Sebeya is a small village in the northern edge of Ethiopia, a short drive from the border with Eritrea. In some ways, it’s quite similar to Biera that we have recently left. The main problem is water. How to collect it for use, how to stop it from just running away and being able to channel it to where it is needed.
Three years ago Biera was a dry, arid dustbowl where the people worked hard on the land for precious little reward. Poor soil and lack of water held back any kind of improvement in people’s lives. Working with the local representatives, CAFOD’s partner, The Adrigrat Diocese Catholic Secretariat (ADCS) looked at what was needed and how this could be achieved. Three years on and the goals were fulfilled. The desert bloomed. Reservoirs hold the precious water before it tumbles down new irrigation channels to the fields of carrots, barley, onions and cabbages.
So now we are beginning again in a new area. Sebeya is covered by ADCS, so things are off to a flying start as new alliances are not needed to be forged. A plan of action has been agreed and we are beginning to get the stories of the village’s residents coming to us.
Abba (Fr.) Soloman is 32 and the parish priest for Sebeya with about 800 Catholics living alongside the 8000+ majority Orthodox Christian community. They have 5 schools, one of which is Catholic and a government run health centre. Abba Soloman said “There is a shortage of farmland. It doesn’t rain enough to grow crops. The rain either comes late or stops earlier than the crops need it. The difficulties are worse for young people and women. It seems that young people have no future here. If you don’t have farmland, you can’t start your own family and parents don’t have enough land to share with their children. Young people are leaving home and migrating to the Middle East.”
Having a shortage of water isn’t just inconvenient for growing crops, it also eats into the time of everyone in the village. Women & girls are mostly responsible for gathering water and if they are walking long distances to get it, there’s less time for caring for children, less time for school, less time to play.
Nigisti has lived in Sebeya all her 55 years. “My neighbours are very peaceful and friendly. We share what we have. We have coffee together every morning,” Coffee is a serious business in Ethiopia, a chance for people to come together and discuss the important matters of the day. Nigisti hasn’t always known such peace and calm, however. Her husband was killed in the war with Eritrea which raged from 1998 – 2000. She was left alone with six children but now hopes that her small-holding will support her and her daughter in selling what they can grow. On her wall there’s a verse from the Book of Psalms “May the Lord be praised for he has heard the sound of my pleading”.
Teemt is 24 and her life changed when her husband left to find work in Saudi Arabia. He was killed when the boat he was in overturned and she was left a single parent. She said “I cannot plough land but to survive I had to produce crops from a farm. I moved back to my parents, I depended on them for everything.” Two years ago she met and married Alem; he said that Teemt is the woman of his dreams as they have so much in common. The only thing that would make them happier is if they could produce enough from their farm to feed the family and sell a little surplus to pay for the children’s schooling.
There’ll be much more to come from Sebeya as the programmes are set up and improvements begin to happen. If you’re keen on walking alongside a community as they start their journey to a better life, go to http://www.cafod.org.uk/Fundraise/Our-favourite-fundraisers/Connect2