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Eyewitness: Searching for water lost on the Ethiopian plateau

The Ethiopian plateau, at 2,700 meters above sea level, is the continent's highest plain. It used to be called the "roof of Africa."

It belongs to the region of Oromo and composes the area of ​​North Shoa, that has several demarcations denominated "Woreda". Only in Wuchale Woreda, where the St. Paul Apostolic Missionary Community (MCSPA) has been present since 2007, lives 130,000 people. The capital of Woreda is Muketuri, a village of 17,000 inhabitants, the center of MCSPA activities.

The climate in this region is extreme: three months of torrential rains and abundant and nine months of drought. Temperatures range from 27 degrees during the day to 4 degrees at night. The percentage of humidity in the rainy season is 70%.

The harshness of the climate is undoubtedly part of the character of the population, strong and coarse survivors; but also kind when they know you and you stay. Incredulous with those who come and go and grateful with those who accompany them in the long run.

MCSPA began assisting in hand-dug well villages in 2011 as a group of peasants approached the San Jose Infant and Toddler Center that MCSPA launched in 2008, showing interest in vegetable gardens.

The surprise of seeing how plants that can be eaten grow in the dry season. The secret is just water.

All the water that falls in the summer drains through the cliffs, causing great erosion, but leaves water in the surface water tables. With a simple digging system with pick and shovel, water is between 8 and 18 meters. Enough that by installing cement cylinders and a rope pump, 5 families can have water for daily consumption and plant a small vegetable garden.

A great change is made in families that have a garden: girls no longer need to get dark and cloudy water in the streams and can go to school. The diet includes beets, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, chard, onions … Some even start selling in local markets.

In the last seven years 104 wells were dug. Five wells were also drilled in places where a community garden with drip irrigation was installed.

But many villages remain without water. Many malnourished children continue to arrive at the Center because food is reduced to cereal produced during the rainy season, which is insufficient in quantity and quality. The growth retardation is permanent and transmitted from generation to generation.

Access to water breaks the cycle and opens the possibility of a better diet, which, together with exposure of the population to new possibilities, education, health ultimately offers a hopeful vision for the future.

MCSPA has launched a program of dining rooms in four villages with the aim of extending it to more villages so that, along with water, food and agriculture production, people can have access to a more dignified present and future .

But we must keep looking for water. Walk in the sun, finding faces roasted by the sun, who smile when they recognize the white, pale skin of the missionaries who come from Muketuri. The women rush to prepare coffee, always accompanied by something to eat.

The last place we visited, a village located in a valley behind the cliffs, called Nono, a precious and important landscape.

Together, we're still looking for water.

MCSPA is supported in the United Kingdom by New Ways, a charity entirely managed by volunteers. If you'd like to make a donation to one of your projects, visit:

Watch this video for an overview of the mission:

Tag: Turkana, Ethiopia, Kenya, New Forms, Missionary Community of São Paulo, MCSPA

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