Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Manitoba Roots

We were long overdue for a visit to Allan's home province, Winnipeg.  Over the past 52 years, there were many Aunts and Uncles to visit along with immediate family and college friends.  The list has shortened.  We enjoyed time with sister Gail and nephew Rob.   We had the best of visits 'out on the deck surrounded by great trees.  It wasn't until after we made our bookings to Winnipeg that we discovered that there Allan's cousin Lorne's 80th Birthday dinner party was happening when we were there.  
Allan and Gail.  They are the same
age each year for three weeks!
Mother Astrid was busy with three little

Gail's deck is lovely!  We enjoyed many hours talking with lots of
good laughs!
Allan with Cousin Lorne reviewing a little album of memories
that we were able to create by taking pictures of very tiny prints from
70+ years ago!

Sunday, 28 April 2019

When I looked up the meaning of the name Semhal using Google, two very pertinent descriptions came up: 'power, practicality, ambition' and, according to a user from Ethiopia, the name Semhal is of African origin and "It means Unique".'  Believe me, Semhal lives up to her name every step of the way.  Her delightful personality is a ray of sunshine.
Semhal Guesh, CEO of KABANA Leather

We met Semhal in 2017.  She took part in our Marketing Workshops sponsored by CESO.   We visited her little shop at that time:  three employees working in less than ideal conditions (a curtain for example separated the main area from the outside world).  But, we recognized her quality workmanship right away.   
2017 Workplace with 3 employees.
Semhal with two of her loyal workers in 2017.

Feb. 2019.  The new location of KABANA Leather: A modern building with good ventilation, nice big windows that allow for good natural lighting, excellent floor space.
The New Location of KABANA Leather
When they are working on a big order, Semhal employs up to 80 people at a time.
The factory is buzzing with activity when we visit.

Join us on a tour of the Kabana Leather Factory with owner, Semhal Guesh.

An interview with Semhal Guesh, CEO of KABANA LEATHER, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Young, enthusiastic, fast growing manufacturer and exporter of quality leather bags. In two years her factory has grown from 3 employees to 80! KABANA is exporting to Europe, other African countries and the US.

Her delightful personality is a ray of sunshine. We are Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) volunteers. We met Semhal two years ago (April 2017) and recognized her quality workmanship and are so proud that you invited her to be part of the business delegation of Ethiopian women entrepreneurs.

In this video, Semhal takes us on a short tour of the factory, then talks about the importance of the jobs that the factory gives.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Dondoor's Amazing Business Change: Congratulations Aaliyah

Two years ago Aaliyah faced a big decision. Her father was closing Dondoors.  If at 23 she was to set up business, Aaliyah had to find a new location, establish contacts, get a new telephone number, obtain machines,  decide on what products to focus on, design and make samples to take to the market all while finishing her Bachelors’ Degree in Architecture.   What she has done is amazing!  Previously, Aaliyah had helped her father with design.  She now runs the business.  Her father is available by phone for advice.    

Aaliyah and Lydia at Dondoor's New Location

She does promotion bags for conferences, sports events, holiday bags.  We were surprised to see brand names we recognize like Pizza Hut.  It's all a big challenge. 

 Marketing is the biggest part of the business. 
The handwoven, traditional is still possible to make but the bigger part of her business is the modern      
t-shirts, tights, boxers, gym sets along with the promotion bags.   
Gym sets ready for packaging.
Ladies at Dondoors at work.
Visit Dondoors factory in this slideshare presentation:

Dondoors Facebook page has excellent pictures their beautiful products: 

An interview with Aaliyah re the challenges of setting up a new company in Ethiopia:

Aaliyah is a member of one of the many Rotaract Clubs in Addis. 

Lydia gives Rotaractor Aaliyah a Rotary Pin from Canada.

One of the projectsof the club that Aaliyah has been involved with is the 'Yenta' school program.
 Rotact members sell postcards for sponsorship to supply school materials, uniforms and school fees for children from very low income families.  Postcards she says are three types:  1/4 year, 1/2 year, or full year sponsorship.  They sell these postcards in supermarkets, malls and restaurants.
Fundraising Projects 
 They also sponsor a school feeding program.  Her Rotaract club meets on Sunday every other week.  There are about 30 members.  Their web site reflects the enthusiasm that these young professionals bring to Rotaract.  They have a 'mother' Rotary club that helps them with money.  I am so impressed with the project work and involvements of this club!  Here is the link to her Roteracts' web page:
Aaliah talks about her involvement with Rotaract:


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Home of H and H Ethiopian Gemstones

Since meeting through our workshops in April 2017, we have had an ongoing dialogue with an incredible couple who work with poor and disabled women in the Korah district of Addis. 

Shortly after returning from Ethiopia in 2017, Allan received this email from Pastor Dejene:
Saturday, April 22, 2017 Subject: Greetings Dear Allan Sorflaten Hope this email find you well and my name is Pastor Dejene, my wife Haregewoin was one of the participants in the training which you had facilitated this week. just l would love to say thank you and may God bless you for what you did during thee day training to encourage women's to involve in the business world with their potential. I have seen how much Hareg is revived to work hard to help her needy students. Blessings, Pastor Dejene Dinku
Oct 18th, 2018 Hareg she is trying hard on her jewelry work to get the market and to train more Needy women. Recently she moved her workshop to the family compound her sister gave to her house for free of charge till she able to settle her financial constrain and to support her passion. The other good news is she got polishing machine from the government with the support of CAWEE /Center of Africa Women Economic Empowerment/. The government facilities training to how to use the machine so that she selected three physically challenged women for three months training they graduated soon. Finally we thank God who brought us this far He is faithful we need your prayer support we may able to reach many many needy women holistically, pray also she need more jewelry makers material and beads, jewelry accessories, finishing material. Currently she is developing web site we will let you know when it is done.

We were so fortunate to be able to spend quality time with Hareg and Dejene while we were in Addis.  They invited the ladies whom Hareg has worked with, arranged training for and set up to make the jewelry to meet with us. (From Addis Aaba ministry of labor & social affairs disability temporarily  shelter).   Being welcomed into their home, we enjoyed a great visit and a traditional meal of injera was a special treat.  Another day, Hareg took us on a tour of the school where she taught Music.  

Dejene picked us up in his vintage VW!
Hareg proudly showing a polished agate

The following slide share tell the wonderful story.

Meet the ladies who create the jewelry.  See the pride as they show you their work.

We visit the school where Hareg taught Music.  You will see why this school is unique.

Hareg and Lydia in front of the school where Hareg taught Music.

Hareg prepared a traditional meal of injera for us.

Link to their web site:    http://WWW.mghhgemjewelry.com

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Returning to Addis was for us one highlight after another.
Ziad from CESO made a reservation for us at the Marigold Hotel.  We enjoyed the two weeks at this hotel very much.  It is basically the same location as the Washington Hotel where we were before, just around the corner as a matter of fact but on a quieter street.  The bonus for me was the pool and sauna.  Nice treat. 
As well as arranging our hotel location for us, Ziad called clients we had worked with before, setting up a schedule either to meet them at the hotel or go to their location to see the progress or changes.

Heruit’s Tinsaye Peanut Butter

Heruit surprised us with a new label for her Tinsaye Peanut Butter that she designed using the Kraft Peanut Butter Label we brought her in April 2017.  Notice how she carefully covered the Kraft label with plastic wrap!  She was able to use the Kraft ingredient label for her new peanut butter label. 
Heruit With Her New Peanut Butter Label
Heruit Had Saved The Kraft Peanut Butter Label We Had Brought
Her in 2017 and Used It As a Guide To Design Her New Label
Heruit's New And Improved Business Card
Heruit's New Peanut Butter Label
Complete With Nutrition Facts
He Says He Will Take It to the Head Chef
Heruit Presents A Bottle of Her Peanut Butter To the Sous Chef
At the Marigold Hotel. 

Here Is The Head Chef Tasting Tinsaye Peanut Butter.
The Chef Wants To Know What Other Products Heriut Wholesales.
Chick Peas Is One.  She Is To Make A List Of All Products To Present To Him With Prices.

We visited her factory in her home.  A lady was working, cleaning chickpeas for packaging.
A Fresh Batch of Peanut Butter Is Waiting For The Labels To Be Added
         Heruit’s mother prepared the tea ceremony and a full meal of injera was ready for us!

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Canada Foodsgrains Tour of Project Work in Ethiopia February 2019

Canada Foodsgrains Tour of Project Work in Ethiopia February 2019
Fortunately most of us in our country have not experienced hunger, much less starvation. Some of us will remember all of the media attention given globally to the terrible famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980’s leaving 1.2 million dead. Earlier than that, in 1976, amid growing world food emergencies, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) created a pilot project to allow Canadian grain farmers to share their harvests with those less fortunate around the world. In 1983, the project was re-organized, opened to other church agencies, and re-established as the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB). In 1984, the United Church of Canada joined the program along with 14 other churches. Not only was CFGB able to make a significant contribution in helping to end the Ethiopia famine in 1984, but it also has continued to address the problem of hunger in Ethiopia. Initially farmers from Canada sent grain. But a better solution was developed by working directly with farmers in Ethiopia to increase crop yields.
The Nov 2018 issue of Farm Focus had an article about NB farmers growing grain to help end world hunger. The paragraph that moved us to action read this way. “Once a year Canada Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) offers a tour to an African country. Countries visited have included Rwanda, Malawi and Kenya. A return trip to Ethiopia is slated for January 2019.” Google quickly located for us the phone number for the CFGB head office in Winnipeg and yes, there were two spaces available for the 10 day tour of project work in Ethiopia. We had no hesitation in signing up. Having spent April 2017 in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa as Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) volunteers and working with two groups of small business women entrepreneurs there, we had no hesitation about going. We truly love Ethiopia and welcomed this new opportunity.
It was our responsibility to get to Ethiopia where we would join the farm tour. The flight to Addis from Toronto is 13 hours direct. Coming back is 17 hours with a refueling stop in Dublin. The altitude in Addis, 2300 meters, affects the amount of fuel they can put into the airplane. We would have 10 days with CFGB on the project work tour. Then we would extend our stay in Addis so as to meet with several of the participants from our Marketing Workshops there in 2017.
Most of the CFGB group arrived together at Bole Airport in Addis early Sunday morning. There was little rest for the weary. Sleep-no. We must force ourselves to adapt quickly to the 6 hour time difference after the 13 hour flight. Sam Vander Ende, the Field Representative for CFGB was ready for an orientation meeting that afternoon. Sam began his work with CFGB in Ethiopia 29 years ago. He is fluent in the Amharic language, an excellent organizer, tour guide, resource person and friend.

Over the 10 day period we enjoyed getting to know the other 11 people on the tour. There were farmers from Manitoba and Saskatchewan (all CFGB grain growers), a baker from PEI, two CFGB representatives from head office in Winnipeg and ourselves. During the 10 days we certainly developed a special bond with these folks. Each morning we took turns giving a morning devotion and each evening met to reflect on the day. Great comradery!
On Monday, Martha from ‘Desert Rose’ facilitated an all-day orientation session on Ethiopian culture, including perspectives on poverty. Tuesday three Toyota Land Cruisers and as it turned out their excellent drivers all were ready to take us comfortably to the project sites. As an indication of the distance travelled, on three of the ten days we were 8+ hours of driving. Certainly, there was much interesting country side to see and always time for a nice lunch break often featuring their traditional Ethiopian dish ‘Injera’. The chosen route took us north from Addis, first to Debre Markos, then Debre Tabor and finally to Lalibela. Other than the last half- day to Lalibela, the roads overall were mostly paved and quite good throughout.

The problem for the people of Ethiopia comes when food from the last harvest runs out. Often times food harvested by the family tends to last 8 months, leaving the family hungry for 4 months of the year. This is called Food Insecurity. CFGB works through organizations on the ground to help alleviate Food Insecurity. First they go into the community to assess the need. Then an implementation plan is developed in association with a local organization that will assume responsibility for managing the project. The plan will identify farmers who want to participate, methods to be followed, develop schedules for training and monitoring, etc.
This program is funded by member-agencies, individuals, congregations, companies and community growing projects. The Canadian Government matches funds at a ratio of 4 to 1 for every dollar raised by the program. Emphasis is given to using cropping techniques that are often referred to as Conservation Agriculture. This method of crop farming is based on minimal soil disturbance, suitable crop rotations, use of mulching and cover crops to improve soil health. The results have been seen as a doubling of yields in the areas where these techniques have been adopted. What better way is there to address hunger than by helping farmers improve farming techniques by which to better feed their families?
Conservation Farming techniques also serve to alleviate problems locally that are associated with soil erosion. The worst affected areas are identified and plans are made to address the problem: for example; tree planting, check dams, water containment and redirection of water. The tree plantings not only better hold soil in place but also help to retain the water run-off for improved water absorption by the soil. Instead of a hard pack soil that does not absorb water, mulch is able to add organic matter and allow for a soil structure better able to hold and retain moisture for crop use. When farmers experience the success associated with these techniques, they share the news with other farmers who want to adopt the new methods (extension model). Government eventually comes on board. We saw real contrasts between traditionally farmed land vs land farmed using Conservation Farming. Leguminous trees, bushes and plants are used to improve soil fertility.

During our tour we saw 3 projects that are resulting in improved food security for the families of participating farmers. CFGB did 117 projects in 34 countries April 2017-March 2018. Of the 13 projects in Ethiopia we saw 3. We were in the fields, the homes, the project offices. What are they saying? There is HOPE.

Are Other Farmers Adapting The Conservation Farming Methods?

MSCFSO/CFGB Project Debre Marcos Ethiopia Feb 5 2019

Script from this movie clip:

Sam Vander Ende, Ethiopian Regional Rep for CFGB asks, “Scaling up the project, at some point you have a threshold of adaptors, then it will be spontaneously adopted by the community.  What evidence do you see so far of the 10-12 years that we have been engaged in watershed rehabilitation that the communities where you have been that they are now doing their own watershed rehabilitation”.

Yihenew, MSCFSO Program Director responds:  ”Good question.  Very difficult to address all the areas which are affected by land derogation.  If you group the highland areas, most of the farmers are totally covering the land with trees.  You go to other areas and farmers are taking their soil to the market.  So our objective is to show.”
“We can visit the first project we started in 2008.  We are the one who first started such works and we got the Green Award from the President.  So subsequently in the water shed area.  The community developed a sense of ownership.  That is one of the indications of what we have seen.”

Sam: How long did you support it?

Yihenew:  “Until they were ready to spread their wings.  One project, 3-4 years.    All you can do is show the farmers how to improve their livelihood starting from their soil.  After that the government can replicate to other areas.”

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Migbarey Senay Children & Family Support Organization/MSCFSO (February 5-6 2019 by Allan Sorflaten

Canadian Food Grains Bank Ethiopia
Project Tour
February 2, 2019

Migbarey Senay Children & Family Support Organization/MSCFSO (February 5-6 2019)
The MSCFSO project is in the final year of a three year food for work project In East Gojam of the Amhara Region. Land degradation here, like so many other areas of Ethiopia, has seriously affected soil fertility and availability of farmland and grazing land for households. This results in chronic shortfalls in food production at the household level, with households often facing up to a four month food gap each year. The Migbarey project addresses food security and food gap shortages using cash-for-work on watershed rehabilitation projects during food deficit periods. The work being done is transforming bare, deep gullies and hillsides into productive land with improved soil fertility levels.  These achievements have resulted in more successful harvests and improved food security in the affected areas. Working with nearly 2,400 farm households and nearly 900 landless youth, all at times participating in cash-for-work or food for work project related activities, the project overall stands to benefit more than 12,000 persons.

Our 2019 CFGB project tour group visited the central office and management staff of Migbarey Senay Children & Family Support Organization (MSCFSO) in Debre Marcos on late afternoon Feb 5th. The Migbarey organization is a Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC) partner in the project along with CFGB. CFGB’s ETH Regional Representative Sam Vander Ende formally introduced our group to the MSCFSO Program Manager Yihenew DeMessie, to the Organization’s Founder and Executive Director Mr. Meheretu and other staff members.  Mr. Yihenew then presented a power point describing various key aspects of this Migbarey Senay project. The points that he covered included the techniques being used in practicing conservation agriculture, particularly the use of green manure/ cover crops, minimum tillage practices in helping to restore soil fertility and the related application of agro-forestry, reforestation techniques and other measures being used for soil and water conservation and land restoration. All of these practices he said are central to the project and were viewed by our group on-site during morning and afternoon field visits the following day.
Below: Project Manager Yihenew Demessie Explains Key Components of the Migbarey Senay (MFCFSO)          


Mr. Meheretu is Founder and Executive  Director of Migbarey Senay Childrens Project                                                Family Support Organization (MSCFSO) pictured above with Allan and Lydia Sorflaten

As described by Sam Vander Ende of CFGB ETH, the problems of farmland productivity and food security in the Migbarey Senay/East Gojam area are largely associated with;
- land fragmentation and deforestation
- continual and sometimes erratic cultivation techniques
- the application of traditional farming practices that often are inadequate for the job
-  the prevalence of inadequate and unsafe water supplies   

 MSCFSO Project Manager Yihinew Demessie Discusses 
                         Teff Cropping Practicew with Dennis Reimer of Hudson Bay SK                                                                                                    
Teff is an annual grass native to the
                                                  northern highlands and the Teff seed                                                                         is a staple food crop for all Ethiopians.                   

As a consequence of the MSCFSO Project, issues of food security are being addressed by various activities to do with soil and water conservation, and by measures to control land degradation using reforestation activities that incorporate the use of tree seedling raised at on-site tree nurseries. In their application, cash for labor and food for labor options have had favorable impacts on the food security of participating households.

Results are being experienced as improved household incomes by participating families. Farmers now are finding that they are able to purchase some of their needed farm inputs, for instance through use of the revolving seed pools. As well, new crops are being recognized for their cash value in the market place, for instance sweet lupin seed. Women (farmers) are becoming socially and economically empowered through their abilities to become involved with and influential in the adoption of CA farming practices. Women farmers also are said to show better savings habits than the men. Farm Radio International increasingly has had an important influence on the rate of adoption of CA farming practices as more and more farmers throughout the East Gojam appear willing to give it a try.
                                       Several of the MSCFSO Project Participating Farmers

The project manager estimates that by next year there will be close to 6,000 participants using CA practices in Migbarey Senay. This represents an increase of about 50% from the 2,000 that were reported to be part of the original project in the year 2000. The average land holding he also said is about .72 ha or about 1 ½ acres.

MSCFSO Day Two Field Visit Showing Eucalyptus Hedgerow or
Bunde Plantings On the Contour for Watershed Erosion Control 

All of the above is not to say that gaining the needed further adoption is not without its challenges.
One such challenge is the existing lack of awareness about CA practices which is itself made that much more worse by the current mindset of non-participants who have the awareness but simply remain unconvinced. They are the potential late adopters. According to reports, some 14,000 overall have been reached with the message.

There are also other associated challenges. For instance, weed growth is probably one of the more major challenge in growing the crop using CA farming practices, particularly during the emergent stage.

Another challenge is associated with traditional cattle rearing practices that make it difficult at times to cultivate cropland, particularly if the cattle at times go untended. Some effort (intended or unintended) has been made to encourage ranging cattle to stay in certain pastured areas by constructing watering troughs at strategic locations separated from cropland areas. This is because leaches that often occur in traditional watering places can be a big (health) problem for the cattle. The permanent troughs if strategically placed can serve as an incentive to keep cattle away from the cropped areas.      
 MSCFSO Staff Honour CFGB Guests With Traditional Ethiopian Hospitality
                                                        at Debre Markos