Today is our second Monday in Ethiopia and starting the second and last full week of classes/trainings. Today we complete training with instructors and tomorrow we begin training the students. We have decided to divide into two groups of 50. Adaamah (the other person from CRS) will do the lectures while I have field sessions. It will all be difficult with such large groups but that is what we have. Truthfully more than a farmer to farmer role I feel like I am an adjunct instructor which is a little more work and stress. I think I am the one getting the education. Our instructions were to train on modern methods of vegetable production which seems simple enough but the problem is modern compared to what? So I contacted the college and asked for more information. They asked me to fill the “gaps” in certain areas. I received an email identifying 5 major gaps in their systems. I have come to the conclusion that it is hard when “they don’t know what they don’t know”. So, most of last week was spent trying to get to that. And I just found out an hour ago that our “point of contact” who sent me the emails and met with us when we arrived is not even in the Plant Science Department. No wonder we haven’t seen him in a week.
Yesterday we had a day off to do some sightseeing outside the college. We had borrowed a car from the Chinese folks and hired a driver and we also hired Wegene one of the Senior Instructors from the Plant Science Department was our guide. We went to Shashamane and Awassa and back. Shashamane is the location of the Rastafarian community in Ethiopia. I could never understand the connection between Jamaica and Ethiopia and Haile Selassie. Briefly, Selassie donated 500 acres of his own land to establish a Rastafarian settlement for Rasta’s repatriated from Jamaica. Much more to the story if you would like to google it.
Where the college is located is about 1500 M above sea level (4,950’ ) and arid. The period we are in now is the lesser rainy season or Belg which is autumn. Beginning in June and ending at the end of August is the main rainfall season or Kirempt. This is when the main crops of maize (corn) and wheat are planted. The rest of the season is suitable for more drought tolerant crops. Most farmers have a small herd of cows, and a few goats along with oxen for working the ground and donkeys for transportation of crops and water. The farmstead is a round mud house with a thatched roof, a building for grain storage all surrounded with a fence of thorns. All of the corn stalks are collected and either stored in a stack surrounded by a thorn fence or in some cases up in the trees out of reach of the animals. The animals graze during the day and in the evening are brought back and fed a few stalks of corn. Yesterday as we traveled the road from the college to the paved road most of the farmers were out plowing. Wegane explained that it is important to plow about a month before planting season and they plow after a rain to make it easier. It was interesting the differences in how different farmers approached the plowing. Some had two teams of oxen in the same field other only one, some laid off a large area other small.