that fetches good money in the markets of the national capital, Addis Ababa – and has introduced many new vegetables to the villagers.” They have grown as a people whose only food source was cereal, and now they have an abundant supply of fruits, vegetables, and money to purchase necessities. 

There are more than 5 million Ethiopians in need of food aid each year, but many do not support the idea of accepting aid as a form of charity or welfare…they don’t want a handout they want a hand up…many argue that there is a risk of dependency on aid (as seen in many countries, especially the U.S.) and sources such as MERET would be viable if they were providing the watershed management resources through loans and not aid. 

Without funding MERET may not be sustainable. Many donors would rather give cash, some preferring to donate to another food-for-work program with a watershed management component,  Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). In order for MERET to survive they will need to raise $21.3 million US (33,000mt of food) to provide food-for-work incentives to up to 610,000 people. In order to avoid a major pipeline break in 2010, WFP spokewoman Judith Schuler told IRIN that they “urgently need $12.6 million.” Schuler also responded to the concern of aid dependency by saying that participants are only on aid the first three months in the program where they get 3kg of maize per day; preventing possible aid dependency.

Can MERET be the solution for all of Ethiopia? Can participants learn farming trades in order to be self-sufficient enough where no aid is needed throughout the entire country? Is there potential to reverse the effects of the 1984 famine that killed more men, women, and children than our memory will allow us to recall? I will continue following the efforts of MERET, the growth of  Abreha we Atsebeha, and how the rest of Ethiopia responds to MERET’s progress.

SOUTH AFRICA

In addition to the World Cup taking place in South Africa, this country can be proud of launching an effort to educate all children through the 1Goal Campaign. BusinessDay reported today that 1Goal has partnered with President Jacob Zuma and Fifa president Sepp Blatter to make educating all of South Africa’s youth a top priority starting now; with the ultimate goal, that all children worldwide are enrolled in schools by the next World Cup in Brazil. July 7th 1Goal is holding a summit with world leaders to create a road map for this campaign.
 
The Global Campaign for Education, yesterday highlighted that 72-million children worldwide did not attend school, and half of them lived in Africa. Within South Africa, a new survey shows that 3.4% of the country’s children are not in school, and in the 16-18 age group the numbers show 9.8% of youth not in school, South African Democratic Teachers Union president Thobile Ntola said in an interview with BusinessDay. This campaign has the potential of bridging the gap between all nations of the world, so that all of our children are afforded the opportunity to live a fruitful life as educated producers in this competitive game we call life.  

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (also known as the DRC and the DR Congo)

I have been following this African state for many years, supporting efforts to fight crimes against women and children, and hoping that with added exposure the Democratic Republic of Congo  could one day be a nation of democracy, freedom, and opportunities of advancement for all. 

Today I read an article written by the Catholic Information Service for Africa (Nairobi) that caught my attention, but sadly did not surprise me. It focused on the findings of Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, who urged the Security Council to punish the perpetrators of rape against women in DR Congo. Wallstrom is reported as saying that the DRC is “rape capital of the world”. Evidence shows that during the fighting that took place last year, over 8,000 women were raped by men, and there are no laws protecting women and punishing rapists. 

In the eastern region, specifically in areas such as South Kivu, women are being raped oftentimes gang raped by armed men. Women are not safe walking on the streets, and now not safe within their homes as recently released reports have discovered that at least 60 percent of women were raped inside their homes by civilians. There are still numerous cases of violence especially against women by the army and militia; the five-year war may have officially ended on a grand scale in 2003, but the crimes against women and young girls are still taking place regularly.

The UN’s mission, Munoc is trying to help by escorting women to their homes, working with local authorities, and developing an early warning system. There has to be more that can be done. Are human lives not valuable enough resources to save? Women in the DR Congo have no rights; forget being second class citizens, the animals get more respect in this state and in others throughout Africa, and the rest of the world. What will it take to save these women from having to live in constant fear?  

IN CLOSING

Reflecting on the three countries I highlighted in this post do you see what connects them, what they have in common? The potential for positive change…growth…healing and prosperity…people who have fought, struggled, overcame, and survived because they have hope and faith in a better life. You have to believe that ‘better’ is possible, within grasp, and in our lifetime. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Do you believe?

                                         Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved. Natasha L. Foreman

Sources:
BusinessDay http://www.businessday.co.za/
Catholic Information Services for Africa (Nairobi) http://www.cisanewsafrica.org/
IRIN  http://www.irinnews.org/