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Posts tagged ‘Medicinal herb garden’

Herbs to Market

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In February, the Rift plateau country around Fiche town is coloured with red aloe flowers and eucalypts. It was market Sunday, and after meeting Gule and Emayu for a raw meat lunch, we left the spices, tuktuks and sheep on the main street to see the Etse-Fewus Association’s ‘Healing Herbs’ garden on the escarpment behind town. It had been a year since we’d last visited.

We saw bushes of orange marigold, wild rosemary and lemongrass.  A guardhouse of mud-brick and grass, a concreted dam to capture water in the rainy season. Young Kosso trees and Yeferes Zeng were growing along the new fence lines.

The Kosso will shelter the more delicate herbs from the wind and rain, and will one day be used to treat tapeworm infections. The Yeferes Zeng, Gule told us, is for headaches and ‘to protect the property’. The handgun on Gule’s belt? To keep thieves and hyenas away when he’s on night guard duty.

“If people come in the night to steal even one herb, this is a big problem for us, we have worked so hard to collect these plants,” he explained.  Like most of the Etse-Fewus Association men, Gule works on his farm plot or as a share cropper most days; he sleeps in the guardhouse heremost nights.

Gule told us the next step is for Etse-Fewus is to link the project to market. The group want to be able to process and package the herbs themselves – as dried herbs, ointments and essential oils –  to generate income.

To do this, he explained, they’ll buy chickens to build the quality of the soil with manure. Some of the members will bring their private beehives to the communal garden to help pollinate the herbs and increase honey production for the group. They will work together to keep growing.

Here’s a short clip from February …

Granny goes extra mile for Botanica Ethiopia

Granny and the Yankers, aka Kristin and Erin, at the finish line.

She did it! With a little help from her friends, Granny Emmie made it across the finish line and came THIRD in her age group.

Being 89 was no deterrent to her determination or stamina.  A little credit needs to go to her stalwart supporters Erin Semon and Kristin Gomes – the Granny Yankers who pushed Granny 9 km in the Bridge Run at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival at quite a respectable speed.

Granny was not convinced they were always going in the right direction but she maintained her equanimity and laughed most of the way.  She is very proud of her medal, and the fact that she raised $600 to support the sustainability of traditional herbal medicine in Ethiopia.

Lizzie and winners

Lizzie and marathon winners!

Granny racing for Ethiopia this Sunday!

Emmie and the 'Granny Yankers' warm up!

Emmie and the ‘Granny Yankers’ warm up!

Lizzie’s 89-year-old mother has registered in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival this weekend to raise money for Botanica Ethiopia.

But she isn’t actually running! Two crazy Americans, Kristin Gomes and Erin Semon, are going to wheel Granny Emmie across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and beyond:   9km of sweat and struggle, hopefully no tears, with Granny waving the Ethiopian flag.

Calling themselves the ‘Granny Yankers, Kristin and Erin came up with the novel idea so that we can continue to support the group in Fiche to build a model traditional medicine garden.  They are so nearly there – funds will go towards buying beekeeping hives to keep at the garden site.

Help Emmie and the Granny Yankers cross the line on Sunday 22 Sept!

DONATE ONLINE at Go Fundraise here

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Fiche community making the most of new land

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Etse-Fewus (Healing Herbs) Association members  are combining their resources to get the most out of land they were given by the Fiche local government last year.

During a recent visit, committee members told Botanica Ethiopia they plan to establish a small honey-production operation alongside their medicinal herb plantation, and that they hope to share their project as a working demonstration garden for the whole community.

“After they got this land, what’s really important that has happened is that they’re planning a new way of thinking for their business and their lives,” says Tessema Bekele, Director of Ethiopian NGO Emmanuel Development Association and Liason Officer with Botanica Ethiopia.

“They said: ‘Wait, some of us have our own beehives, why don’t we bring them here, work together and plant sweet flowers beside the herbs to help our income’.”

The fenced plot of land, almost the size of two Olympic pools, sits high above Fiche town on a sloped ridge of the Great Rift Valley. It’s flanked by thin young eucalypts and backs onto a rocky stream, which we’re told runs fast in the wet season.

Bekele says the government gave priority to Etse-Fewus because it was so impressed with the group’s commitment and vision.

“Many business owners asked for that plot but the government gave attention to this group because of their energy and motto to change their whole lives by themselves,” he says. “They were supposed to get only 1,200 sq metres, but the officials observed they had capacity to do much and gave them 2,000 sq metres.”

The group now have their own bank account and operating licence; officially registered as a herbal medicine and production cooperative to grow, harvest and sell herbs ‘to empower our families, livelihoods and community.’

“In this country, if a cooperative has a licence, they’re given attention,” says Bekele. “Since Etse-Fewus became organised and is now legally recognised, the members have become more exposed to communicating with local government and asking for services that they have a right for. I go with them regularly to talk to government about their ideas, water and such things, and they are so energised to make this land work.”

Scarce water is still a major problem in Fiche.  For emergency supplies, the group are working on costings to run a line of pipes from a tap on the ridge to the garden plot below.  But with the rainy season around the corner, they’ll first dig a small dam with plastic sheeting to capture and preserve water from the stream when it runs, what they call ‘water harvesting.’

“After September you will see a lot of change, you will see very productive land and all the herbs growing well,” says Etse-Fewus member Gule.

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A model self-help group

In his role with the Emmanuel Development Association, Tessema Bekele travels throughout Ethiopia to help organisations like Etse Fewus develop community improvement and micro-enterprise initiatives – what he calls ‘Self-help Groups.’

“What surprises me is that we always underestimate the poor people. They lack chance but once you give them chance and some back-stopping support like Botanica Ethiopia has done, they are really very aggressive to think about their own affairs,” he says.

“When I’m in the community, I learn a lot that I couldn’t get from my masters or bachelor degree; when I talk with them I learn innovations.”

Bekele sees his role in Fiche as helping to bring people together, and to listen.

“We ask them: ‘what can we do here?’ and every issue and idea came from them, and we develop those ideas with the project,” he says. “Maybe they are technically not very equipped – we’re here to provide technical assistance – but the rest? We have to listen to them.”

“They have the knowledge and experiences. Development starts with their own thinking – not from ours – from their own society, culture, norms and values. And In the end, they are the ones to see success and say: ‘This is my project, I have done this, this is my own brand.’”

“Fiche is one of the model self-helps groups in my eyes. They have done it for themselves.”

Botanica Ethiopia will continue to support Etse-Fewus to improve their land by facilitating permaculture and herbal conservation training for Association members.

Lizzie wins Rotary award for Living Pharmacy project

Lizzie with Rotary District Governor Keith Roffey in Sydney.

Lizzie with Rotary District Governor Keith Roffey in Sydney.

We’re very happy to announce that Lizzie was presented with a Rotary International award for her work in Ethiopia at the Foundation’s annual dinner in Sydney recently.

Lizzie spoke on the night about Botanica Ethiopia, her research and involvement with the Fiche community over the last three years.

“I am very honored to receive this award from Rotary; a fantastic organisation doing so much good in the world, with many successful projects. It also brings attention to a small group of people in Ethiopia who are really doing some amazing things for themselves, and I appreciate that.”

“Thanks must also go to Blackmores, to the kind individuals who have donated their money and time, and to Australian non-profit organisation Global Development Group, who recognised the good foundations of the project and have provided partnership and ongoing support.”

Lizzie was named a Paul Harris Fellow ‘in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among the peoples of the world.’

Alemayehu, Lizzie and Michael at the Rotary awards night

Watering cans, rainfall and fences in Fiche

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Etse-Fewus Association member, Gule, in Fiche

Things are going well in Fiche! The Etse-Fewus (Healing Herbs) Association are proving to be a very resourceful and active group, working together on their new community herb garden.

Last year,  the Association showed local council they were dedicated to preserving their herbal medicine traditions by cultivating their own household herbal gardens. They were rewarded with the donation of a block of land to cultivate as a community medicinal garden, an outstanding achievement.

I recently received an important update from Tessema Bekele, CEO of the Emmanuel Development Foundation and Liaison Officer for Botanica Ethiopia.  Tessema regularly travels to Fiche to check on progress and to support and encourage the Etse-Fewus Association in their endeavours.  This is the message from Tessema received in September 2012:

“Warm greetings from Ethiopia. Yesterday I met with the Fiche people and discussed the current status of their association. The following progress is made:

  • They bought fencing wood by the contribution of the members for the common garden;
  • They’ve started preparing the common garden, but still needs more effort, since it has grasses for grazing and is virgin land .

Other good news is that they received sufficient rain for the last three months, so that they can easily plant the herbs now.”

And a further message in November:

“Here things at Fiche are working well and the members of the Association are highly motivated and working for the common garden. Currently they are underway to make fencing and contributing their labor and materials for fencing. However, they are in need of some barbed wire to make the fence very strong.The wire is expensive for them to purchase and they asked me to match their funds to finalize the fencing. Considering their motivation and commitment, I told them I will forward their request to you, together with their request for hand tools and watering cans.”

This was excellent news and Botanica Ethiopia was happy to match the Association’s funds; a commitment of $5,100 was sent in December 2012 to the newly opened Etse-Fewus bank account. This means that a good foundation will be laid.

From humble beginnings in 2011, when a group of householders and a skilled and committed priest-herbalist gathered to share their knowledge and discuss the dire threat to their traditional medicine upon which every family relies, this is a substantial achievement. It is proof that small projects such as this, with a little support, can achieve lasting, tangible benefits for the broader community.  All the women and men involved are very busy simply getting on with life, which at the best of times can be a hard struggle – but they have given of one of their most precious resources, their time, in order to get this happening.

Tessema will be visiting Fiche again soon to check on progress and we hope to then have some photos of the newly fenced garden to share!

Money raised will be used to buy wheelbarrows, watering cans and hand tools for the newly formed ‘Etse Fewus’ medicinal garden Association, in Fiche, Ethiopia, which Lizzie will be visiting next year.

Botanica Ethiopia: A living Pharmacy (J655N) is an approved development project of Australian NGO Global Development Group (GDG).

Sponsor $1 for each gruelling kilometre!

Go to the Botanica Ethiopia Fundraising page here.

For more info about the 2012  Blackmores Sydney Running Festival click here. 

Fiche government grants land for ‘Healing Plants’

Congratulations to the Etse-Fewus ‘Healing Plants’ Association in Fiche. The kebele local government has just granted them 1,000 sq metres (1/4 acre) of land to build a community medicinal herb garden!

The herbalists and householders – who have been part of the Botanica Ethiopia project from the beginning – formed their own association earlier this year to support one another in growing medicinal home gardens. As one member, Ato Abi, said at the time: ‘You can’t tie a bundle of sticks without a tie, can you?’

Back in January, Botanica Ethiopia and Etse-Fewus took their ideas to the city council and were told that if they could get their own household gardens to flourish, the kebele would look at giving them land for community use. Today we received the good news.

“This is a great achievement from the local government side to provide the association with this very important input,” said our project liaison officer, Tessema, in Ethiopia today. “Now we need to build their capacity with support such as hand tools and water facilities to implement the garden.”

“We’ll start our work at the beginning of the rainy season,” says herbalist and priest Merigeta Enbakom. The community is hoping the ‘big’ June-Sept rain starts falling soon – the February rains never came.

Here are some photos of Etse-Fewus members in Fiche.

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Interview with Tessema Bekele

In this interview in Addis Ababa in February this year, Tessema Bekele, Executive Director of Ethiopian NGO the Emmanuel Development Association (see the blog post “An interview with an extraordinary Ethiopian“) tells Kristin Gomes from Botanica Ethiopia about how the EDA welcomes skilled volunteers to participate in community development programs.

Growing potential at the School of St. Yared

High on the agenda for our visit to Ethiopia was to make contact with the School of St. Yared in Addis Ababa, founded in 2009 by Hope for Children, an NGO supporting orphans of HIVAIDS.

Nearly 75 per cent of school-aged children in Ethiopia have no access to formal education. Hope for Children realised early on that providing orphans with loving, caring homes until they turned 18, was not enough to lift them out of a life of poverty. Without a solid education, these children would not be equipped to make their own futures.

Jacqui Gilmour, of Hope for Children Australia, was inspired by a school in Tanzania whose guiding philosophy was that the way to prosperity for a nation is via education of its children. Jacqui met Yared, a 23-year-old who grew up on the streets of Addis and knew from personal experience the difficulties faced by millions of bright street kids who have little hope of an education.

Yared had earned a scholarship to study in America, but when he and Jacqui discussed the idea of a school he was inspired to stay in Addis and help other kids, from the poorest backgrounds, to have such a chance. These smart children are a major resource for the country – if only  they can jump the obstacles in their path and access opportunities to learn.

He found a building and grounds for St Yared and is now Principle of a school with 80 Kindergarten and Year 1 students. As well as classes, the school provides children with three free meals a day; encouraging attendance by reducing the need for them to go out to work each day to help with the family income.

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