Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Foreman and Teacher

Today during dinner Sigamo, Amarich and I got to talken about one of the aspects of my work.  We touched on the usual things; where we are in the builds, how many of the workers are “lazy” and of course who.. and also touched on some of the less interesting odds and ends.  Sigamo mostly nodded along as I recapped, but as he often does, caught me off guard, asking me to do my best to explain why again we work on a lottery basis rather than just simply hiring the best of the best.  My Amharic still has a ways to go, thus the nuances of discussing the intricacies of employing equal and fair hiring practices in a rural environment is still out of my grasp.  Thankfully, my habasha parents are patient, and we eventually figure it out by the time we finish the chow and move onto the home brew.

Sigamo  asked a few subsequent questions on my opinions on the benefits and drawbacks of creating a “super work force” of sorts.  As he put it, it would probably give me less of a headache to have experienced and competent folks make up the  majority of our temporary workers.  I agreed, and then went into my best Amharic version of the importance of equal opportunity employment… with an emphasis on developing skill sets and the confidence of the community.  It wasn’t Shakespearian, but he got it.  Sigamo paraphrased, and offered some kind feedback.  

 I, along with my management team are more than just foreman, we are astamarioch (teachers). 

To those in the community interested, we share our now refined knowledge of  the art of rural Ethiopian waddle and daub construction.  A task that’s not always easy, especially seeing that a majority of our labor force is made up by woman that rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to assist in the very male dominated Ethiopian domain.  Although our tact to share know-how, and train those that otherwise would not have the opportunity pay immediate dividends for the projects at hand; those woman that are disregarded by the community has simple mothers cooks, and a back to carry things, are by far the most enthusiastic and diligent workers.  The effects of our "not-the easiest-way" management methodologies serve the community for years to come. ER rural management team prides it self in better enabling communities to support themselves, developing stronger leadership in woman, and a bolstering confidence to go out and try.  

We do our best to fairly distribute work opportunities (and it’s salary) to a majority of the community.  That said, our new class of students every Monday demands attention and energy. It can be trying, but the rewards surpass any struggles in the moment.

Our management tactics go along way with Sigamo, because as he sees it, we are perpetually training. There's no point during any of the projects where cruise control management is introduced.  If we did, work would flounder and the quality of our product would greatly diminish.

It can be tiring, but the eventual satisfaction is worth a few extra frustrating sessions stemming from  the ever important rule of think before you do... anything on our job site. 

Fitting the diagonal supports

Notice how many woman are in this photo 

Getch and Deseleng leveling the ventilation boxes during their installation 

Temesgin's cement scaffolding 

Fundame job site from the dirt (soon to be cob) hill

Cob work has begun

Azedebo Blue


  1. I got to hear a few stories from Liz and Rachel but I'm looking forward to even more. They said it was great to see you and they had an incredible trip. Thanks for taking such good care of them! :) And thanks again for always writing such great updates!

  2. Thank you for approaching your work the way you do. With all the less-than-ethically-stellar development projects happening "for" people, I am continually inspired to know someone who is doing work *with* people, focusing on sustainability and good labor practices.

    You're the best. <3