Impacting lives in Benishangul
World Vision, one of the most established development partners in Ethiopia has marked up on the end of its 15 year project in the Benishangul Gunuz region.
With the aim of helping more than 200,000 people, including children and families gain access to clean water, education, health care and better agricultural strategies, the landmark end of the program was highlighted in the presence of local elders, community representatives, and the World Vision Ethiopian senior leadership team on Thursday.
“This is the end of our 15 year sponsorship program,” Alex Whitney, the Integrated Program Director of World Vision Ethiopia told The Reporter in Assosa. “The focus of our investment was on areas of children’s well-being, education, health, water sanitation, programs on preventing child abuse and child marriage, and as well help expand the value chain process of mango production to help prevent waste.”
In addition, the organization managed to mobilize community members, teachers and health workers and have each made practical inroads in the poverty stricken areas of the community and help change its narrative.
According to World Vision, only 27 percent of the local population had clean water access in 2004, when it first established the program and today, it has jumped to 60 percent. Equally, school enrollment has shot up to 92 percent; from a mere 60 percent and 88 percent of the population has access to potable water coverage.
“I have lived in the area for decades. I have seen the progress, seen my quality of life, as well as my families and my neighbor's improve. It’s a miracle what the investment has meant to the community and I remain its champion,” Habte Tesfu told The Reporter. “They have not just provided us handouts, but hand-ups. They have empowered us to be better citizens, be aware of our surroundings and take care of it and find the answers within. It’s for us to take it forward and build on it.”
World Vision, headquartered in the United States first came to Ethiopia in 1974 during the infamous famine of that era, intending to build a local child focused community development initiative. Many credit it to helping change their lives.
“What I was provided was the tools, the wisdom and learned experiences of others on how to improve my life. My children benefited from the education offered and I benefited from the farming techniques. And as a woman, I felt independent and proud,” Almaz Beyene said.
The investment was made in four districts – Assosa, Homosha, Bambasi and Ma’o-Komo.
According to Edward Brown, the World Vision Ethiopia director, it was a worthy investment that yielded success among the population.
“With our partner, the Government of Ethiopia, our partners, and the community, farmers have adopted agricultural technologies which led to improved productivity and diversified incomes, while they are feeding their children nutritious diets. Women and girls have been empowered to determine their own futures,” he said.
Started in 1950, the international organization has become one of the most dominant and recognizable brand aid organizations in the world, with operations in 97 nations and with a total income of well over USD 2 billion.
For Negash Moges, a 23 year old university lecturer at Assosa University, he is a witness of the validity of the program and the impact it has made on the ground.
“World Vision, in collaboration with the community, has done a great deal of development works. Its development models are participatory and community led. It empowered the community to own the development works and manage sustainability, he said.”
Henok Seleshi shares Negash’s sentiments, as he was impacted by the investment personally. The 25-year old benefited from the education provided by World Vision and became the first in his family to attend a university.
“If World Vision had not entered my life, I would never have been able to finish high school, let alone go on and become a university educated career oriented individual,” he told The Reporter. “I was provided nutritious meals and that helped me focus on my education and not follow what was cool and current among my friends, which was to make easy money, involved in dead-end jobs. My success is being emulated by my siblings.”
“Many of the community members who once were under abject poverty now are thriving. Together we have laid foundations for children to realize their dreams and God-given potential with quality education, health services and clean water,” Edward Brown, the director of World Vision Ethiopia reflected.
For 31 year old Mekuria Teferi, he has benefited from a farming strategy initiated by the organization to prevent waste. He used to produce mangoes but with no value chain to sell to the market, many went to waste and he lost money. World Vision has helped him build the mechanism to sell what he produces in the market.
“I now produce and sell most of them. There is little waste. I export most of them to Addis Ababa, as well as locally, and most are used to make fresh mango juice. The strategy built by the organization has helped me a great deal. It has given me lots of leverage to help improve my once doomed life into becoming a proud farmer with a good and decent income to support a family of 10,” he said.
Describing its effort as “integrated and holistic,” the organization is aiming to expect to fund and see the longevity of some of the programs. Alex, the director of Integrated Program is certain some of the result proven initiatives will continue with other grants.
“While this is the end of the multi-year program, we will continue to invest via other grants that are available to us,” he told The Reporter.
One of the noted contributions made by World Vision Ethiopia occurred in the midst of the displacement of thousands of people in the Gedeo and West Guji areas in which, despite the violence and hard to reach areas, it was credited with helping provide basic necessities to thousands of stranded people who lacked food and shelter as the result of the violence.
Some of its donations this year have come from Ethiopians, including from the Global Alliance for Ethiopia, a non-profit group founded by Tamage Beyene, which managed to fundraise via GoFundMe, 31 million Birr to help World Vision return millions of displaced people to their residence.