Postcard from Hawzien

I recently coordinated a large-scale fruit tree distribution here in rural Ethiopia on behalf of a woman named Lousie. Louise Schofield of the Tigray Trust (A British registered charity) purchased the trees after consulting with the Hawzien agricultural department as to the most suitable species to grow in Maycado. The Tigray Trust also funded training for the farmers. Her heart is truly the opposite of the Grinch, it is three sizes too big. She allowed me the opportunity to coordinate and see the project through to the other side and I did just that. The number is not important, although to give the story some context I will share the facts.

There were 1,092 households that received 15 fruit trees each totaling 16,380 trees. There will be additional trees that are distributed to the schools making the total 16,494 trees. There are 6,117 people that live in the Maycado town and the surrounding rural area, with just over half of the population being women. This project aims to confront poverty and food security head on by distributing these trees to one kaballe, or village, which was selected by Louise.

Logistically, this project was very difficult to pull off. When you are transporting anything in rural Ethiopia you must first arrange the transportation itself. This can be quite a task, with cars and trucks being in limited supply. We spent two months discussing possible strategies for getting these trees from point A to point B. The small trucks that the agriculture office owns can carry anywhere from 200-300 trees depending on the type and size of the trees. If you do the math that means that it will take over 55 trips in one truck that size. We just don’t have the time or the resources for this.

We looked at other options and we gained access to a truck that was provided by RST (Relief Society of Tigray). This is an NGO that focuses on the rehabilitation of Tigray through various natural resource interventions. This mammoth truck could hold up to 3000 trees per trip. That was what we needed to make this project a reality! We started loading up the truck to the brim like we were playing an advanced game of tetris. This process took almost one week in order to get the trees to the farmer’s training center. We distributed coffee, guava, papaya, avocado, citrus, apple and orange trees.

In collaboration with the local agricultural office here in Hawzien, we conducted a training for the extension agents for the area surrounding Maycado. This training focused on the sustainability of the project, how to properly plant the trees, how to maintain the trees after rainy season, how to protect the trees from animals, children, hail and other threats and finally a discussion about the project as a whole and suggestions for future tree distribution projects in the area.

This project was a special one for me to be involved in. I was able to meet thousands of people that lived in the most rural parts of Northern Ethiopia and connect on a level that was broken down to the basic of human needs: food security. Seeing how grateful the local people were was amazing and that is what I want to share with you all that were unable to be there in person.

This project was amazing because of the scale, but for me it reverts back to my opening description: “The Giving Tree” I remember reading this story to my mother before I left for Ethiopia. My mother used to read this story as a child, so it already had a special place in my heart. When I was running back and forth with the trucks and the trees I would not help but to think about how these trees would grow and help improve the quality of life for these people. This project will bring man and nature closer as it attempts to link important food security concepts, love for nature and ownership ideology. I am ecstatic that I had the opportunity to be involved with such a selfless project and I am lucky to have been allowed the opportunity to interact with the beneficiaries directly. I will update everyone on this project in a few months. Thanks for reading!

Thank you Lou. Thank you agriculture office. Thank you Mother Nature. Thank you Shel Silverstein for writing your book, “The Giving Tree”

Signed: Benjamin Morse
United States Peace Corps Volunteer

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