Botanica Ethiopia

Freshly pressed

Traditions of herbs to flourish

Manly Daily (Sydney, Australia) – Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Author: Peter Bodkin

A MANLY naturopath will travel to Ethiopia to help locals preserve their rich history of herbal remedies before the generations of knowledge are lost forever.

Fairlight resident Elizabeth d’Avigdor, who has been practising in Manly for about 14 years, will journey back to the African nation this week with her daughter, May, and adopted son, Alemayehu.

She plans to establish a medicinal herb garden in the rural town of Fiche as part of the Botanica Ethiopia project, with the aid of locals who can pass on their understanding of traditional medicine and indigenous herbs.

See the full article here, Page 8.















East to Abyssinia

In less than a week, Lizzie, Alemayehu and Bizunesh head off to Ethiopia.

Good news is that Addis Ababa University is now collaborating with  Elizabeth on the research side of the project. Lizzie has been working with the Biology Department; she will have access to the Library and Herbarium when in the capital, and will also have a research student working with her throughout the project; interviewing men and women in Fiche and recording the use of indigenous herbs as medicine.


Image: May Slater

Amaseganallo – Thank you!

The project has received so much support, and such thoughtful and generous donations from friends and colleagues here in Australia. We’ve raised a total of $1,450.

Special thanks to all those who have provided encouragement; to Kristen and Erin for their time and their talent, to AACASA (Australian African Children’s Aid and Support Association), Hope for Children, Kidest Nadew, Nathanael Moges, Rebekah Russell, Christine Kavanagh, David Cunnington, Amanda Brinkman, Pauline Roberts, Karen Bridgman, Elaine Searle, Natasha Larkin, Sarah Culverhouse, Shellie Blake, Kim Robertson, Cath Cooling, Lewis d’Avigdor and to all at Blackmores.

Ethiopian jewellery fundraising

On our return to Australia in March, we’ll hold a jewellery fundraising night in Sydney. Ethiopia is re-known for its bright yellow gold, quality silver, beads, amber and exquisite Filligri craftsmanship.

Stay tuned to the blog to follow the project ‘on the ground’ from next week. Unfortunately, less than 10% of Africa is connected to the internet, and while Information and wireless technology  use is growing,  Ethiopia ranks one of the poorest countries in the world for access. So….while we will most likely have limited internet outside of Addis, we’ll post updates, stories, film and photos as regularly as possible.

Elizabeth will be in Ethiopia from 10th January to 10th March 2011.


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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The Good Earth – Fiche

The small town of Fiche, in the Oromia region of central Ethiopia, is where we will be planting the medicinal herb garden.

Fiche is about four hours drive North of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Our partners in Ethiopia have been successful in securing land for the project in Fiche, and have already begun work preparing the soil for planting – here are some photos!

View from the road to Bahir Dar. Image: L Gebayehu

Fiche, Ethiopia. Image: L Gebayehu

Bore hole. Image: L Gebayehu

A Living Pharmacy in Ethiopia

For Australian Naturopath, Elizabeth d’Avigdor, the connection with Ethiopia began with the adoption of her son 14 years ago. But the seed of an idea for a project to support health in rural Ethiopia using indigenous herbs, was planted in her kitchen in Sydney some years later.

“An epiphanal moment for me was when I was brewing up some Fenugreek tea and my son said ‘I know that smell, I know that smell – my mother used to make that for me when I had a stomach ache,'” says Elizabeth.

“I felt this huge connection with his mother, and with Ethiopia, and being a herbalist, I thought I really wanted to know more about how herbs are used there everyday for common ailments and preventable diseases.”

In January next year, Elizabeth and her son will travel back to Ethiopia to research and record traditional herbal medicine use and establish a medicinal herb garden in Fiche, a rural town North of the capital, Addis Ababa.

The project, ‘Botanica Ethiopia – A Living Pharmacy’ was developed by Elizabeth as part of her Masters in Clinical Science (Complementary Medicine). It will be delivered in partnership with the Fiche community and Global Development Group, with funding from Australian natural healthcare company Blackmores Ltd.

Elizabeth says native herbs can provide a very cheap, safe and accessible means of health care in Ethiopia, and in rural communities in particular.

“These plants are immensely important. Many Ethiopians don’t have access to a doctor and this is often their first port of call, if you like, in medicinal approach. ”

But according to the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the United Nations, herbal medicine practice is in danger of being lost due to lack of documented knowledge, and the threatened extinction of medicinal plants.

Interview with Naturopath Elizabeth d’Avigdor

Botanica Ethiopia is proud to be a partner for project ‘J655N Botanica Ethiopia – A Living Pharmacy’ with Global Development Group (ABN 57 102 400 993), an Australian AusAID approved NGO carrying out quality humanitarian aid and development projects with approved partners to relieve poverty and provide long term solutions. Global Development Group takes responsibility for this project according to AusAID rules, providing a governance role and assisting in the areas of planning, monitoring, evaluating and auditing to ensure that project J655N Botanica Ethiopia – A Living Pharmacy is carried out to Australian requirements.

For more information about Global Development Group, visit

Click here to make a donation to the Botanica Ethiopia ‘Living Pharmacy’ project.