Friday, December 27, 2013

Getting out of Addis

Ive been spending an inordinate amount of time in Addis over the last month. Field projects are taking some time to get going, so Im staying busy with computer work and meetings.... Not exactly blog friendly material.   Thankfully a long time friend from Minneapolis made her way out to assist ER with a couple projects in Kembata-Tembaro.  Maddy Ruegg is a certified nutritionist, experienced urban and rural gardener, as well as a world travler with a pension for finding substance wherever she temporarily settles. Maddy's also a welcomed solid addition to the Cien and Lolo fam.  Everyone at ER is happy to
have her out in Ethiopia til the end of February.

Addis is currently suffering through a simultaneous city wide train track construction project.  Roads are tore up as well as the lines of water and electricity that flow above and below them. Residents of the city have seen their daily commute triple in length and double in cost due to the ridiculous construction planning. While at home, folks that live outside of the wealthy corners of the city are regularly without
water for days and even weeks at a time.  Unfortunately, Im one of those have-nots.  Currently we're on three weeks of intermittent water and electrical supply (water, without warning, comes on for 2 hours at a time, and even better, usually in the middle of the night).  All that living in the country side sure does a solid job prepping ya for hauling water from blocks a way and charging cells off of solar

Anyone that follows these posts already has an idea about how I and company stay sane.  Get on out to the surrounding mountains and go for a morning to early evening hike of course.  Camping would be better if it wasn't for the nocturnal carnivorous wildlife.  Oh well, we make

Riding up to the top of Entoto, Lolo is a bit photo shy
We were welcomed by a constant stream of hay schlepping donkeys

The eucalyptus forest awaits

Lolo is very happy to be off the leash

Taking in the eastern view

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On the road with Weema

Last week I was able to get out of the capital, and away from my computer screen. Weema International's Executive Director, Liz McGovern was kind enough to invite me a long on trip to Kembata-Tembaro. As expected, the trip was a productive one. Waking at 6 and working til usually past night fall, Liz, Corey, Teddy, Josi and I accomished quite a bit. 

To list just a few of the activities...

-3 WeCare solar-suitcases were installed at three seperate rural health centers in KT.

-A new site in Mudula (not far from the previous site) was agreed on for the Degale library. Weema is currently finalizing the agreement with the local government.

-Site visits were made and key healthcare personal were met at a variety of healthcare centers throughout the region

-Critical meetings were held with local governed officials and healthcare administrators. 

-I was able to visit the Kololo and Azedebo schools and spend some time with the students and teachers.

The following are a few photos from the trip...

Andiso hiding a good laugh from his youngest Tashagar 

A Kololo student making the most of the ER library

Outskirts of Mudula... Not a bad place to retire.

Liz and Teddy presenting a much needed stethoscope, amongst other medical resources to a health officer in rural health center outside of Mudula

Teddy working hard to ensure that those solar panels aren't going anywhere

Azedebos library full of KG readers

Azedebo students showing off their favorite reads

Been gone for a while

It's been much too long since the last update. Believe me I know it's well over due. I'm back in Ethiopia prepping for a very busy winter/spring in Kembata-Tembaro. Most of the projects should get underway within the next few weeks. As much as I enjoy my time in Addis, I can't wait to get back out in my favorite jungle mountains.


Too begin... the Tough Mudder fundraiser was a success of sorts. Chris Icxziu and I were able to raise over 4,000 dollars for Ethiopia Reads. Well under our goal, sure, but we are all incredibly happy and humbled by the support from family friends and fresh faces alike. 

Unfortunately, I suffered 3 torn ligaments in my right ankle... Urg... I wasn't a happy fella. Consequently around mile 7 I was forced to take an early exit, though Chris and Icxui speedily marched onward to finish the 11 mile course.  Regardless of my injury, I had a wonderful time with two great friends. Thanks again to you both, as well as all out supporters. 

4 months and change later, my ankle is still on the mend, no matter though, because I already signed up for next years race. Yea im sure alot of you are shaking your heads. Just know that Ill be sure to do a better job of avoiding holes the next time around. Send me a message, if you want to let your inner masochists out for a jog in the park.

Plenty more to come this week.

Chris and I sharing a needed laugh after the race

Icxziu was one of the strongest folks out that day

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I kindly request your support

A taste of whats in store for me 

This July I am running the Minnesota 
Tough Mudder in effort to raise needed funds for my work in rural SW Ethiopia.  I am looking for individuals that would like to run along side me, as well as support via donations or simply sharing my efforts with your own networks.  Anything at all helps, and the more people that are aware of the fundraiser the better.

Please give my page a look and think about assisting at any capacity. Thank ya

Training with a smile along side my moms bear looking dog.  

The post training exhausted look

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kahlyn and the Bees

My sister will help in providing the third installment of the trip to Mudula.  
Following our HPL program we double backed towards Kololo.  There a group of local bee keepers awaited our arrivial.  Sallmnesh and Temesgin worked hard to put out the good word at the previous weeks market, and the ER Kololo students made sure that everyone within a few miles knew.  Kahlyn yould be providing a foundational lecture on improving upon traditional ethiopian beekeeping, and following that would be hosting a Q and A.  We had a wonderful turn out and the turnour went as well as one could have wished.  The community of bee keepers was very thankful for Kahlyns insight, while Kahlyn left with a great deral of valuable information.  The following is an excerpt from her blog.  Its Awesome stuff.
So we’ve been back in Addis since Tuesday, and I can’t help but do circles in my mind about thefuture possibilities of collaborating with beekeepers in the Kembata-Tembaro region of Southern Ethiopia this coming fall.
Our week spent in the south not only introduced me to the communities of people collaborating in the construction of schools led by my brother Cien,  but introduced me to the existing infrastructure of beekeeping in the area. Though I only have 2 years of beekeeping experience behind me, my university education as well as time spent studying and experiencing successful community development programs join together to provide me with the confidence in knowing that I am on the right track.
Part of our last day in the south was spent traveling to the small hillside village of Kololo. My brother spent almost 8 months in the village from 2011- 2012 constructing a hillside K-3 school, so we took some time to visit the area, check on the progress of the newly installed school programs, as well as meet with area beekeepers. Due to its hillside location, as well as proximity to spring water, the areas vegetation is even denser than that of Azedabo.
The family of Salamesh, one of my brother’s school construction team members, took it upon themselves to help organize a meeting between myself and area beekeepers for a basic information session. As many of my readers know, my focus for making this trip to Ethiopia has been to gather the necessary information to bring a pilot program focused on enhancing the culture of beekeeping to better favor the health of the honeybee and consequentially the people as well as the communities that keep them. In simpler terms I am working at finding a way of continuing our exchange of beekeeping knowledge to better celebrate the richness the trade offers.
Though similar in some regards to the beekeeping meeting held in Azedabo three days earlier, the turnout of beekeepers in Kololo was much greater as well as more diverse.  To my satisfaction, women do in fact bee keep in the village, and are looked at as equals to the men. Old as well as young were present, and all were eager to hear what I had to share. From one translator to the next, I introduced myself and my beekeeping background and immediately began to pass around my protective beekeeping gear.
I shared with them my experience of harvesting honey the previous day, and stated how the trade could become so much more comfortable with very small changes. Had I not had a similar response during the previous meeting I would have been surprised, as the majority of beekeepers practice the trade as passed down from their elders and really have no idea of the logistical side of things. Basic concepts of protective gear, hygiene, as well as bee nutrition are non-existant. After drawing up and explaining a bit of the benefits of transitional top bar style bee hives as well as modern closed panel style hives, I could tell through their inquisitive stares as well as further questions that basic concepts were being understood. An elderly man even spoke out and thanked me for calling him a beekeeper, though the money he earned to send his children to school was made by the sale of his honey, no one had ever recognized him as such. 
We finished the meeting by asking the beekeepers of their interest of transitioning to transitional and or modern hives and received a unanimous response.  Though they repeatedly thanked me for taking the time to educate them in the most formal class on beekeeping they had ever received, I am certain I took away more from the encounter than they did.  So with just over 2 weeks left on Ethiopia I continue to work towards gathering all the necessary information to make my return this coming fall possible. 
Make sure to give Kahlyns website a visit at

Checking out the gear

A few of the local kids were pretty curious

Talking through explanations of changes bee keepers can make to their traditional hives

Enjoying the view

My old shower

Making lumber from tree trunks

Beers after a long day on the road

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013-2014 Mudula Construction Projects

The second installment of our last day in Kembata Tembaro.

We made our way to Mudula to meet with the local officials, visit the Degale library build site, and further pin-down where we will be building next year’s KG/library.  Our first visit was with Ato Desta at the local worader office. Ejigu and I have a long and positive history with Ato Desta, so it was nice to catch up with him and his assistant.  We spent nearly 40 minutes talking through this year’s accomplishments and next year’s Mudula based projects.  Desta and his office are very supportive of the planned work, and our proving to be the most reliable officials Ejigu and I have worked with to date. 

Since Ejigu and I's first visit 6 months ago, Desta and ER have worked together deciding where the One Moon KG will be placed.  Through the process we have made sure to involve many layers of the local community.  His office personnel,  Ejigu and I have traveled to numerous communities in the area to preform ER’s needs assessments.  The process involves many steps, some of which are visiting the community, meeting village elders and community leaders to discuss demographics, population numbers, and land availability.  We have come to identify the obvious; KG's are needed everywhere.  Thus placement is critical.  

Within 18 kms going south of Mudula, there are 6 different communities ranging in size from 2- 4,000.  We spent time in each of these communities and found that each's population could nearly fill a KG on its own.  Families from communities like Koatana, Ferzano and Sigazoo seem to have 7 children on average, and those children have next to no opportunities for early childhood education.  When the children reach the age of 5 or 6 they can then start making the pilgrimage to either Mudula's  1-8 schools or Ferzano's.  The 12 or so km's between, offer nothing outside of a few scattered locations for informal and irregular and preschool tutorials.  The need is everywhere... but available land is not.

Mudula and its surrounding communities are snugly tucked within SW Ethiopia’s densely wooded and farmed highlands.  Open unused flat spaces are almost nonexistent, and for good reason.  Timber is coveted, and agriculture largely sustains the families of the region.  The few meda's (open field) that do exist, are owned by a very select few that sadly have no interest in giving up their prized grazing areas.  Ideally the KG would be located in between Ferzano and Mudula, but there is simply no where to build but the schools 45- 40 meter (minimum) foot print.  So ER, the worader office  and the south of Mudula communities are discussing whether the best location is within Ferzano's very large 1-8 compound.  We at ER feel that the location meets all of our KG/library criteria, and the community and worader office will finalize their own decision in next month’s mahabar (town hall like meeting).  I’ll be sure to share.

One thing to note (because those familiar with how Ethiopia politics work are probably shaking their head thinking the community will have little to say in such matters), Ato Desta went out of his way to tell Ejigu and I that especially when working in education, involving the community is key; because as he put it, without popular community support any school will fail.  A strong sentiment that hits home with ERs field team.  

We spent an hour re-visiting the Ferzano school compound and meeting with school officials and teachers. Plenty of the following photos will help you get a feel of the potential site.

On the way out we also made sure to visit the Degale library site.  The land is ready to be fenced in, and Ato Desta assured Ejigu and I there would be no issues in starting that work before the raining season.  Another very positive trip to Mudula.

Meeting with the head Worader official Ato Desta  and his assistant... also named Desta
Everyone's favorite tree... Sorry just a lazy drive by 
The usual greetings 
Meeting the school director 

Potential KG land for next years build

The school's compound is set up similar to Azedabo's.  Lots of farmland rented
out to the local community to help finance some of the school's costs

Taking numbers of students, teachers, and dropout rates 

Ferzano's very small and under-stocked library 

Close enough...

I dont think many folks in Ethiopia feel the same way

Talking shop outside a home sometimes used for informal KG schooling

The Degale library space.