One of our primary goals for our time here at the Children’s Home is to develop ways to help the children transition to independent adulthood when they reach that point in their lives. Obviously, one aspect of the transition to independent adulthood has to do with making a livelihood.
Like many developing countries, the unemployment rate in Ethiopia is ridiculous; it’s probably in the range of 60% of the population. That statistic is rather deceiving, however, because unlike people in the US, a huge percentage of the population here exists off of small sustenance farming or some form of home-based small business. These sources of income are usually not captured in official employment statistics. Also, many Ethiopians supplement their livelihood with support of some extended family member who happens to have employment; it is shocking how many people can scrape out an existence off of support from one employed extended family member.
Because the kids living here at the Children’s Home have neither family financial support, nor a family plot of land to fall back on if they can’t find a job of their own, making a livelihood in the future is a significant obstacle for our children. Richelle and I are looking hard at how to help our kids develop a set of skills that will equip them to make a living and survive independently in the future. As an organization, we’re focusing significant resources into education, hoping that will position some of our children with good jobs in the future, but the reality is that there just aren’t enough jobs available in this country.
One project that we’ve been working on we’re simply calling the “The Garden Project.” The concept is incredibly simple: give each of the older kids their own garden plot. They will each be given a plot of land, some seed, and some support. They will plant and grow some produce, which they can then sell. They get to keep whatever money they make. Kids will get to learn some basic gardening skills, as well as some very simple business and money-management skills. While the concept is simple, the implementation is a little more complex.
Here on the Children’s Home compound, there is a decent amount of land and the soil is pretty good for growing. There are a few obstacles, however. First, the whole compound is on a side-hill sloping on at a 45-degree angle. Second, during the rainy season (July through early Sept.), the rains are often so strong that the surface water run-off can cause some very bad erosion, thus further complicating planting and growing on a 45-degree slope. Third, outside of the rainy season there is only sporadic precipitation at all, thus making it difficult to grow much of anything from about Oct. through May without some sort of irrigation. Irrigation is difficult, however, because the water system from the town only provides piped water two days per week.
So we’ve been working hard. With the help of some of the guys here at the Children’s Home, we have pulled up the sod and leveled a number of large terraced-garden areas. We have then set up one example irrigation ditch, through which we can run grey-water and rain run-off from the main children’s house down to the garden area. At the end of the irrigation ditch, we’ve connected a barrel and then some 1-inch plastic tubing coming out of the barrel. After perforating the tubing, we can run the tubing throughout the garden and distribute the irrigation water more evenly throughout the garden area. We’ve also been composting like crazy for the past 6 months.
The plan is to dig out and level several more terraced-garden areas, dig out several more irrigation ditches from the houses, and set up the irrigation tubing so that the gardens are ready for planting by March, which is when we hope to start receiving a little rain. During February, we’ll be assigning plots to the children and getting them set up for planting.
Most of the investment in getting this project up and running has been in labor. There will be some expenses, however, to purchase the pipe, the tubing and the barrels for the irrigation system, as well as the seed and some extra tools for the actual gardening. If you have an interest in helping out with this project, please respond to this post or email me at email@example.com. We’re always looking for people with expert advice. In this case, if you have expert advice or experience with terraced-gardening, irrigation systems, or using grey-water for irrigation, please reach out. We’d love to tap your expertise. Also, if you have some interest in donating some funds directly to this project, we can give you specifics on how much is needed and how you can donate. A little money (especially USD) could make this project happen and benefit our kids in a big way.
This is an example of the rainwater gutters that run around the Children’s Home and the Kitchen / Cafeteria building. Because the Children’s Home is built on a slope, all water runs downhill towards the gardens.
We’ve connected pipe at the end of one rainwater gutter, through which water runs down to the gardens. In this way, we can transport rainwater run-off that collects in the gutters after running off the house. We can also transport grey-water (water used for cleaning, doing dishes, taking bucket-bathes, etc.) by simply emptying the buckets into the gutters. The plan is to dig a ditch and run pipe from the end of each of the rain gutters. We will also run pipe from the hand-pump well to capture spill-water from the well.
When the water comes down the pipe, it empties into a bucket and then flows out through the perforated plastic tubing. At this point we’ve discovered the bucket in this picture to create a choke point. The plan is to use a better barrel and move the barrel-point further up the hill. There would then be greater gravity force through the tube to more effectively distribute the water through the tubing.
This is a view of two terraces with irrigation tubing set up in one part as an example and test site.
This is the view of one of our completed terraces.
This is our hand-pump well. The plan is to build a catch basin with cement, and run pipe from here so that we can capture spill-water from the pump and run it to the gardens.