Friday, December 3, 2010

Famine in Ethiopia – Can it finally be beaten?

Sadly, Ethiopia and Ethiopian development has been tied with the words ‘famine’ and ‘drought’. There are even dictionaries that give Ethiopia as an example for definition of the words. There are people, today that cannot help but think of the country anymore than a desert where people die because of hunger. Even first time travelers to Ethiopia come with great trepidation. Even after coming to face with the reality of the country they still think they are missing something or that the whole country is pulling a fast one on them.

Food in Ethiopia - at present

A report from USAID quotes the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) as saying that famine in Ethiopia could be beaten back if recent crop harvests are any indication.  As of July, due to favorable conditions the country had had a bumper harvest. And this in turn had contributed to an improvement in Ethiopia’s food security.

The report also shows that not only was the food crisis alleviated, there was also an improvement in the availability of water for consumption as well pastoral purposes all over the usually dry and drought prone areas of the south and southeast of Ethiopia. All in all, drought and relief maps of Ethiopia have shown a very rapid diminishing of food shortages in the whole country.

African food – the future

As encouraging as the report may be the history of Africa and especially the history of famine in Ethiopia has shown that no matter how secure a country may become, there is a high chance of another drought or even famine occurring to derail the slow but definite growth of the newfound Ethiopian development.

Encouraging news that has been airing around Africa is the publication of a new book ‘The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africaby Harvard University professor Calestous Juma. The book that is expected to be published on December 15th has put forward the results of a study stating that not only can Africa feed itself in just a generation, but can also become a major food exporter strong enough to alleviate the ravenous hunger that is slowly creeping up in the rest of the world.

The overall results of the study apparently show that agriculture in Africa has come to a standstill when the rest of the world has been pushing it into the 21st century. By making agriculture the number one item on their agendas, there is no doubt that Africa can be the breadbasket of the world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Ethiopians - why it is good to be one nowadays

We are facing dire straits globally. Almost everyone is facing the brunt of job cuts and austerity measures. Economies that were once thought to be mighty have been brought to their knees, and only stood up again after substantial aid from neighbors. The price of gas has shot through the roof and it took the other prices with it. Now is a good time to follow the ways and skills of the Ethiopians.

The Ethiopians – why?

That is what most people will be asking when they read this article. Isn’t life in Ethiopia so miserable? Isn’t Ethiopia the country people point to when explaining the effects of poverty on a country? Doesn’t the information on Ethiopia always say that it is the country to avoid?
Well, let us think see what you think after you read what the world has to say about Ethiopia. Below are some facts on Ethiopia that have been reported by international agencies and organizations. As much as possible latest data has been collected from reliable sources that provide the latest news about Ethiopia and other African countries.

The Human Development Index

The human development index is a complex statistical calculation of the improvement of the human development. It is a measure that is used by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to list countries that have advanced or retreated in making their people’s lives better.
In the 2010 report ‘The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development’ the UNDP has ranked Ethiopia as the 11th most progressive country making it a surprising member of the high rankers despite it not having done so via economic reasons. This means that the achievements were made by doing other things to improve the lives of the people. For example, Ethiopia abolished school fees for primary school students and made a big leap in the number of clinics that were built.

Ethiopia Flower Industry

When people are asked on the latest news about Ethiopia, the majority that has never been here just think of the country being a big desert. It just doesn’t come to mind that the country is the home of many rivers, especially the Nile, and that it is sometimes known as the ‘water tower of Africa’.
The information about Ethiopia that was disseminated during the 70’s and 80’s has left a dark shadow on the Ethiopia new and strong that is emerging. And that news about Ethiopia has had the most effect on the Ethiopian flower industry. People think of Ethiopia last when it comes to the horticulture industry.
The flower industry in Ethiopia has been steadily growing. It is an amazing story considering that Ethiopia is at present the second-most exporter of flowers in an industry that didn’t even exist 20 years ago. The quality of the flowers has been of excellent standards that various exporters have been awarded global stages.

HIV AIDS decline in Ethiopia

Family life in Ethiopia was devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic that had hit the world. The effects of the epidemic can still be seen in the number of orphans that grew up. Ethiopia was one of the most hit countries by the disease.
But it finally seems to have been beaten back. Recent reports have shown that the rate of infection of HIV has been stopped in Ethiopia. Other countries that performed similarly are South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This was done by planning a strategy that would reach even the youngest of Ethiopians. It was mostly thorough education that was aimed at anyone from 6 to 60. All media drilled into the people’s mind that HIV AIDS was real and that the prevention was very easy. Those lessons are now deeply buried in the three generations that have come after the start of the epidemic. It was these lessons that help curb the disease when it is sharply rising in some Asian countries. Even the United States is facing a problem with the prevalence of the disease among its citizens. It was alarmed to wake up to find that the situation in the United States was worse than Africa.

Life in Ethiopia – something to look forward to

While the whole world is in a gloom, life in Ethiopia is amazingly calm and stable. There aren’t any job cuts that have rocked Europe and the US. There aren’t any austerities plans of furtive lending that have been noticed in Europe to the extent that it has become a threat to the European Union as a whole. There haven’t been massive leaps in increase of consumer goods that would have been expected from a third world country.
Au contraire there is a booming building industry that is changing the cities’ skylines almost daily. There are openings of new automotive industries that have already started flooding the roads of the country with Ethiopian made cars. The tourism industry has reached record levels raising the air transport industry so high that Ethiopian Airlines has become a major contender on a world level.
In short, the country is on its way up. The Ethiopians of tomorrow will hopefully have a country that will be a major force in the future world.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Spitting image of Ethiopia – A tuberculosis habit

Spitting kills. It might not do so immediately but sooner or later it will kill someone, somewhere, sometime. The culprit is not the fluid that is excreted but rather the bacteria it bears – mycobacterium tuberculosis, the cause for tuberculosis. . It is a disease that if left unattended can kill very slowly and painfully. Tuberculosis killed 100 million people in the 20th century and is one of the leading killers of man today.

Tuberculosis and spitting through history

Tuberculosis hit Europe and the United States pretty hard in the early 1800’s. One way for stopping the spread of the disease was to stop people from spitting in public. France was one of the first countries to bring orders against spitting in public. Next to come was New York City, in the USA, where it is still illegal to spit in public today, although no one enforces that law.

Tuberculosis and Spitting in Ethiopia

Currently, Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis infections. In fact it is the 7th most infected country in the world, and according to WHO, the second most infected countries in Africa. At any one time it is estimated that there are just over 300,000 new cases in Ethiopia. While that may be a scary number the good news is that it is a completely curable disease if treated as early as possible.

Yet, while roaming the streets of Addis Ababa, it makes one wonder whether the people have even heard of the relationship between spitting and tuberculosis. While it was very uncommon to see people spitting in public in the recent past it is now amazingly, and disgustingly, a common sight that everyone of every sex and age seems to enjoy. And similarly while it was considered rude to spit within sight of another person, the ‘spitters’ of today have become very brazen. Some even enjoy the sight of a passerby cringing at the sound and sight show.

A China syndrome?

In China, it is not offensive at all to noisily draw up phlegm and spit it out anywhere at any time. Tourists have written about it all over the net. Incidentally, the number of Chinese living in Ethiopia has been on the increase these past few years. While we have been learning a lot about their working ethics, techniques and disciplines, have we also picked on their spitting habits? If so, we must also remember that not only is China one of the most tuberculosis infected countries in the world but also the country where the recent SARS virus attacked and caused the most damage.

Laws against spitting and Littering

Laws against spitting really need to be brought forward in Ethiopia. And while at it, it wouldn’t kill (no pun intended) anyone to throw in a couple of littering laws too. God knows it is needed!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ethiopia - The $10,000 dollars phone call

A friend told me this joke, and I just had to share it. Enjoy!

An American decided to write a book about famous churches around the World. So he bought a plane ticket and first took a trip to China.

On his first day he was inside a church taking photographs when he noticed a golden telephone mounted on the wall with a sign that read "$10,000 per call".

The American, being intrigued, asked a priest who was strolling by what the telephone was used for.

Te priest replied that it was a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 you could talk to God.

The American thanked the priest and went on his way.

Next stop was Japan. There, at a very large cathedral, he saw the same golden telephone with the same sign under it.

He wondered if this was the really the same kind of telephone as the one he had seen in China and asked a nearby nun what its purpose was.

She told him that it was indeed a direct line to heaven and that for $10,000 He could talk to God.

"O.K., thank you." said the American.

He then traveled to Spain, Italy, Russia, Germany and France. In a church in each country he saw the same golden telephone with the same "$10,000 per call" sign under it.

Finally , upon leaving France the American decided to travel down to Ethiopia to see if they also had the phone there.

He arrived in Ethiopia, and in the first church he entered, he saw that there was that same golden telephone. But this time the sign under it said "One Dollar per call."

The American was surprised so he asked a priest about the sign..."Father, I've traveled all over the world and I've seen this same golden telephone in many churches. All of them were said to be a direct line to Heaven, and the price per call was a ten thousand dollars. But the price here is only one dollar! Why is it so cheap here........?"

The priest smiled and answered:

"Son, you are in Ethiopia now, and this is GOD’s OWN COUNTRY - it's a Local Call".

Keep smiling you are in God's own country!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daylight Robbery On the Highway - Ethiopian Taxis

If you are going to take a minibus taxi in Addis and especially if you're going the full distance, you're most probably going to get robbed. Well, more or less.

You see, when you travel the full distance (from the beginning of a route to its end) you have to pay ETB 1.95. The problem arises when you pay ETB 2.00, and wait for change that is ETB 0.5 - you will wait in vain.

 The most probable reason you will be given is that the tout has run out of change. And he tells you you will have to wait until the termination of the trip to get your change back.

If you need to get off in the middle of the of the route you will have to forfeit your 5 cents.

But even if you do travel to the end of the route and get off at the terminus, he will either pretend that he has forgotten about your 5 cents. Or go looking for moneychangers who will give him change for his ETB 1.00. He will make a real job out of it: first he will go running to find the furthest one, haggle, chat a bit, tout his route...anything to make you walk away.

But if you just stay put, and want to waste a good twenty minutes, he will eventually come back and grudgingly give you your 5 cents... wondering how stingy you are!

They count on your getting frustrated and walking away. Now the minibus transports 11 passengers, lets not even talk about the ones that are squeezed in, and per trip the tout is going to make at least ETB 0.55. If the taxi makes 20 trips that adds up to ETB 11. Now imagine how many taxis there are in the city and how much is being ripped off...

You will be well advised to carry a coin pouch and tender the exact change!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ethiopian night life...Addis Ababa

Ethiopians love the night life. Addis Ababa is a party-goers’ paradise. Add those two together and you’ll have the perfect formula for a dusk-till-dawn jamboree. There are bars, pubs and clubs all over the city that cater to every customer’s taste and style. The beauty of it all is that it is easy on the pocket.

Although watering-holes rise and fall with the fads of the moment, here are a few current not-to-be-missed ones:

• Beer Garden Inn
Located in the Bole Medhanealem area, this is the place to start the evening off at. With a choice of beers that is mind boggling; the place is reminiscent of taverns in folklore.

• Black Rose
Need a cozy place to sit and chat while downing a cold St. George beer? The Black Rose on Bole Road is the place. The music is wonderful. It’s a favorite with the local and expat communities.

• Harlem Jazz
This place is for jazz and reggae lovers. There are live bands with the sweetest Caribbean and black tunes. The place starts to jump after 23:00. Every few hours a bonfire is lit, so enjoy a breather during the breaks. The location is right at the end of Bole Road.

• Club Alize
More live shows? From classics to Ethiopian folk to oldies to reggae and rock anything goes here. A walking distance from Harlem Jazz...but up a level.

• Club Illusion
This is the place to end it all. The DJs keep the beat, and the crowd, pumping till dawn. The crowd is on the dance floor, not the bar, here. It's right next to the Ambassador Theater, and like all secret goody-spots it's down in the basement.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ethiopia…Keeping the Faith

                “The Book of Eli” and “Legion” are two amazing movies. Watch them back to back and you are thrown into deep self-scrutiny.  It’s almost 4 hours of staring at the screen, but never are you let to wander away from the story. If one really watches the movie with all senses opened, never are you far from the guilt. It is the audience, each and every one of us that is the cause today of what the stories tell us will happen tomorrow. They are stories of how man loses faith and succumbs to greed. Or keeps faith and is saved.

                In “The Book of Eli” it is faith that keeps the story going from one end to the other, literally. And in “Legion” it is the lack of faith and the eventual discovery of it that is at the heart of the story. The first is of a man named Eli trying to restore the old civilization and re-introduce faith into a world that has been forsaken and destroyed. And in the second it is because of faith that the world is saved from total annihilation. Anymore said, and this article becomes a spoiler.

 Critics have said that the movies looked like computer games or that it was all too surreal to be capturing and were actually turn-offs. And it’s certain that there will be some religious people that will be offended by one or another part of the movies.But let us look at some quotes from the movies:

  •        From “The Book of Eli”
o   “People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. “

  •           From “Legion”
o   Gabriel: “I would not have shown you such mercy.”
o   Michael: “That is why you failed.”

That being said, the main question remains, is it true? Have we all lost the faith? Is faith dead? Are we getting too greedy? Will the lack of our faith be the end of us? Are we becoming too proud? Can we ignore the fact that whether theologically or scientifically we are paying dearly for our sins? Can we ignore the floods and the earthquakes? …  Or are there people that still keep the faith?

The faith is still strong in one country. There are still people who fear God in this country. They still mention God at least once a day when they answer the question “How did you spend the night?” or “Good morning.” The answer is more than likely to be “Egziabher Yimesgen!” which means “May God be Praised!” This land has people that thank God for the needs they have had fulfilled and not for the wants that remain unanswered. These people have absolute faith that they sometimes follow the rules without even understanding it. This type of faith is of the purest one, for it is blind. This land is Ethiopia and the people, Ethiopians.

While there is no evidence that Atheists exist in Ethiopia, the power of faith is abundant everywhere and can be seen without too much scrutiny. From the people who though poorer than dirt, yet give to an even less fortunate soul, to the passerby, upon seeing a church doesn’t pass without obeisance and paying respect. It is in the knowledge that man will be paid back in a hundred fold for each and every favor he does on earth. It’s in the love and brotherhood, in a country where Muslims and Christians live side by side in peace and respect. It’s in a land where religion is a big issue, but not the difference of one’s religion from another’s. It’s the faith one has in his religion that makes it all right about the others’. It is in the tears of millions that are shed at the loss of a few.

Like Eli said: “He just led me there…” Ethiopia is being led out into the light. We need to keep the faith. We must know that it is the faith that has helped us survive. And the day we lose the faith is the day we will fall.

We can all learn a lesson from these two movies, and they are worth an investment of both time and money. It’s the simple things that restore faith, and it’s the simple things that show us whether we have, or not, lost our way.

We need to keep the faith.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409

The author would like to express his deepest condolences to the friends, families and relatives of the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 409 from Beirut to Addis Ababa.

May their souls rest in peace.