google donateThe Praxis Ethiopia Foundation

Community-driven, Sustainable Development to End Extreme Poverty

The Praxis Accords

The Necessary & Sufficient Conditions for Sustaining Development and Reducing Poverty In Ethiopia

In September 2005, senior members of the Ethiopian Government, representatives of international NGOs, and the leadership of Praxis Ethiopia held a three day conference to inaugurate the Praxis Ethiopia Foundation and to identify the 'way forward.' The conference continued to build on the knowledge and insights gained from Ethio-Forum 2002, the Mekele Cactus Initiative, and the work of Praxis Ethiopia Members during the past few years. This conference provided insights on many of Ethiopia's most pressing problems and it provided a venue for discussing and setting priority areas for future poverty reduction work.

A copy of the full report is available as a PDF file here.

His Excellency President Girma and His Excellency Prime Minister MelesOpening & Keynote Addresses

His Excellency President Girma Wolde Giorgis (seated on the left) made the opening address inaugurating Praxis Ethiopia. In his talk, His Excellency stated:

I am pleased to inaugurate Praxis-Ethiopia Alliance and Foundation as an additional input to the overall development of our nation as a World Bank of ideas and innovations.
It is clear that the unique feature of the Praxis-Ethiopia Alliance, which was born during the Ethio-Forum 2002 conference, is commitment to promote innovative, knowledge-based, and community-driven poverty reduction and restorative development in Ethiopia.

His Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was the featured keynote speaker at the inaugural meeting (pictured above, seated on the right). His Excellency serves as the Patron of Praxis Ethiopia and as the Honorary Chairperson of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation Board of Directors. In his keynote address, His Excellency noted that while the organization is relatively young, its members have already made important contributions to Ethiopia's fight against poverty. The Prime Minister also expressed his full confidence that Ethiopia's partnership with Praxis Ethiopia will play a meaningful role in Ethiopia's effort to fight against extreme poverty.

Dr. Dave Blankinship, co-founder of Praxis Ethiopia and chief executive officer of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation, provided the introductory presentation on the creation of the group and the development of the Foundation. In his presentation, Dr. Blankinship traced the history of Praxis Ethiopia from its beginnings at the conclusion of the Ethio-Forum 2002, through the activities of the membership, and on to the creation of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation. Praxis Ethiopia connects the world with Ethiopia.

Dr. Blankinship emphasized that Praxis Ethiopia is dedicated to community-driven poverty reduction in Ethiopia and that the organization is very grateful for the leadership and commitment of His Excellency Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

He also talked about the Foundation's model of making awards to reduce poverty, documenting the successes that lead the way to identifying best practices in strengthening food security, improving healthcare and well-being, promoting education, and facilitating technology transfer. These processes will all contribute to improving the effectiveness of poverty reduction and will help to accelerate Ethiopia's recovery.

Dr. Blankinship concluded the conference's opening events with the observation that Ethiopia is not a helpless country, Ethiopia is a country that needs help.


attendessAt the conclusion of the Opening Events, participants began the consultation phase of the conference. This part of the conference provided the opportunity to strengthen a collective understanding of the many problems and challenges that exist in Ethiopia as people work to improve the quality of life in the country.

Representatives from the farming community, the government, international and non governmental organizations, and specialty groups made brief presentations, posed questions, or provided answers regarding many of these problems confronting Ethiopia and those who are working to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life.

Dr. Rogers and Dr. GetachewProfessor David J. Rogers and Dr. Getachew Tikubet served as Co-chairs of this portion of the conference (Professor Rogers, left and Dr. Getachew, right).

Ato Nuredin AhmedDuring the consultation and problem understanding phase of the conference, farmers discussed some of the challenges of increasing land productivity, the threats of disease (particularly malaria and sleeping sickness) and the need of additional energy inputs for land tillage (i.e., power tillers and tractors).

Ato Nuredin Ahmed, a farmer learning about sustainable farming techniques at the Addis BioFarm (pictured at the left) spoke to the conference attendees about some of the problems listed above.

Zewditu DessalegnW/to Zewditu Dessalegn helped attendees to understand some of the circumstances and challenges that women face when they work to improve food production. Women are increasingly better represented in both farming and in training to become farmers, and their challenges must be recognized and accommodated in planning for effective poverty reduction.

Ato Yohannes MesfinIn Ethiopia, food production is an essential condition for life and this requirement remains constant, regardless of one's physical situation. Ato Yohannes Mesfin (pictured left) spoke with the conference participants about the special challenges of people who have lost, or are losing their vision. Ato Yohannes is training in sustainable farming techniques and everyone at the conference was inspired to learn that visual impairments do not stop determined people from becoming farmers who can be as productive as their 'sighted' colleagues. [Many people in Ethiopia become visually impaired from trachoma infections that damage the eyes and lead to progressive levels of blindness.]

Ato Adam MohammedWhile attendees enjoyed many memorable moments and insights during the conference, Ato Adam Mohammed provided one of the most memorable presentations. Ato Adam told his story of working to create water harvesting canals and holding wells so that he could trap water to nourish his fruit-bearing mango trees. (Ato Adam is pictured to the right.) With the assistance of Ato Million Alemayehu Gizaw (Head of the Liaison Office of the Organization for Rehabilitation & Development in Amhara [ORDA]), Ato Adam told his story of perseverance in the face of adversity. While he worked each day to create his water harvesting and storage system, many of his friends and neighbors ridiculed his efforts and doubted both the likelihood of his success and the future rewards for his efforts. Today, everyone recognizes this man's wisdom. His fruit trees are highly productive and his produce is in high demand in his area; he is one of the wealthiest men in his community and he has trained many more families in water management.

Ethiopia must continue to learn about and respect the tremendous quality and quantity of the indigenous knowledge in the country. It has been a great untapped national resource and respecting and using this knowledge holds great potential in the work to reduce poverty.


The meeting provided the opportunity to discuss many of the major challenges to reducing poverty in Ethiopia. It also provided an important venue for presenting and discussing solutions to these challenges and the paramount considerations in applying these solutions.

Part II of the conference focused on solutions and covered an entire range of possible responses. Collectively, these solutions reflect the values of "community-driven," "science-led," "technology-focused," "educational," and "sustainable."

ESRDF’s Experience in Community-Driven Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia

H.E. Dr. Aseffa Abreha

Community-driven poverty reduction provides an approach to designing and implementing projects that will ensure a community’s commitment to supporting the project. The Ethiopian Social Rehabilitation and Development Fund (ESRDF) has extensive experience with community-driven approaches. In describing the ESRDF, His Excellency Dr. Aseffa noted that the Fund is: community-based, participatory, demand driven and bottom-up, and integrated

The ESRDF reaches the “unreached,” and brings the community into full participation in the poverty reduction efforts by ensuring that the community takes part in decision-making at all stages of the project cycle and the community shares in project costs (10% of costs in terms of labor, material/cash, or a combination thereof).

The ESRDF operates as a funding agency that provides support upon request (i.e demand driven). The Fund promotes community participation, cost sharing, and supports small community managed projects. The agency works to builds capacity, and add flexibility and efficiency while maintaining low administrative costs.

The ESRDF has faced a number of challenges, including: slow progress in accepting and internalizing ESRDF procedures and approaches, low capacity at all levels, and a shortage of funds and lack of capacity in ESRDF.

In addition to the many projects funded and completed by the ESRDF, the Fund has contributed to strengthening a collective understanding of the types of approaches that work to reduce poverty in Ethiopia. Community-based, participatory development approaches work successfully in Ethiopia, particularly to expand infrastructure in rural areas, to meet needs of the poor, and to reduce poverty. Projects initiated by the community that address priority needs are implemented quickly and less costly, exhibit increased and willful participation, have higher rates of contribution, and allow implementation of a large number of lower cost projects that reflect reality. Focused and need-based capacity building is necessary to build confidence, to promote participation, to improve work efficiency of partners, and to ensure functionality and sustainability. Integrated approaches to planning help to address problems in a comprehensive way and bring changes to the community.

Seeking Solutions to Poverty and Local Development: The World Bank’s Experience with the Ethiopian Social Rehabilitation and Development Fund

Mr. Herbert Acquay

Community-driven development approaches represent a paradigm shift, from top-down to bottom-up. Community-driven development approaches: empower communities, empower local governments, reform central government - local government relationships, improve accountability, and support capacity development.

The World Bank increased its support to Ethiopia from $325 million in 1996 to $2 billion in 2003 to support community-driven development. This dramatic increase reflects the Banks assessment that community-driven development approaches are cost-effective ways to address poverty and service delivery. They allow for better targeting of the intended beneficiaries and distribution of benefits and increase the likelihood of sustainability because: a community is aware of project design choices and the capital and recurrent implications from the outset, and the community contributes to the capital and recurrent costs of a project.

Community-driven development approaches create linkages with local government planning processes that facilitate sustainability and therefore, they provide a cost-effective way to address poverty in Ethiopia.

New Approaches to an Old Problem

Dr. David J. Rogers

Tsetse flies and the spread of Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) are major human and animal health threats across Ethiopia and Africa. Professor David J. Rogers reported on the problems encountered, efforts made so far, the way forward, community-based adaptive management approaches, and the holistic approach/ biofarm system.

Citing data from BioMedNet, Rogers noted that there were more than 60,000 cases of human sleeping sickness in Africa in 1930 and that the number of cases declined steadily through to 1958. Unfortunately, the number of cases of sleeping sickness has been rising steadily since the 1980s and in 1998, there were more than 40,000 cases.

Early approaches to tsetse fly control have included crinoline traps, electric traps, and spraying chemicals. Rogers reported that in the early 1970s, scientists discovered that tsetse flies were attracted to their hosts by smell—this revolutionized trap design and effectiveness. It also changed the extent to which a community could participate in reducing the tsetse fly threat. With efficient odorant-based traps, communities could build and bait their own traps and thereby become active components in the solution to the tsetse fly problem.

Some solutions to problems just do not work and others do not last for very long, holistic, community-based adaptive management holds the greatest potential for solving problems effectively and sustainability.

Suggestions to Foster Water Development

Dr. Horacio Ferriz

Water is life. Water is essential to sustain life and the lack of water is one of Ethiopia’s most pressing problems. Dr. Horacio Ferriz  described some of the important steps that Ethiopia could take to harvest and secure its water as a primary natural resource.

Ferriz noted that one of the first steps to finding solutions to Ethiopia’s water challenge is to support the Ethiopian geologists and engineers working to improve the water supply and management. This help would include professional development activities and access to more experienced colleagues.

This recommendation could be achieved by having specialists visit projects in Ethiopia for about two weeks, twice per years (e.g., January and July). The specialists could visit projects, assist the Ethiopian professionals in field work, review maps and designs, advise on ways to improve the water projects, and provide on-going training.

These specialists should be drawn from the disciplines of hydrogeology, geological engineering, civil engineering (both earthwork and hydraulics), irrigation, and water conveyance and distribution.

Ferriz also recommended setting up ‘water districts’ with watershed councils and the resources and authority to design, implement, and manage water harvesting and distribution projects to serve the districts and their communities.

Comprehensive Approach to Address Cooking Fuel Shortages, Reforestation, and Health Issues

Mr. Paul Geffert

Extreme poverty is often characterized by ‘consumptive poverty,’ where in the effort to survive, longer-term resources are consumed faster than they can be replenished. Deforestation is one of Ethiopia’s major problems; trees are being harvested faster than they are growing back; less than 5% of Ethiopia’s original forests remain. Globally, more than half the trees cut down are used for cooking fires and the emissions from these fires contribute to global warming.

Mr. Paul Geffert  offered a compelling solution to this particular challenge: solar ovens to cook food and pasteurize water. Solar energy is free, non-polluting and there is an inexhaustible supply.

As Geffert  reported, the Solar Oven Society has a solar oven that is weather resistant, durable (currently in use in 31 nations), attractive, affordable (when mass-produced), portable, and lightweight.

In addition to cooking food and pasteurizing water, energy from the sun also has the potential to provide electricity to Ethiopia. As Geffert  noted, about 13% of Ethiopia’s population has access to electricity. By using photovoltaic electrical generation, the portion of the population with electricity could grow substantially, either by using central or stand-alone generating systems. Additionally, hybrid systems that combine solar energy with wind or biogas could speed up the electrification process substantially.

Science-based Development: Creating quantitative databases

Dr. Sarah E. Randolph

Food security development in Ethiopia could be substantially improved by creating databases of distributions of important crops.

Professor Sarah E. Randolph  described how she and Professor David J. Rogers used satellite imagery and global positioning system data to improve our understanding of the density and distribution of cactus in the Tigray region. They traveled around the Tigray area and plotted the locations of cactus, mapped the information against satellite imagery of the area, and used this information to predict, and then confirm, locations where cactus was abundant.

This technology holds tremendous potential for both identifying the locations of good food sources, and for dispelling myths about the distributions and densities of food sources that could mislead area planners, farmers, and families.

Eco-social System Management for Sustainability Enhancement

Dr. Johann Baumgärtner

Sustainability requires effective management to ensure its continued success. This management begins with the design of the project and with the inclusion of people as a factor in the design. Sustainability enhancement is sought by applying adaptive management procedures to eco-social systems. Eco-social approaches to designing environmental interventions overcome some limitations in traditional human health and poverty reduction schemes by re-orienting management aims towards sustainability enhancement.

As Dr. Baumgärtner reported, eco-social approaches provide concepts that have proved to be useful and may be necessary, but may be insufficient to meet a given objective. The overall purpose of eco-social systems approaches is to enhance sustainability in ecological, social, and economic dimensions.

Holistic Approaches to Human Health

Dr. Donald C. Johnson

Community-driven approaches to healthcare and well-being marked a major new model of healthcare delivery services in developing countries. Listening to people became the basis for viewing health and well-being as a holistic enterprise. As Dr. Johnson has reported, in 1958 he helped Gondar Public Health college staff and students coordinate experimental community involvement projects. When community leaders identified sickness and deaths of oxen, weevils destroying teff crops, unsafe drinking water, lack of education and inadequate payment of farmers for their crops as priority problems, the staff and students assisted in bringing the Veterinary Service, the Agricultural Department, environmental engineers from the College, Department of Education community educators, and entrepreneurial innovators to the solutions of these problems. The result was dramatic improvement of the health and economic status of the communities where this took place. This was a seminal activity, along with such initiatives as the barefoot doctor initiative in China and other community-driven programs around the world, in which community driven initiatives became the modus operandi of the worldwide Primary Health Care movement (Johnson 2005). Community-driven approaches not only improve communities; they help to shape delivery systems that are more effective.

Integrated & Participatory Approach to Planning

Dr. Hans R. Herren

Science led development holds tremendous potential for both accelerating the progress of a country and for minimizing seriously adverse consequences of a decision or sets of decisions. Dr. Hans R. Herren of the Millennium Institute presented a model software package—the T21—that permits sophisticated planning and analysis among various options.

The Institute works to develop and provide advanced analytical tools that may be used to enhance national and global sustainable development. These tools also contribute to formulating values-related questions and analyses on the consequences of alternative development strategies. The T21 package permits some of the most sophisticated analysis possible. The package can address generic analytical problems, as well as some socio-political issues typical of development planning in the world today. The analytical problems are typically addressed by simulating alternative development options, and by focusing in on the process of creating and institutionalizing the model, the package can also assist with socio/political issues. The T21 package is currently in use around the world helping scientists and policy makers to assess carious courses of action to help with social, environmental, and economic development.

The Yeha Natural Resource Management Institute

Dr. David A. Blankinship

Food shortages, scarcity of water, degraded land, and the need to generate and manage energy are four of the major problems facing Ethiopia and they stand as significant obstacles to Ethiopia’s progress. Dr. David A. Blankinship and Dr. Getachew Tikubet  have proposed the development and operation of an institute for natural resource management that would serve Ethiopia and Africa by educating students from the diploma level through to the doctorate in the sustainable use of the country’s natural resources. This institute—The Yeha Natural Resource Management Institute—would strengthen natural resource management in Ethiopia and sub-Sahara Africa by preparing citizens to assume increasingly productive roles in the development, use, and management of Ethiopia’s natural resources, and by conducting research that informs policy development, improves management practices, and increases efficiency in using natural resources.

The Institute will be committed to Strengthening food security in Ethiopia and sub-Sahara Africa; Improving all aspects of water management and use in Ethiopia and across Africa; Serving as champions of environmental stewardship; and Advancing the health and well-being of Ethiopians and the people of Africa.

The Institute will provide countrywide consultation programs, diploma and degree programs (offered in conjunction with accredited schools and universities in Ethiopia), research and development programs, and intensive certification programs. Additionally, the Institute will recognize and respond to Ethiopia’s significant demographic trends—particularly the need to attract and retain women as students, faculty, researchers, and administrators; apply blended financing models that distribute costs across beneficiaries; incorporate meaningful healthcare and well-being instruction—including units on the prevention of HIV/AIDS—throughout the curriculum; and work to ensure that administrators have the training and skills to set goals and meet them cost effectively (Blankinship & Getachew 2005).

The Yeha Institute is developing in close cooperation with several major partners, including The Addis BioFarm, The Bioeconomy Association, The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation, Helvetas Ethiopia, and the International Centre of Insect Physiology & Ecology—Addis Office.

The Yeha Institute will use technologies whenever feasible to extend the educational reach of the Institute and provide asynchronous learning; and set clear and rigorous standards for academic quality and help all students, faculty, researchers, and administrators to meet those standards in teaching and research.


The meeting provided an excellent venue for exploring problems, discussing solutions and building on the collective wisdom of the many participants. Toward the conclusion of the conference, the planners and attendees developed an overall plan and model for poverty reduction that would serve to guide program development within the Praxis Ethiopia organization and serve as a general model for poverty reduction.

Praxis Ethiopia will work to:

  1. Mobilize existing expertise and ideas from national and international sources.
  2. Generate new expertise and ideas within Ethiopia through education, training, and dissemination.

This expertise will be aimed at reducing poverty, meeting Ethiopia’s Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program, meeting the Millennium Development Goals, strengthening food security and environmental restoration, improving health and well-being, promoting education, and facilitating interactive technology transfer.


On 30 September 2005, the meeting concluded with the "Declaration of the Praxis Accord."

His Excellency Dr. Aseffa AbrehaDr. Hans R. Herren His Excellency Dr. Aseffa Abreha (Chairperson of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation Board of Directors-pictured left) and Dr. Hans R. Herren (Vice Chairperson of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation Board of Directors-pictured right) made the joint announcement at a reception at the conclusion of the conference.

Copies of the Consensus were distributed to the attendees, H.E. Dr. Aseffa welcomed everyone and thanked the participants for their contributions to the development of the overall plan.

Dr. Herren provided additional details on the plan by covering its most important features. These features include an emphasis on natural and social capital, and the importance of economic capital in advancing the war against extreme poverty. Dr. Herren provided several examples of how experts can assist communities in creating the conditions that will help to reduce poverty by substantially improving the lives of the community members. For example, Artemisia is a plant that has been in use in China for thousands of years. It is used to treat malaria and it is highly cost-effective. With a focused, country-wide effort to grow and process the Artemisia, it would be possible to eradicate malaria from Africa within a five-year period. Additionally, tsetse fly control, does not require massive use of chemicals covering ten of thousands of hectors of land; these deadly flies can be controlled with safer integrated pest management techniques like fly traps that also provide food for chickens and other poultry.

Many major news networks covered the announcement of the Praxis Accord and the document will serve to guide the program development work of The Praxis Ethiopia Foundation.

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