Agazh’s current license under the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice Charities and Societies Agency expires in February 2013, so a large part of November was dedicated to preparing a report on the organization’s activities, services, and reasons for its inactivity. Dawitt, Agazh's Program Director, pictured here with our consultant, w/o Zenebwork, prepared the report. After it was reviewed by our Board and signed by our General Assembly members we went to the Ministry to submit it. The submission of this report will assist us in March when we will have to renew our license.
This past month I focused on preparing and testing a study of the community to learn more about the population’s needs and to gage skill sets and interest in forming cooperatives. Although Agazh has anecdotal information about the men and women it has worked with over the years, we did not have a clear idea of the common trends or anomalies in the elderly population in Addis Ababa woreda 11. Population data is scarce in Ethiopia, and often times the data that is available is very raw and unuseful. For example, the information we were able to get from the woreda, or local government, was only helpful in gi ving us names, ages, and HIV/AIDS statuses, and even then many individuals are unaccounted for, or lack access to health care to be aware of their status. So far we’ve conducted a handful of interviews and have reworked the questionnaire after finding some issues with the way some questions were being received or answered. This information will also assist us when we apply for grant funding or work with other organizations.
In the past, Agazh has been inactive largely because of lack of funding. So in November, Agazh had meetings with representatives from the Federal Micro & Small Enterprise Development Agency and from Food for the Hungry International to discuss funding opportunities and food donations, respectively, as we did not want to go empty handed to the homes of the men and women we sought to learn from during the study. These were productive meetings that gave us insight into how other organizations work and the steps we will need to take to author successful project proposals for funding.
Addis Ababa has many NGOs and civic organizations, supposedly over 2,000, and sadly many work in isolation. For their numbers, their impact is largely unfelt. Because of this the Ethiopian government has put restrictions on foreign NGOs in recent years, like requiring a greater percentage of their in-country employees to be Ethiopian citizens rather than foreigners and requiring a larger percentage of their funds to go towards program implementation rather than staff salaries. Because many NGOs tend to focus on temporary relief rather than development there is the expectation of money, food, or medicinal donation at every encounter. This has been a great challenge as we approach individuals to learn and form cooperatives.
In early November, I attended an inspiring meeting of the Association of Women in Business. Although the two guest speakers were men, the majority of the audience was Ethiopian women. The guest speakers were Zemedeneh Negatu, Managing Partner of Ernst & Young Ethiopia and Khalid Bomba, CEO of the Agricultural Transformation Agency. They both discussed immediate investment opportunities in Ethiopia and the security of investment in Ethiopia. As evidence, both highlighted the recent unexpected death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in July and the peaceful transfer of power to a new Prime Minister, saying it was a huge psychological hurdle for both Ethiopians and foreign investors. Ato. Zemedeneh, pictured here, discussed the need for Ethiopians to pull their capital together to invest in development and the challenges the private sector faces because Ethiopia’s private market is only 21 years old. Ato. Khalid pointed out the fact that women are the majority of small-scale subsistence farmers in Ethiopia, and Africa, as a whole. But because of the prevalent misconception that subsistence farmers are mostly men, farming tools and machinery are designed with male farmers in mind. He also discussed missed opportunities for market entry and self-sufficiency. For example, Ato. Khalid said that Ethiopian beer breweries don’t grow their own barley for beer, rather they import it from Belgium, which is a tremendous missed opportunity because barley can grow quite well in Ethiopia.
After filing paperwork with the American Embassy, Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ethiopian Transportation Authority, I got an international Ethiopian drivers’ license! You’ll notice on my license that the third line from the bottom has the issue date: 23/2/2005 and the expiration date: 25/2/2007. That’s because Ethiopia has its own calendar, and does not follow the Gregorian calendar used by western countries. The Ethiopian calendar is 7-8 years behind the Western calendar depending on the time of year, so 2005=2012, and 2007= 2014. Another difference in the Ethiopian calendar is that it has 13 months: Meskerem, Tikimt, Hidar, Tahsas, Tir, Yekatit, Magabeet, Mazia, Gumbet, Senay, Hamlay, Nehasay, and Pagmien. The first 12 months have 30 days each, and the 13th month, Pagmien, has 5 days, and 6 days on leap years. Additionally, Ethiopian New Year’s day is Meskerem 1st, which is September 11th in the Western calendar; so on the day I got my license, November 2, 2012, it was the second month, Tikimt 23, 2005 in the Ethiopian calendar. And so my license will expire Tikimt 25, 2007, which will be early November 2014 in the Western calendar.
So now I’m learning how to drive stick shift. It has been an adventure, as cars already tend to be much older than those in the U.S., so even if I were smoothly switching gears, the car could turn off of its own volition. Additionally, traffic lights or night time streetlights may not be working, donkeys or sheep may be crossing the street, people may be running across 6 lane highways, etc. For these reasons, I’m a very scared and cautious beginner driver. The most challenging intersection in Addis, in my opinion, is Meskel square, pictured here. It’s an 8-way intersection, with no traffic lights or signage so you just go and try to make it across to your destination, and somehow everyday twice a day, I do.
On November 20th our local Ethiopian Orthodox Christian parish, Hanna Mariam, had a feast day. On that day, beggars, street merchants, the homeless, or anyone it seemed goes door to door to people’s homes for a meal during lunchtime. Asru’s oldest son, Ezanna, and his 5 and 3 year olds, came over to help serve food, water, and clean dishes for the next round of people that came in our gibi, or gated property. Here are some pictures of the kids helping pour drinking water and us preparing dishes in the kitchen, and serving food.
And finally this past weekend, I joined a fellow Brown alumna and her friends at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, where we enjoyed some traditional askista dance as we dined. Here is a picture of the performers dancing the askista!