As I first bumped along Ethiopians southwestern roads, I watched out a rattling window as cattle grazed plains gradually transformed into an undulating landscape. A Fern Gully like place, thick with forest and groves. Weathered suspensions and over confidant drivers made for an unsettling journey, but my focus was transfixed on the regions sheer beauty. Kambata, Ethiopia is a 6.5 hour (16-24 via public transport) winding drive southwest of Addis Ababa. The region is on the cusp of Ethiopia’s central plateau. Kambata displays much of southern Ethiopia’s rich flora, and central Ethiopia’s towering topography. With the assistance of a variety of partners, the Tesfa Foundation has been preparing to build a school and library within Kololo, Kambata since partnering with adoptive parents in early 2011. Thanks to well executed fundraising on the part of Kambata adoptive parents, On The Ground, Ethiopia Reads, Mudula Water,and a wealth of individual donors, cumulatively we have raised enough money to build a school and library.
Over the last 5 months, I have visited with the village and local government officials numerous times. During which, Ijigu (a Tesfa Foundation senior manager) and myself worked to forge relationships with officials, community leaders and elders. Without a strong coalition of support, even small development projects within a reticent population can be difficult. The importance of making a genuine partnership was increased by a failed previous development project within Kololo. In which a large religious group invested thousands of dollars worth of materials into a variety of water projects, that in the months following failed, and have since gone unrepaired. The process of earning Kololo’s trust was challenging, but after spending the greater part of three days with community members, discussing previous Tesfa projects, and development philosophy, we were honored with a cooperative agreement from a the committee of village leaders.
In nearly two weeks, I will be moving into Kololo, Ethiopia. The community’s roughly 700 cob constructed homes are sprinkled throughout five square kilometers that make up an awe-inspiring landscape. The village is spread across a flourishing valley. Hundreds of compact farm plots are perched on rolling hills amongst two waterfalls and land teeming with wild growth. These homes rest seamlessly, and with a sense of grace. Each is woven into its environment, and is positioned to allow for privacy while remaining an air of openness to the rest of the community. A blend of palms, coffee, banana, mango, and papaya trees envelope most residences, leaving only glimpses of the earthen structures until just meters away. Yet when the flora veil is lifted, passerby’s are welcomed with kind eyes and cheerful smiles. I feel comfortable, and reassured, as if I have walked these village paths numerous times before.
I’ll wait to share more. I got to move in first....