Climate Change in Ethiopia: Alemayehn Ayele

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities.

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS

Alemayehn Ayele’s hand quickly glides over his notebook, the white paper glowing in the relentless midday sun. He has to move quickly as the instructor changes positions to point out the different markers and lines drawn in the sand, all part of a village mapping exercise.
Alemayehn moves around the village taking shape in the sand while about two dozen other students vie to get a good look at the map, constructed with white chalk, rocks and sticks. All the while, his hand never stops taking notes.

Alemayehn is one of 50 facilitators hired locally by CRS and its partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, to be trained on climate change mitigation strategies for their communities. They’ve all experienced the dramatic consequences of changing weather patterns in eastern Ethiopia. The training is part of a 3-year CRS project called REAAP—or Resilience through Enhanced Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnership—funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to reduce the effects of climate change.

On the second day of the weeklong training, Alemayehn has learned how to be a liaison for his community, and about its resources and ability to cope with climate change.

“Before the training, I thought only the government or NGOs can solve communities’ problems, but now I understand that we can solve our own problems,” he says with a confident smile. “I also understand that disaster or risks may vary from community to community. Before I thought it was all the same.”

“I hope the project will result in greater awareness of climate change, and that there will be no more dependency on external support.”

In his new role as a community facilitator, Alemayehn is responsible for mapping resources, such as forest, water, springs, health posts, schools, land and livestock. His committee then identifies the most vulnerable people in the community and how to use its resources so that everyone benefits equally from improvements or changes.

“The training has taught me how we can address our problems by discussing them,” Alemayehn says. “After identifying problems, we prioritize which ones to address first.”

The biggest challenges in Ifabas district are drought and water shortages. Using a community- driven approach, REAAP supports people with natural resource management, including soil and water conservation, by building hillside terraces and digging wells and developing watersheds.

Facilitators like Alemayehn locate existing resources—rivers, streams, or stones for building terraces—and identify problems, such as deforestation and soil erosion. They determine whether people can share resources to increase their farm productivity, and how other problems can be solved together.

“What makes REAAP different is that it focuses on people’s ability to cope with disasters instead of looking at outside assistance. In previous jobs, I was always looking for guidance or a plan. I hope the project will result in greater awareness of climate change and that there will be no more dependency on external support.”

Kim Pozniak is a CRS communications officer covering sub-Saharan Africa and global emergencies. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

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