The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation

Community-driven, Sustainable Development to End Extreme Poverty

Ethiopia

An Opportunity to End Extreme Poverty

by David A. Blankinship, Ph.D.

Ethiopia is in Eastern Africa. The country is about 111.5 million hectors or just slightly smaller than England, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Germany, combined. The country shares borders with Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, and the Sudan. Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia. More than 70 million people live in this country and half of them are less than 17 years old.

The Challenge

Obtaining sufficient food and water is a major problem for Ethiopians. Ethiopia is a large country with many agro-ecological zones that range from rainforests to deserts.

Picture of drip irrigation devicesDroughts

Despite its reputation for drought, Ethiopia is the water tower of East Africa; unfortunately, due to the rugged terrain and steep mountain ravines, the rainy season creates rushing torrents of water that crash through the mountains, enter the Blue Nile and then flow north to the Nile River. Ethiopia needs the technical resources to assist in building practical retaining devices that can be used to water arid land and quench the thirst of the people. Water for livestock and people, and the small scale irrigation necessary to grow food is the beginning of the food-security cycle. As the Walta Information Center reported on 10 June 2002, 72% of Ethiopian households live without potable water.

The picture on the right shows a drip irrigation platform that can be used to water plants as sparingly as possible. Dr. Getachew Tikubet, a co-founder of Praxis Ethiopia, is pioneering these applications at the Addis BioFarm in Ethiopia.

Famine

Despite its reputation for famine, Ethiopia has tremendous food production potential. Approximately 74 million hectors or about 66% of all Ethiopian land is arable: Ethiopia has the land to produce food. Currently, only about 16.5 million hectors or 22% of the total arable land is under cultivation. In 2003, the World Food Program estimated that Ethiopia needed to import food to save the lives of 14 million people. The BioEconomy Association in Ethiopia is pioneering regenerative farming techniques and integrated pest management approaches that quadruple existing food production and more than 50 million additional hectors of land could be cultivated in Ethiopia; yet millions of people are hungry—Ethiopia needs food-security.

Disease

Disease is a major problem for Ethiopians. On average there is one physician for every 150,000 people; one hospital for every one million people. The average life expectancy is about 41 years and more than 2 million people have HIV/AIDS and about 160,000 people die each year from AIDS. Ethiopians carry a heavy disease burden, at any given time up to 80% of the population suffers from an illness, infection, or a chronically debilitating condition—Ethiopia needs health and well-being.

Education

Less than half of the population aged 15 years and older can read and write. Ethiopia has very few universities and the public schools struggle to obtain and maintain the instructional materials that are so critical for literacy education. Millions of Ethiopians do not have the level of education that allows them to be fully productive members of society and this disadvantage is particularly evident in women who have a literacy rate of about 35%—Ethiopia needs education.

Technologies

Picture of a Bio Gas digesterThe world has many technologies that could substantially improve the quality of life for Ethiopians. In many cases technologies already exist within Ethiopia; unfortunately, many people do not know of these technologies or they do not have access to them. Many of these technologies are simple, inexpensive or can be easily manufactured. Fly traps, solar ovens, and biogas digesters can be adapted and adopted across the country to reduce disease, facilitate cooking, and provide a renewal energy source for heating and lighting. Most importantly, electronic communication and data sharing through remote telecommuting centers holds unprecedented promise for helping the people of Ethiopia to access information that is reliable and practical for solving problems related to food security, health, and education—Ethiopia needs technology transfer.

Help the World

The problems in Ethiopia are the problems of developing countries everywhere and the solutions for Ethiopia are the solutions for developing countries. Ethiopia serves two vital functions: first, it is a living laboratory for innovation and development; and second, it is the center for disseminating the knowledge adapted or discovered in service to improving the human condition. Ethiopia is home to many international organizations, including the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the World Food Program, Desert Locust Control Program, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, the International Livestock Research Institute, and many consulates representing most of the world's developed countries. Progress in Ethiopia can quickly spread through one of Africa's best networks of organizations and agencies.

Bellwether

Ethiopia is Africa’s bellwether country. Addis Ababa is the headquarters of the new African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the Desert Locust Control for Eastern Africa and several multi-lateral and bi-lateral organizations including: the United Nations Environmental Protection Agency, the World Food Program, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, the United Nations Development Program, the World Health Organisation, and more than 200 other Non-Governmental and bi-lateral organizations. All of these organizations serve as catalysts in the development and application of improvements for Ethiopia and they are important conduits for disseminating information through their respective networks of professionals and related organizations. Addis Ababa is the communication hub of Africa. When we help Ethiopia, we help the world.

The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation is an independent, US-based, 501(c)(3) publicly-supported charity created to help end extreme poverty in Ethiopia and sub-Sahara Africa