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 http://beefreeapiaries.org

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. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

HPL Kololo

Before leaving Kembata we used our last day in the region to make another visit to last years’ build in Kololo, as well as next year’s build locations in Mudula.  It was a productive day.  We had meetings with the school director and community members in Kololo, a meeting with the Mudula Worader head (kind of like the town’s mayor), site visits for 2013-2014 school and library builds, and a visit to the Kololo HPL Horse Powered Library program.  Along the way there was the usual coffee and local fare ceremonies, the wealth of avocados, mangos, banana, bakolo and coffee powered us along through our 13 hour day.   
Each portion of the trip merits its own blog.  I’ll put together a pithy write up on each over the coming days.  This entry will focus on another very positive visit to Kololo’s HPL. 

The Kololo community is seated comfortably on the SW side of the southern Ambakuna hill. Kololo is 13 kilometers from Mudula and around 17 from Tunto.  The region is as disconnected as any other from basic resources, governmental and most NGO support mechanisms.  Never-the-less, the hills and dense green-scapes our full of people, especially young children.  Kololo is the one institution located outside Tembaro’s city centers that provides KG education.  Children enter school without the proper preparation, and due to a maelstrom of surrounding difficulties, failure often follows. Kololo is a beacon of hope for the region, a wonderfully realized dream that provides quality early childhood education to better enable the community to flourish. 
However the schools reach is limited by the structures capacity.  There are only enough slots for a few hundred children, not nearly enough for the surrounding thousands.  More KG’s are desperately needed in the Kembata Tembaro zone as well as the rest of Ethiopias southern regions.  Presently, we here at Ethiopia Reads can only physically build two schools a year.  With adequate funding that number could jump to as high as 5 in a single year, but even that will only make a small dent into what is needed.  For the time being, we are thinking outside of the box. 

Ethiopia Reads’ HPL program brings teachers and materials to very rural and difficult to reach communities.  Currently the program has two hubs.  One in Ekodaga, and the other in Kololo.  The facilitators travel via horse or donkey upwards of 12 miles to small villages with little to no access to educational materials.  The facilitator reads Amharic children books to the participants and leads the kids through alphabet and basic number exercises.  After just a few weeks, once illiterate children are beginning to sound out words, and soon after reading along with the HPL facilitator.  The programing successfully introduces reading culture to education barren communities.  More importantly, the HPL shares the power of literacy, which soon begets an overwhelming thirst for learning.

Last Monday, Ejigu, Kahlyn, Ashu, Tamesgin and I made the trek to Tupa, Northern Ambakuna to witness the HPL session of the day.  Lagessa, the facilitator has been leading these classes now for almost three months.  He visits three different communities twice a week spending up to 3 hours with the students.  Each of the visited communities is located within very challenging terrain, yet that doesn't keep the plethora of students in each area from attending.  Lagessa is averaging around 280 students per session.  Yes, 280 students ranging from the age of 3 to teenagers.  Amazing.

Here is a collection of photos taken from my time in Tupa.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Ra'ey Woman

I am very happy to share that this Saturday the Ra'ey Football club held its first open practice for its new woman's team.  While the boys team played (and won) two friendly matches against a rival Addis club,  Kahlyn and I lead the girls through a variety of drills and a four on four scrimmage.  The eight girls that showed up were enthusiastic about the opportunity to play and be coached by a couple of ferengies. The practice lasted nearly an hour and a half and culminated with the girls joining the Ra'ey boys team in happily cheering on the second half of the friendly match.  

At the match's conclusion, the coach and I had a moment to talk with a few of the girls about their first football practice experience.  Each of the four we spoke with were very happy and incredibly thankful for the chance to join the Ra'ey football club.  All told stories of having very limited access to playing the sport they loved; overt discrimination, lack of materials and field access would soon be a thing of the past. The girls are all very excited for next weeks practice,  and have vowed to find other young woman to join in on the fun. 8 is a great start, but everyone is looking forward to that number growing exponentially in the coming weeks.

Kahyln and I are proud to be a part of something so positive for the young woman of Addis Ababa.

Some of the ladies after practice with their coaches

Sun was pretty vicious