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The making of GIZ Ethiopia

The making of GIZ Ethiopia

The Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Project is an integral part of the German government’s initiative One World – No Hunger. By following a unique multi-sectoral approach the project is determined to reduce malnutrition and stunting rates among the rural population in the north of Ethiopia. Up to now, over 88,000 farmers have been reached with nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive activities. In addition to that, there are various other projects that are being executed by the German government in Ethiopia and the value of humanitarian gesture is having a positive impact on Ethiopians, writes Samuel Getachew.

In a dusty part of Adigrat town, Tigray Regional State, with a thriving busy open fruit and vegetable market, partially completed buildings complementing traditional African hut houses, Mahlet Gebregiorgis, the popular Tigrigna singer was introduced as a goodwill ambassador by GIZ earlier this month. Deutsche Gesellshaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit, (GIZ), GmbH is part of the German development Cooperation which operates on behalf of the German government.

GIZ chose her to complement its effort on a project named Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture (NSA) as part of its strategy to help change the narrative of Ethiopia.

A project worth EUR 4.5 million, her multigenerational appeal is expected to yield success and if it goes according to plans, the initiative is expected to go national. She has been recruited to promote the value of a balanced nutrition by the GIZ Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture Project. “I am excited to have been chosen for this role, to work with mothers and young people and have a conversation with them on the important task of nutrition and sanitation,” Mahlet, a mother of an eight year old child, told The Reporter.

The idea of recruiting popular artists for a public benefit is not new but hers is more than that.

It is an urgent appeal to a population that has dismal result in having balanced diet in young people. For three hours, she took part in a cooking demonstration while conducting casual conversation with hundreds of people that was attracted by her star power. Young people snapped a selfie while their parents rushed by her side to take memorable photos. According to GIZ, there are only four percent of children that have a balanced meal.

GIZ became operational in Ethiopia in 1964. It has invested many resources to help change the statistics of Ethiopia, still one of the least developed nations in the world. The project in Adigrat is one of the many recurring projects the German Cooperation is currently involved in as Ethiopia remains one of its largest recipients of aid from what is one of the richest nations in the world.

Since 2010, it has attempted to complement the nation’s five year Growth and Transformation Plan and focus on the areas of labor, sustainable management, biodiversity, governance, conflict management and the building of needed infrastructures. Within Ethiopia, it has made noted contributions that have become a fixture of the nation’s progress forward.

In the 2000s, it became the first institution to introduce low cost condominiums within the capital highlighting the fast growing populations that are struggling to meet the most basic necessities of life, such as housing. Even though GIZ built a small condominium that still is seen as exemplary, but that program fizzled when conflicts arose from various players as costs and quality of the construction became a problem for GIZ to accept as the norm.

GIZ also became a player in the construction of 13 universities as Ethiopia focused on accessible education in all parts of the nation at the beginning of the Ethiopian millennium. It was said to provide the needed funds and the infrastructure to meet the demands of education that was envisioned to be accessible to many young people.

In the last few years, GIZ has attempted to endorse Ethiopia’s ambition to become economically sustainable by making the nation an attractive destination for foreign investments. Emulating the experiences of Asia, it has attempted to make Ethiopia an industrial hub for the garment industry.

Earlier this year, it announced the creation of a program for sustainable textiles in Ethiopia (eTex) and has started a closer mentorship initiative for the Ethiopian Textile and Garment Manufacturers Association and the Ethiopian Textile Industry Development Institute with their counterparts in Germany.

“If (Ethiopia) wants to gain a foothold in the global marketplace for apparel, its textile and garment industry needs to meet international environment and social standards,” the agency announced. “Together with the German textile initiative, the aim of the German government’s program for sustainable production of textiles and clothing is to provide institutional support for Ethiopian companies.”

It estimates Ethiopia’s textile and garment sector is aiming to export garments whose value is about USD one billion in three years and is building a number of industrial parks around the nation in anticipation of that. Matthias Romplel, the head of GIZ Ethiopia recently called Hawassa Industrial Park, the newest of the parks a “symbol for the strong development orientation of Ethiopia”.

GIZ has emerged as an early supporter and advocate for the issue of land degradation as the country is expected to lose 30,000 hectares of soil due to erosion annually causing food shortages to a population that now stands at 100 million. It is supporting the restoration of 50,000 sq.km. of national parks across the nation and via a partnership with local enterprises funded off-grid electricity through solar energy to many people in the rural areas.

With various partners, GIZ is also one of the noted architects of the Khartoum Process, a self-described regional dialogue on migration between Europe and African countries. This is believed to be a strategy to decrease the migration flow from Africa to Europe. The program trains authorities within Africa to prevent the smuggling of migrants.

The Ethiopian German Development Cooperation negotiation also concluded earlier this year and is to focus on the educational and agricultural needs of the nation with various funding announcements especially in sustainable land management, strengthening drought resilience and the promotion of agricultural productivity with the introduction of advanced technologies and technical and practical support.

There are other areas where GIZ is involved in as well, such as rural development, on security, climate change, employment and governance and democracy.

Germany has also been a financial supporter of a number of African Union initiatives, providing millions for in areas of peace and security, in the creation of the Pan-African University, various agricultural programs and for training programs. Within Ethiopia, it has also provided resources for the Tana Forum held in Bahir Dar, which aims to bring African leaders and their counterparts on targeted areas and the support of the African Peace and Security Program, within the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University.

The German government has been floating the idea of a plan called A Plan With Africa. The idea was conceived out of the American aid initiative that rebuilt Europe after the devastation of the World War II that whose hallmark was to end the spread of communism across the European continent. A slew of Ministers, including German’s Development Minister Gerd Muller have defended the idea as a path for the continent to stand on its feet.

“Africa’s fate is a challenge and an opportunity for Europe”, he had said. If we do not solve the problems together, they will come to use at some point. The failure to promote decent work opportunities also risk creating future incentive for workers to leave the region permanently”.

To that end, the controversial minister, who is known for his political gaffs has advocated for funds to be spent within Africa, has visited humanitarian disaster areas and announced funding announcements and attempted to support African entrepreneurships.

Critics point the new initiative is nothing new, relying more on Band-Aid solution, little capacity and knowledge transfer and less passion for entrepreneurships and little input from Africans themselves.

“The West has lost credibility in Africa by making political mistakes while at the same time Africa is gaining in self-confidence,” said one of the noted critics, Germany’s one-time president and the head of the International Monetary Funds of the latest initiative of the German government. “Africa can no longer be prepared to go begging in the West. They want to do things on their own way. They welcome support, but want to shape their future themselves.”

German Chancellor Angela Markel, whose majority government was reduced to a minority status on a referendum-like federal election earlier year fought on the issues of migration (mostly from Syria) and has highlighted the need to help Africa combat its poverty at home as a way to keep its migrants from reaching the European soil. She even made the highlight of discussion in the corridors of power on Africa this year when Germany held the presidency of the G8 entirely on Africa.

It seemed there was a uniform-like interest to keep them at bay and fend for themselves within the continent rather than have them move to a continent that has less appetite for vulnerable African migrants that have difficulties to assimilate in mainstream Europe. 

“If we don't give young people any prospects, if we don't invest in education and qualifications, if we don't strengthen the role of girls and young women, the development agenda won't succeed," the chancellor once said.

Whether that is a pipe dream or whether the long-term contribution of Germany is based on self-interest, the value of the impact GIZ’s humanitarian gesture has had on Ethiopia is immense.