Lizzie shares her first few days back in Ethiopia with the Living Pharmacy project.
Stepping out from the sanitised chill of the airplane into everything that is Addis Ababa, feeling the thrill of returning here mixed with anxious anticipation of all that we hope to achieve in this second visit for Botanica Ethiopia; this is the start of another journey.
I am travelling this time on my own from Australia, but met up in Dubai for a connecting flight to Addis with Kristin Gomes, a multi-skilled and multi-talented aid worker from America who has volunteered to spend a month with me overseeing the activities and bringing her wealth of knowledge to bear on the project. Kristin also has the task of being Director of Photography with the filmwork documenting our progress.
We hit the ground running. Once we had settled into the guest house in the city, we set out to orientate ourselves. This is my fourth visit, the Amharic language is coming back to me and is always useful to create a bit of hilarity wherever I go. The sounds, the images, comfortingly familiar; this means I can get to work the next day quickly without too much distraction. A few telephone calls later, some meetings arranged, and a quick email back home to the family to let them know of our safe arrival.
My first meeting was with Dr. Zemede Asfaw of Addis Ababa University, who helped to supervise my research at Fiche. Warm reunion greetings over, Dr. Zemede introduced me to Abiyu Enew, the postgraduate student in Ethnobotany whom he is supervising to replicate my research and to conduct a wider ethnobotanical survey of the area. Abiyu has done a great job, collecting specimens of many plants in the area for depositing in the herbarium at the University. We arranged for Abiyu to join us on our trip to Fiche in a couple of days’ time where we will be talking to the women householders and to the herbalists to gauge their interest in establishing household herbal gardens. We will be visiting the main Doyu-Armon garden to see the herbs that have been planted and to see Lakew’s work in improving the soil to support their growth.
Dr. Zemede also introduced me to a doctorate student from Cornell University in the States who is conducting agroforestry research in the northern part of Ethiopia. Every time we meet with people here, more possibilities arise for Botanica Ethiopia and it is my job, and Kristin’s, to ensure that we stay on track in getting the fundamentals right.
Kristin’s words of caution come from experience: “Lizzie, all these ideas are wonderful possibilities. Now, put them on the shelf ready to bring down later…” This is good advice – a major focus of this trip is to make sure that what we are doing is sustainable, and to do that a solid foundation has to be built.
We are well on the way. Our second meeting was with Lakew to organise our field trip to Fiche. We will travel there on Tuesday to spend a few days with the householders and herbalists, to determine their interest in developing individual household herbal gardens and to see how we can support them to do that.