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Published: March 21st 2008
Map of Beneshangul-Gumuz
Our region, to the left of Addis and right of Sudan (thanks to BOFED for the map!)
It’s OK. Our field trip has been postponed!
From Wednesday 10am, to Wednesday 1.30pm, to Wednesday 5.30pm.
Then Friday morning.
Now maybe tomorrow...
...or Sunday or Monday.
Anyway, it means I can at least explain where we are going and post my last few entries from training in Addis. The last Addis entry was a monster (10 pages). For those with short attention spans I have broken it down into 3 entries. Sara doesn’t even read my entries as there are ‘too many words’ so ration yourself if you please. Regions, Zones and Woredas (war-re-dahs)
Ethiopia is divided into 8 regional states (Tigrai, Afar, Somali, Oromia, Amhara, Gambella, Southern People’s State and Benishangul-Gumuz) and 3 city-states (Dire Dawa, Harar and Addis Ababa) each having strong self-administrative powers.
Each region is sub-divided into a number of zones, containing smaller districts or ‘Woredas’. I guess in UK terms you can think of County Councils, City Councils and Parish Councils, though the populations and certainly the geographical areas would be much, much larger in Ethiopia. Put it like this, we are visiting 14 of the 20 woredas on our field trip -
Ticket to Ride
Without your official letter with the purple stamp you ain't going nowhere!
a 26 day 3,500km round trip!
Four of the eight Ethiopian regions are classified as “emerging regions”. This indicates they are a little behind the development curve but looking to catch up quicky. VSO only operate in one of the emerging regions - our region, Beneshangul-Gumuz. The other emerging regions, Gambella, Afar and Somali are either considered insecure or not an immediate priority for VSO.
Emerging regions are characterised by a heavily rural population and possibly a high mixture of ethnic groups (there are over 70 languages spoken in Ethiopia). In Beneshangul-Gumuz there are at least 10 ethnic groups. The main ethnic groups are Bertha, Gumuz, Komo, Shinasha and Mao, though you will find Oromo, Tigray, Amhara, Ago and Hadia people within the region. The Amharas and the Oromo people form the two main Ethiopian ethnic groups, so we encounter Amharas and Oromos in our daily work life in Assosa, particularly working in government bureaus. Not being able to understand the subtleties of the Amharic language (or even if people have slipped from Amharic into Arabic or Oromo) it is difficult for us to tell the difference. Assosa
The regional capital of Beneshangul-Gumuz is Assosa and
Out there. That-a-way...
Rough route marked on. Sorry. I do PCs not maps :)
the region is divided into 3 zones (Assosa Zone, Kamashi Zone and Metekel Zone) and then 20 smaller woredas.
The six woredas in the Assosa zone, quite logically, surround Assosa itself and a return trip takes less than a day. For us soft ferenjis types, a trip ‘to the woredas’ usually means a visit to one of the 6 woredas in the Assosa zone, therefore visiting the 14 woredas in the distant zones is considered quite an adventure!
As the Bradt guide states (in 4 lines) - “Beneshangul-Gumuz: The most obscure of Ethiopia’s regions, practically never visited by tourists, runs for about 2,000km along the Sudanese border to the east of Amhara but is on average no more than 200km wide...this remote and poorly developed area is characterised by a hot, humid climate.”
I have been given a summary base-line assessment from a 2004 workshop regarding all the woredas and breaking down the facilities available and main ethnic groups. Also included is the travel distance and time from Assosa; due to road conditions some woredas are a 4 day journey away cutting across two other regions (Amhara and Oromo)! Interestingly the facilities listed as available/not available are
Light packing - Ferenji style
Including silly hats and pillow for our soft little bottoms. Thanks to Stu & Jo for the baggage - couldn't be ours; our holidays usually involve flat sand, no jags in sight ;)
- electricity, phone, radio, fax, computers and cars. I guess each woreda must have power by now as without power there ain’t going to be any computers to fix! The Field Trip
Once or twice a year the central bureaus will send staff out on a big sweeping field trip to the woredas to take surveys, fix computers, collect statistics and so on. During the rainy season (May-October) the weather turns the roads into mud so the journeys are usually taken in the dry season. Apparently a similar trip was undertaken by the IT guys in my office last November and given the close proximity of the Assosa zone woredas, the work has been completed already in those areas.
The business year in Assosa (and possibly across Ethiopia) runs July to July, so if a trip to the woredas is on the annual action plan, it needs to be completed before July. Given the impending rainy season several teams within the Capacity Building Bureau have clubbed together to book a long wheel base vehicle for a month. Our trip originally included 2 IT guys and 3 BPR (Business Process Re-engineering) guys, but I was added, then we squeezed Sara in, then Mustapha, a UN volunteer who looks after School Net - a network linking Ethiopian schools together. Our Mission (which we gladly accepted)
So I am going with the 2 IT guys who look after Woreda Net. Woreda Net is a broadband satellite network linking the woreda offices with the regional office and then the regional offices with Addis. Each data centre in the woredas will have a satellite dish and Cisco network equipment linked to video-conferencing apparatus , providing access to the Internet, voice-over IP telephony and video-conferencing links to each other woreda and the regional offices.
The problem in the woredas is a lack of technically qualified staff to manage and maintain the equipment as well as the environmental damage caused by heat, dust, rain and an erratic electricity supply. We are going to be a little “fix-it” team doing the rounds of all 14 woreda data centres. Given my Cisco background I hope to be able to help when required with the switch/router configuration, though we are picking up a guy from Ethiopia Telecom (“tele”) in Nekempt, who will come with us to manually adjust the satellite dishes when required. The technology behind Woreda net is the same as used by School Net, so the Tele guy will be able to adjust the school dishes if required as well.
While we are in the computer rooms, the BPR people will be doing their thing and Sara will be at the local high school carrying out a survey and collecting information on behalf of the regional education bureau. Our Itinary
Here is the daily schedule - you can check the map to see where we are heading. We use Nekempt and Gigel Beles as the central hub for several trips and there are other VSOs in both towns so we are looking forward to catching up with them, particularly Aynsley in Nekemete a fellow new volunteer and friend from SKWID and ICT who travelled down with us from Addis after ICT.
Assoa -> Nekemete (356km)
Nekemete -> Chagni (350km)
Chagni -> Wombera (150km)
Wombera -> Bullen (75km)
Bullen -> Debati (33km)
Debati -> Gigel Beles (77km)
Gigel Beles -> Pawi (27km)
Pawi -> Gigel Biles -> Dangur (70km)
Dangur -> Guba (160 km)
Guba -> Chagni (180km)
Chagni -> Nekemete (350km)
Nekemete -> Belo Giganfoy (104km)
Belo Giganfoy -> Nekemete (104km)
Nekemete -> Yaso (200km)
Yaso -> Nekemete (200km)
Nekemete -> Sirba Abay (382km)
Sirba Abay -> Kamash (212km)
Kamash -> Agelo Mite (30km)
Agelo Mite -> Assosa (261km)
Alan & Sara -> The Island Bar (0.5km)
We have the option to drop out at Nekemete on the 2nd half of the trip if we are unwell or tired. Let’s hope we can stay the course 😊
So if we go tomorrow the blog may go quiet, though I will be working on equipment with Internet access. And if we go on Monday I will try and post the trip from Addis to Assosa entries as well as the videos we took on the journey down! They are 10Mb in size so it might take a while at 56k!
So have a Happy Easter! Due to the calendar differences it's not Easter here until the end of April. But, yesterday was the Prophet Mohammed's birthday so we all had a day off work, which was nice.
Have a restful weekend off, where ever you are!
Or if you are Stu & Jo have an active weekend of climbing mountains, biking down the other side and camping in the snow 😉
We miss you all!
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