Irish agency expanding its work in Ethiopia with three projects worth €4.7 million

Irish development charity Gorta-Self Help Africa is planning to expand its work in Ethiopia, with three projects worth €4.7 million getting under way in the coming months.

Self Help Africa and Gorta merged this year as both shared the philosophy of helping farmers to help themselves and using local people to do this work.

Announcing the plans in Addis Ababa yesterday, Dr Wubshet Berhanu, Ethiopia’s SelfHelp Africa country director, said the three projects would work with 48,000 households, adding to the 80,000 households the agency is already working with.

He said the biggest project, worth €4.15 million, would focus on helping farmers to farm in a climate-smart way. With three other non-governmental organisations, the agency will work with 40,485 households to set up community nurseries and plant tree seedlings; improve the quality of cereal and vegetable production and promote improved nutrition practices. The project is supported by Irish Aid, as are the others.

Dr Wubshet said the agency was also about to start a €120,000 project which would focus on nomadic farmers. Ethiopia’s 90 million-strong population includes up to eight million nomadic farmers or pastoralists. The agency will help them to breed better livestock and improve the quality of animal feed.

Quality seed

Getting good quality seed to grow cereals is a major problem. The third project, in central Ethiopia which costs €440,000, will focus on helping farmers to improve seed quality.

The announcements were made to mark the 30th anniversary of Self Help Africa’s establishment. The agency was set up after a chance meeting between Dr Noel McDonagh who was in Ethiopia on business, and Fr Owen Lambert, a priest with the Holy Ghost order who had been working there. Dr McDonagh said the priest warned him about a catastrophe about to unfold in the country.

“It was in March 1984 and one of the things that was concerning him more than anything else was his total conviction that there was a serious famine situation developing in Ethiopia,” Dr McDonagh said.


He was concerned, of course, about the repercussions of the famine but also, he said that when the world woke up to the reality, there would be an incredible amount of effort made to address the results of the famine but there would be virtually nothing done to address the causes of the famine.”

Dr McDonagh returned home, but three months later Fr Lambert contacted him and suggested he meet with other concerned people. The charity was set up in September with a mission of helping farmers to help themselves.

One month later the BBC’s Michael Buerk reported on the “biblical” famine that was unfolding around him in northern Ethiopia. Self Help Africa would later receive $1 million from the Band Aid Trust for a project helping farmers to access water after the release of the Do They Know It’s Christmas single.

Tomorrow Uzo Aduba, award-winning actor in the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black, will be the special guest at the charity’s “Change-Makers’ Ball” in New York. The actor will receive the annual Spirit of Africa Award, which recognises the talent, creativity and enterprise emerging from modern Africa.

Ms Aduba whose parents are Nigerian, said she was honoured by the award because the agency fostered an environment that taught a man or woman to fish, rather than giving them the fish.

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