Jidda - Ethiopian Highlands (North Shewa Zone, Oromia Region)
Jidda woreda (administrative district) is 2 hours drive from Addis Ababa. It is about 20 miles long by 11 miles wide, with a population of about 56,000.
It is an area of rolling countryside with clusters of houses and small hamlets crossed by recently built gravel roads. There is just one small town, Sirti, which has a weekly market.
The altitude is about 2,750m (9,000 ft). It is too cold for the mosquitos that carry malaria; sometimes there are frosts. Annual rainfall is high, more than the Welsh borders, but three quarters of it falls in July, August and September. Most of it runs away rather than soaking into the heavy clay soil.
People grow their own food. In most years the food security status is classified as 'stressed' one characteristic of this is that "Household group food consumption is reduced but minimally adequate without having to engage in irreversible coping strategies".
If the shorter rainy season fails, as it did in 2008, the situation becomes 'crisis' and families need to do things such as eating the seed kept for sowing, selling tools and animals to buy food, and keeping children from school.
Even in normal times many people are under-nourished and cannot afford to send children to school. Children are small for their age, people look old for their years.
People rarely die of starvation, they succumb to diseases that better fed people would throw off.
When we show photos of people at the market we often get comments that 'everyone looks well fed'. We explain that these are the people who are doing well enough to have a little extra to sell or money to buy and they have the energy to travel. Also, we tend to visit at harvest time when everyone has more food.
SUNARMA's web site (www.sunarma.org ) has examples of the difficulties people face and what they are doing to help.
In 2010 less than 50% of families had access to a supply of clean water; of those who do most get less than they need.
Travel is mainly on foot, though better-off farmers have horses. There are a handful of vehicles in Sirti and the local government staff have a pool of small motorcycles and pickup trucks.
Vehicles can only travel off the road during the dry season and the way is often blocked by deep gullies across which temporary crossings are dug if, for example, it is needed to get a small truck through with construction materials.
On market day people walk to Sirti for several hours in each direction, carrying their load on their back or with a donkey. Now there is a road people also come by bus from outside the district to buy and sell.
There is electricity in Sirti and in a few hamlets close to the main road but for most people it is dark after sunset except perhaps for a kerosene lamp. Kerosene is expensive and small solar powered lights are beginning to appear.Mobile phone coverage has come since our first visit and each year a few more farmers have phones; before that most messages were carried at the run by children. We have seen many changes in just a few years but SUNARMA managers say that on their first visit, before the road was built, they were driving through the fields asking farmers the way and that little had changed for centuries.
SHEPEthiopia is a working name for the "Support for Health and Education Projects in Ethiopia", UK charity No. 1161261
Page updated 13/06/2019