This week concludes my field visits. They have all been very interesting. I like the differences that we see as we go from community to community. The main purpose of going into these communities is to measure resilience of these women’s groups to the drought that they are currently facing here in Ethiopia.
I’ve been noticing many things as I go into these communities. One big thing that is interesting is that a lot of people have nothing to do, all day. As we drive around and walk around there are many men and some women who are just hanging out or “chilling” all day it seems like. Poverty is high in this country so it makes sense but it’s adding to the recipe for disaster. I see this same parallel in many urban American communities. When you have a large population of people literally just sitting around and not doing anything, you have a strong element of a broken community. People are just sitting around in the neighborhood all day because they have nothing to do/nowhere to go. The efforts of women to organize and become self-sufficient is amazing given the conditions they are faced with. The iniative really says a lot about them. As we interview the different groups we ask many different questions that range from their family structures to their incoming generating activities. I notice that when we talk to women in groups they note that they feel like things will get better for them and they will be able to pull themselves out of poverty as a result of being in self help groups; however, when we pull them aside for individual interviews we get mixed responses. This is when the woman truly open up about the hardships that they face. Many woman report hat the problems they face are overwhelming and the money they make is not enough. Which is true. A lot of these women are taking loans to invest in capital but the effects of drought and the recent flood are getting in the way of productivity. Some of these women have to sell many of their productive assessts such as cows, sheeps, donkeys etc so they can pay for food or pay back loans to the self help groups. Something that is relieving is there doesn’t seem to be a harsh process on loan repayment. In America if you owe a loan that you can’t pay back thats basically a death sentence but here its much more relaxed among the group members. There is a stronger sense of community engagement and support. But that stronger community feeling is not good from an economic standpoint. There is essentially no interest on loan repayment and the activities they use to generate profits are not as lucrative as they need to be. There are of course many factors that play into it like lack of education, government support, etc but a lot of it falls into cultural norms. The country has about 80% of its people living in agricultural/rural areas and there are about 70-80 different languages spoken here. So a lot of different things are hindering progression here. It’s hard to distribute aid effectively as the government is not able to compensate for the 90% of trade that comes through the Djibouti port. Aid is either lost, or not transported effecitiently. Trucks that are supposed to commute in 24-48 hours end up taking about 10 days given the poor road infrastructue. Then when the aid hits these communitites its not equitably distributed. I think these communities need new ways of generating income rather than petty trading but given the conditions they are living in there is only so much that can be done. The woman remain generally hopeful but a lot of them still have fear of how they will even make it to the next week. This is an intreresting case of human security and development and I’m not sure there is one person with a concrete solution to how to turn this situation around. Regardless of all the economic gains in the capital there is still a disportioinate amount of the country that is struggling and hurting.
Those are some of my thoughts, but now I have some pictures to show. We also went to Awassa which is like the “capital of the south” and got the chance to go out on a boat which was pretty cool. Also, fed monkeys at a hot spring? lol pretty nice way to end my week.
I enjoyed working with the rapid assessment team through this. Now I have to focus on my final report which will be very detailed and comprised of the copious notes that I have taken.