Botanica Ethiopia

All abuzz in Fiche

Seated against the rammed-earth walls of Werkalemahu and Banchi’s home, we’re handed a plate of thick yellow honey with chunks of dabo bread straight from the fire.

Enebela (Let’s eat)!” says Werkalemahu. “This is the purest, from the new hives.”

We’d just arrived in Fiche with the last truck load of modern beehives from Addis; part of our contribution to the Etse Fewus Association’s work to build an integrated herb and honey business with their medicinal garden.

In the corner, Banchi was making coffee from newly roasted beans as the rest of the group filled the small room with us to sample the first harvest of liquid gold; honey from the first modern hives we delivered earlier in the year.

It tasted like flowers and ran down our wrists!

“We want to be known for our honey too.  It’s different to honey from the market because it has all the herbal properties,” says Gule, explaining how the new hives will be set among the many different medicinal plants at the communal garden site.

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The hives arrive: Workalemahu and Etse Fewus members check out the new equipment in Fiche.

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Who makes the best tella in town?

In Fiche, many women make tella beer or areke, a spirit similar to Italian grappa, to supplement the family income. While caring for young children, tending the home and family land, they will boil and ferment barley and teff grain, gesho (local hops), kosso and other herbs in huge clay pots to make the traditional drinks for the tella houses in town. As well as being popular beverages, tella and arake are often administered medicinally or in combination with certain herbs to treat upset stomachs, worms or fever.

When Etse-Fewus ‘Healing Herbs’ Association members were asked recently ‘Who makes the best tella in town?’ – the answer was unanimous:  A woman named Beletech is famous for her brew.

76-year-old Ato Abe, one of the group leaders and a respected local herbalist, confirmed he had sampled all the tella in Fiche.

“Belatech’s is by far the best,” he said. “Before she offers you the tella, she gives you two handfuls of injera (flat bread made of teff). Then, whenever I am in need of two handfuls of injera in my mouth, I go to her place!”

The discussion was part of a five day basic business skills course we organised in January with Ethiopian micro-enterprise organisation Women in Self Employment (WISE).

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Etse-Fewus members completed a basic business skills course in Fiche with Ethiopian micro-enterprise organisation WISE.

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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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When we talk of Ethiopia in the West, we think of famine and drought, civil war, an HIV epidemic, and phenomenal runners like Haile Gebrselassie.

All of this is real. Impressions from a visit to the country in 2006 were of all these things. And so much more.

Ethiopia is dusty and poor, with striking landscapes, bustling cities and a rich and ancient history.  It is also home to waterfalls that feed the Great Nile in Egypt, to lions, elephants and hippos and 13th century rock-hewn churches. Most of the country is more than 2000 metres above sea level, but Ethiopia also has the lowest and the hottest place on Earth, the Danakil Depression.

The Capital, Addis,  smells of coffee; roasted over charcoal with frankincense. Of eucalyptus trees, and injera pancakes, of goats and donkeys on the footpaths and diesel from old blue taxis on the roads, of incense from the churches, of burning rubbish in the marketplace and firewood stoves in people’s homes.

You hear church bells, roosters and prayers to Mecca at dawn. Reggae and hip hop through the day and night.

You see soccer in the Piassa, children on the streets, potholes and Polio. Men in cafes by the road, boys hanging from open taxi-van doors, advertising their destinations to the public; ‘Bole, Bole, Bole’!

You see beautiful women on their way to church in traditional white dress, colourful religious ceremonies that take over the main streets, rows of gold and silver jewellery stores, Coca Cola billboards, early morning athletes, shepherds and open trucks of soldiers.

Ethiopia is a land locked country in the Horn of Africa, which shares borders with Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.

Lake Tana church paintings. Image: May Slater

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