Working with Local Knowledge and Resources to Confront Challenges

July 24th 2023 [Monthly Report]

The coming rainy season: fears a nd possibilities

Combining natural resources with local skills to sure up livelihood

In Afambo, a variety of solutions have been put together to assist people away from relief dependency. Afambo on Djibouti’s border is home to a number of resources: Lake Abbe is where the Awash River disappears underground coming out in the Indian Ocean; Lake Afambo abounding in corrocodiles, hippos and fish; ancient date palm plantation that is owned tree by tree in Harissa as well as arable land on the Awash in 3 sites. Six cooperatives are now bringing new life back to a thoroughly drought/ annual flood – depressed community: one with a boat fishing on Lake Afambo; 3 growing food crops and cotton as well as having a seedling nursery; another trying and hoping to make business from tourism and the final one recharging phone batteries. All have upwards of 70 to 80% female membership, the women owning the refrigerator to store the fish; women pulling out the invasive prosopis juliafora and planting/ harvesting vegetables and fruit. The 31 households with solar units are getting light, phone charge and radio in faraway Harissa. Normally, they walk 2 days to charge a phone, their lifeline for an ambulance for instance.

Solar pack bringing new life to isolated people

Harissa is an Afar stone-throw from Obno, directly on the Djibouti border where Issa/ Somali conflict coming in from Djibouti passes through onto reach the Awash Road and river. Thus isolated, Obno is without access to food assistance and tragically 73% of all pregnant mothers are malnourished. They endure the continual Issa raiding of their herds with no assistance reaching them aside from APDA and that being minimal.

  1. Still the desperation support malnourished communities

 Under the cloud of WFP having interrupted relief food ration distribution as of May, again the distant communities are severely waning, APDA June nutrition screening in Teeru, for example showed a frightening 75% malnutrition among pregnant and lactating mothers. Other remote communities the organization tracks showed a strong downturn among mothers indicating they are eating less in attempt to support their children. While treatment supplies are available, there is no back-up food for destitute and near destitute households. This will all compound the report indicating Afar children have the worst growth stunting and also wasting rate in Ethiopia: 41% and 26% respectively. The inevitable is also in the community: high levels of communicable diseases are apparent including malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. Measles and whooping are still troubling so many. APDA has conducted several emergency campaigns to try and break the spread of the disease going into the most inaccessible places on foot with a mobile cold chain searching out children house-to-house.

Adding to the above – mentioned woes, the last 3 weeks, ground and tree locusts are amassing: a growingly devastating swarm in northern Afar affecting very productive horticulture in Konnaba and Dallol and another in central Afar eating through grazing shrubs. Konnaba, for instance has reached the stage of supplying the vegetable market need of their community and have good amount of fruits about to be destroyed. FAO and the government are trying to contain the outbreak using nap-sack sprayers – people on foot.

  • Community – directed development

In several communities, APDA has worked to build a holistic approach deploying community members as the agents of development change. While this has worked well, it does not put the onus on the community to actually plan, lead and direct their own future. It is more and more evident that this is needed: 25 years ago, Afar pastoralist society was self-sufficient living off their herd but utterly out of contact with any form of social or economic development. This illiterate state persists, no cash-market interaction leaving them stupefied in the world as it has eventuated sudden herd loss through disease and drought- dried pastures leaving them 4 to 7 months without milk in the house annually. Now having endured 2 years of conflict that stripped 10’s of 1,000’s of households of their livelihood (goats, bees, local market resources) coupled with the daily exploding humanitarian crisis in Sudan, Afar must evolve as producers, marketers, transporters fulfilling the entire chain of need to gain food security. This involving lifestyle evolution, it must be led through the community knowledge system to avoid harm and secure sustainability. APDA is therefore exploring more directed ways of listening to community needs and getting them to design solutions. APDA sees its ongoing role in facilitating the availability of needed commodities such as animal feed, affordable soap, veterinary service as well as truck transport reaching goods deep into the hinterland.

In Dallol on the Eritrean border, APDA has just replaced generator power with solar power for the water well in the administration town. Now the households in that town will each develop a fruit and vegetable garden feeding the house, selling any surplus on the local market.

  • Accessible, appropriate education above all else…

Having the entire program coordinators and managers gathered to review and plan for the new quarter in early July, APDA used this opportunity to analyze the impact the organization had and has on development facilitation. From the multiple issues raised it is utterly apparent that the community needs a framework to articulate and base their development changes on. With Afar literacy as the engine allowing change to be practiced, education enabling their livelihoods to security is essential, a system of learning within the lifestyle. Thus in thinking through the coming 5 years (2024 to 2029) APDA must center on appropriate education in remote areas; extending on Afar literacy that enhances the life skills they need; establishing first phase primary learning within the lifestyle and enabling those with the highest potential to complete grade 12 to go on to tertiary studies useful for their community.

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