Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ethiopia 2017 - Day 13. Addis Ababa (again)

Getachew is of the opinion that I have to tell about my trip to the whole nation, so he took me to the offices of The Reporter, an independent newspaper that has an English edition once a week. According to Getachew this edition is read in all government offices and all embassies, so he figures this is the best way to give a heads up to possible funding agencies. I have never been fond of interviews because people get it wrong, so I have prepared a full set of answers, for a set of imaginary questions, but in such a way that they can also be woven into a single story.

As we arrived in the newspaper around 9 am the place was practically deserted. We were invited to wait, and eventually the big boss walked in and invited us into his office. A small, thin man, but with a penetrating mind, so we had a good conversation. He was outraged that this year Ethiopia had spent 2.6 million birr importing wheat, when it is a product that with irrigation could very well be supplied from inside the country. I like this guy, he thinks like me.

At about 10 am the place started crackling, and the big boss designated one of the reporters to take in the story. He pretty soon figured out that he would be better off taking the text as I had written it, but patiently sat there as I gave him a synopsis. Once again the fact that I had traveled alone through the country caused much interest (and some consternation), but my stories showing the warmth of the Ethiopian people made everyone smile broadly.

Today is Wednesday, which means the whole nation goes vegetarian. We honored the fast day with a delicious shiro, a puree of peas and chickpeas similar to humus, but deliciously spiced. Yummy J

In the afternoon we paid a visit to a friend of Getachew who is the Program Coordinator for CARE, a Canadian non-profit organization who is working together with US AID in a program called Food for the Future. Nice guy, but he seemed a bit skeptic when Getachew described (and greatly inflated) the proposal that we are working on. He listened very attentively, but thought that the US experience, with is large scale agriculture, would have little applicability to the small scale Ethiopian reality. Besides, with climate change the rainy season was failing (not that I can tell, because we just had a half inch of rain fall in 5 minutes, and the big rainy season is just starting), and the corn crop was failing because of some pest (again, not that I could tell, because the corn crop between Debre Markos and Bahar Dir was bountiful), and they were looking into importing pesticides (Getachew managed to keep his peace, but his whole message is that organic agriculture methods without pesticides work). I have the feeling that this is one team that is working under the sphere of an alternate reality.

I have had a couple of additional thoughts about how to move Africa forward. First, I believe they should form a common economic block. There are 1 billion Africans, which should make a very good consumers base. I think the EU model should be carefully studied and be adapted to the African cultures. Second, without rejecting the very useful Chinese investment, I think that African nations should look for trading relations with countries like Mexico, Brazil, India, or Vietnam. Countries like this are happy making a modest return on investment, would appreciate the African business, and have no notions of becoming dominating world powers, so it would be easier to establish win-win relations. Besides, they all have delicious foods. Just a thought.

No comments: