Tag Archives: international development

A Day in My Ethiopian Life

19 Jul

Now that I’ve had a chance to settle in, let me write a post about an average day in my life here (Addis Ababa version). I’m living in  a one-bedroom apartment in a huge apartment building complex, which is actually pretty awesome. I have met a few of my neighbours which have all been very friendly, there are always kids laughing and playing outside, and there are even a few tuck shops (small family-run shops with the basics) so I don’t even need to leave the compound for things like a phone card, a bottle of water or cooking oil. My neighbourhood is mostly a residential area, which is nice and means that there are lots of restaurants, shops and Internet cafes nearby. My apartment is about a 20 minute walk from the office.

The World Vision Ethiopia office is 4 stories tall and provides a work space for a several hundred employees. I share an office with about 8 other people (people are always in and out of the field and international staff also come and go, so the exact number really depends on the day). The atmosphere at the office is really great: everyone is super friendly, foreigners are not an oddity, and we get coffee or tea every morning and afternoon. There is also a really great cafeteria onsite which usually offers 2-3 “international” options and 2-3 local options. I usually share a few local dishes and injera with my coworkers. The best part: you can’t really spend more than $1 per meal at the cafeteria! The work itself has been slow to pick up, but now that it has, I am learning a ton, particularly about value chains, which is great. I am hoping to spend more time in the field in the coming months.

As for my social life: I actually have one, yay! A lot of you know I struggled with this in Botswana since there wasn’t a whole lot to do in Ghanzi (read: one restaurant). I have made friends with a really great group of people. It is a mix of Ethiopians and foreigners which is perfect for me. I have gotten to go to a lot of wonderful restaurants (I truly cannot rave enough about Ethiopian cuisine) and danced at a lot of clubs. The music is always a fun mix of American top 40, Ethiopian music and African top 40. Oh, and one of the best parts of going out here: the night eats. Back in Canada pizza and poutine tend to be popular post-club snacks, but here it’s tibs (fried meat with spices and chili) and injera which is pretty awesome. I now crave it on a regular basis haha.

So all in all, I am loving Ethiopia and my Ethiopian life. So far it has been a rewarding work and personal experience.

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Arrival and First Field Visit

14 Jun

Hello all! I am safe and sound in Addis Ababa. Firstly, all the rumours you have heard about Ethiopia – the friendly and beautiful people, the good food, the amazing coffee – they are all completely true. I am settling in with the city, although work is starting out slowly.

However, I did get to visit one of World Vision’s ADPs (Area Development Program). Jeju is east of Addis Ababa and is one of the ADPs in Ethiopia sponsored by World Vision Canada. World Vision Ethiopia has 5 main projects in this area: livelihood development, water projects (such as irrigation), education (such as building schools), health (like building primary care clinics) and savings accounts for children.

Wisdom Microfinance is World Vision Ethiopia’s partner for livelihood development projects, and it is these projects that I am working on. In Jeju, Wisdom Microfinance has over 2,000 active borrowers, making it the organization’s largest branch. The loans given out are in 4 different categories: personal, family, agriculture and business. The borrowers are over 75% women and this area has less than 1% of borrowers default – an impressive number, even in microfinance! The average loan is approximately 3,700 Ethiopian birr (about $200) and are paid back in anywhere from 3 to 15 months. The impact of this project reaches approximately 10,000 children, and all of the borrowers I had the opportunity to meet were sending all school-aged children to school.

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Three borrowers at the Wisdom office to receive their loan.

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Some of the borrowers we visited and their families. One of the borrowers I met told me (but keep in mind that it was translated from Oromifa to Amharic to English): “This is a great project. Before this, we had no opportunity and no access to financial services. But now we have this opportunity and can farm and send our children to school.”

So, if you are a World Vision sponsor, this could be the type of project that your money is going to support!

All in all, it was a successful first visit, and I am very excited to dive into work and to visit the ADPs my project is focused on.

Why Statistics Matter

1 Mar

It is no big secret to anyone that statistics was NOT my favourite course during my university career. However, I do recognize the importance of statistics. This is was clearly demonstrated to me when I read a report at a workshop for growing the informal employment sector in Botswana.

A study was done about the informal sector, and part of the study was based on the income levels of those working in the informal sector. The mean income was BWP 2,557.65 (or about $320) with a standard deviation of 7,202.41 – this high of a standard deviation means that the responses are very spread out over a large range of values (the minimum was BWP 0 and the maximum was BWP 60,000 – $7,500). BUT the mode (most frequently encountered response) was BWO 500 ($62.50). The quartile analysis was revealed a more clear picture: the mean incomes for the first, second and third quartiles were BWP 500, BWP 1,000 and P3,050 respectively.

So why does this matter? It gives a very clear explanation of how the mean does not necessarily give an accurate representation of the data. This is particularly important in a country like Botswana. Botswana is currently labeled as an upper-middle income country, with a GDP/capita of $16,800 (or BWP 134,400). However I can tell you from experience that this not reflect the reality of the situation in most of the country – particularly in remote, rural areas. And if more statistics were available, they would tell you (and all the donors that have pulled out of Botswana) too.

Arrival in the Kalahari Dessert

14 Sep

Hello all! I have officially in Ghanzi, which is in the heart of the Kalahari Dessert. After a 5-hour drive (uneventful except for all the ostriches on the roads!) we came to Gantsi Craft Trust, my place of work for the next 8 months.

Gantsi Craft Trust is a not for profit organization that seeks to empower San people through the production and sales of crafts.

My job responsibilities include:

  • Organize Product Development workshops (new product designs)
  • Ensure that craft produced is up to standard
  • Participate in craft purchasing in the office and in the settlements
  • Organize gender and natural resource workshops for craft producers
  • Compile natural resource data from settlements and organize the mapping of natural resources
  • Write reports on all above activities and assist with proposals

All of my coworkers have been very welcoming and I am excited to get started! They have just received some new funding for gender projects, which is one of my main interests (obviously, if you have ever read my blog before), so hopefully I will have lots of opportunities to contribute there.

And of course, since I’m in the field of development, everything was going too smoothly so far, so I had to get a curve ball! My accommodations were supposed to be the same as Sara and Dana’s last year, but the landlord never gave my organization confirmation and was seeming very unreliable. So, as of now I am living with a host family. I have some mixed feelings about this, as you can imagine. I was really looking forward to having more independence and having my own space by living on my own, but I am also excited to be able to blend into the community more smoothly in this set up. There are also 2 children living there, which of course I always love, so I can’t wait to meet them soon!

This will be temporary. I still think that I would prefer to be on my own, so I will live with this host family for a month while I look for other options, with help from my coworkers and another nearby Canadian.
All for now!