A couple of weeks ago Rozanne and I were in India for work, and we took the opportunity to visit one of the innocent foundation projects with our partner ADD. ADD supports organisations of disabled people to improve their livelihoods. In India, they are working primarily on improving agricultural skills and incomes.
The money provided from the innocent foundation is used to provide loans to disabled people and their families. The local Disabled People Organisation (DPO) consisting of members of the community determines who would benefit most from the loans, and supports the beneficiaries in their endeavours. The money is used for a wide variety of uses, such as buying animals, seeds or farming equipment.
We visited a number of DPO groups and beneficiaries of the loans during our visit.
Please allow us to introduce one of the beneficiaries, Mr Siddagangaiah (on the left).
He suffers from cerebral palsy and as such cannot do manual work. He used his loan to buy this rather fetching looking goat (on the left of Mr Siddagangaiah).
The idea is that the goat will have kids (that's what you call a baby goat) which can be sold for meat if they are boys.. (sorry guys) or for breeding if they are lucky enough to be a girl.
Mr Siddagangaiah already has 2 kids, and he hopes to slowly build a small herd. The money raised from the goats contributes to his family income, and importantly provides him with increased social standing in his community.
Other beneficiaries are using their loans to buy silk worms, grow flowers, and grow vegetables such as potatoes and beans.
Mr Ranganatha from ADD India was lucky enough to be given some fresh beans to take home for dinner.
It was fantastic to meet some of the people who are benefitting from these small loans, and to hear about the difference it makes in their lives. We thank them and ADD for making us so welcome and sharing their time with us.
We wish them well for lots of goat babies, and a bumper bean crop.
On Saturday, I said a sad good-bye to my Ethiopian friends, raw-met breakfasts and dancing lessons. (however despite lots of training, I can't say I've mastered their moves yet)
Before I left, I presented my marketing strategy to the charity. The best bit was at the end when Mola spontanously said that it was a really useful document to have which he could see his team implementing. So for any future travellers to Ethiopia, keep your eyes peeled for new AMAR packaging, sold in new exciting places and potentially in new formats...
For me though, it's back to the world of smoothies, with a bit of Ethiopian honey in the back of my mind and heart for ever.
I've been spending the past 2 days in Addis mainly wrting up my recommendation on honey marketing, eating injera and tearing my hair out because of internet bugs / power cuts - not very good or new blogging material or photos.
However today we drove 45 minutes outside Addis to visit a project the innocent foundation funded from 2007 to 2009, appropriately called the Apple Project.
To cut a long story short, we supported the introduction of apple trees in Ethiopia to help smallholder farmers diversify their income by growing and selling apples: a rare, and therefore high value crop here.
Here is Gonfar, the farmer we visited, proudly standing by his apple trees (it was quite surreal seeing an apple orchard just behind banana plants.) He's got about 85 of them now.
3 years ago, this was where he and his 9 chldren lived, a cute but quite rustic little mud hat.
Thanks to the money he's made from selling his apples, and I'm not joking here, he's built himself a brand new colourful house just next to the old one.
By this point, I was completely in awe of this entrepreneur but things didn't stop there.
He's also constructed a new latrine, which happens to be one of the cleanest ones I've seen here.
When I went in, I realised the old exercise books (bottom right) weren't meant for passing time on the loo: he'd even thought of toilet paper.
He's also set up an ingenious mechanism to irrigate the land whilst washing your hands so no water gets wasted.
This man had by now become my hero, and then I realised he was officially a hero, as you can see from the medal in the bottom picture frame.
The dashing young man with the sexy sunglasses eyeing up Barbie is his eldest son who works at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis. Not really my kind of place but I might go in and say hello if I walk past on my daily evening wanders through the city.
Not only was I in awe of this man (and made everyone laugh by constantly repeating 'this is A-MA-ZING' during the visit) but on a more serious note, I felt really proud of being a member of the innocent oundation. There are 225 other Gonfars in the region who have all directly benefited from our grant and are selling more and more apples each year. I felt nearly as proud as Gonfar in the photo. Just missing the medal.
Now, back to the honey.
It's been a while since my last posts but internet access has been limited to say the least. I spent a few days with my 2 friends from IDE in the Dongar region. The trip included visiting 3 more cooperatives, interviewing lots new beekeepers
chatting to more supermarket staff about honey
and trying ever-more stylish bee suits.
The time has now come for me to enjoy my first weekend in Ethiopia so let me try and convey a bit of what people like doing when they're not at work: namely eat and drink.
When it comes to food, things are pretty different in Ethiopia. Below is our 'breakfast treat' at 7am this morning. If we are used to the 'cooked' variety in the UK, here the breakfast are served 'raw'. Yes, that's it - meat straight off the cow. How I missed my bacon and eggs / muesli and yogurt - and the weekend supplements whilst I'm at it.
Meals are always served on injera - which looks like a soft pancake (but unfortunately doesn't taste anything like a pancake). You eat it with whatever meats, sauces or vegetables are on offer - a bit like a massive soft pizza with 'all you can eat' toppoings. Who said we needed knives and forks?
You can never be told off for 'not finishing your plate' as it's
one dish for all, however in this occasion it was clear who hadn't
As for drinks, I've tried the delicious honey-wine (tej) as well as local beer but what was my surprise to get served a green smoothie when I asked for a mixed juice. Unfortuantely, it didn't taste anything like our kiwis, apples & limes but rather an avocado soup. So the next day, I went back to good old OJ - you can't beat the classics.
Emilie's having a bit of internet trouble so here's her latest update from Ethiopia:
It's been an epic 2 days since I last wrote.
Yesterday I met the local team yesterday and had a good old taste test to break the ice
We then spent the rest of the day visiting supermarkets, chatting to honey buyers and sellers to find about a bit more about honey consumption and people's favourite brands.
We finished up at the Beekeeper's Union (note the 'honey styled' architecture')
Today, we visited a co-operative of beekeepers in Dangla (which is about 2 hours South) where I met and interviewed some of the co-op executive committee.
They were really passionate and very enthusiastic in the way they spoke about their hives, honey prices and IDE's training workshops. But when it came to taking pictures, this was my best attempt to get them to smile.
October is an exciting time for the co-op as it's the beginning of the harvest season when the members can all start processing and selling the beekeepers' honey again.
They've been out of stock since July which means the co-operative shopkeepers sole role for the last months has been turning customers down. I think I'd have gone crazy in that time but here she is with the first honey of the season
My favourite bit of the day was meeting the co-op's 'star' beekeeper, Walker. I got to put on a bee suit and see his hives. One bee managed to get in and attempted to kiss me on the cheek, but apart from a few shrieks (much to the entertainment of the co-operative), neither the bee or me were harmed.
We finished the day in the honey section of the wholesale market - a succession of slightly tired tents selling honey and butter.
The outside appearance should have given me a hint as to what I would find inside but it was really honey in it's very crudest form i.e. big plastic drums filled with honey and dead bees floating inside.
Now I can really see where IDE's co-operatives are making a difference and adding value to the keepers' honey, enabling them to sell it at a higher price.
After all, I think people would be prepared to pay more to avoid having to fish out dead bees before spreading honey on their toast.