An oasis of progress in Ethiopia

March 22, 2017
Written by Kieran McConville
Photo by Kieran McConville

Concern’s Kieran McConville reports on our ten-mile irrigation system that’s delivering water to drought-stricken farming families — flooding their future with hope.

Fango Bijo, Ethiopia

When the nature of your work revolves around the poorest and most vulnerable communities on earth, the act of giving thanks is far from difficult. “It must be so sad!” is a common reaction to our mission when, truth be told, it’s quite the opposite. Concern is in the business of helping people escape extreme poverty — and actually seeing that happen has got to be one of the best jobs in the world!

Testing times

For communities across Ethiopia, 2016 was a difficult year, and 2017 has offered little relief. Huge numbers of people are facing drought and massive food shortages. Concern is there, providing life-saving assistance in the worst hit and hard-to-reach areas. We’ve worked in this amazing country for over thirty years now, and the evidence of our unrelenting development work is paying off.

Yemisrach Halacho is one woman whose life has taken a distinct turn for the better. We are familiar faces around her farmstead in the southern village of Fango Bijo, and today — despite the area being known for erratic rainfall and regular drought — it’s a cornucopia of healthy looking crops and vegetables.

Patient progress

“Before the project, people were suffering from hunger,” Yemisrach says. “My husband died some years back and I was cutting and selling wood to survive. My kids went to school, but they were too hungry to learn anything.”

Yemisrach Halacho among her crops in Ethiopia

Yemisrach Halacho now has a healthy crop of maize, onions, kale, and pulses. She has also used income earned to invest in livestock. Photo: Kieran McConville

The project Yemisrach is referring to is a ten-mile system of irrigation channels and reservoirs, which brings water from a nearby river —across 200 acres of parched land — to 140 farming families. The project was a joint development between the local community and Concern. “We brought financial and technical support,” Concern’s Abraham Bongasie Wanta explains. “The community contributed materials, stones and labor.”

These are the kind of results that remind us to challenge the “sad” moments and cherish the successes.

“Now I am producing all of this,” Yemisrach says. “We sell the onions and fruit for cash, I got credit to buy animals, and now I am feeding my children properly.” There’s also a newly built home and she says the kids are progressing well in school. “Our life is much better now.”

The irrigation system is managed by a community cooperative, and this year it will double in size and reach — positively impacting the lives of hundreds more people.

These are the kind of results that remind us to challenge the “sad” moments and cherish the successes. This is the rise from poverty that Concern set out to achieve almost 50 years ago, and the global goal we’ll pursue until we’re out of a job.

Yes, keep me updated on Concern's work