Run Across Ethiopia Promotes Education in Farming Communities
A 12 day, 248 mile ‘ultra marathon’ through the heart of Ethiopia presents an extreme test of endurance, yet the challenge that this epic run presents pales in comparison to the daily struggles of the Ethiopian families that it hopes to bring attention.
Run Across Ethiopia is a project of On The Ground, a nonprofit organization based in Traverse City, Michigan that aims to raise $100,000 to be used by the Tefsa Foundation and the Oromia Cooperative Farmers Cooperative Union which represents 129 Fair Trade coffee cooperatives representing some 800,000 Ethiopian families. The funds raised by the project will go towards education initiatives in coffee-growing communities in Ethiopia where many schools are overcrowded, lack basic supplies like books and desks, and often lie over 4 miles away from their student’s homes.
The awareness and funds generated by Run Across Ethiopia will be crucial to furthering the Fair Trade policies that are already working to improve the lives of struggling Ethiopian farmers. The village of Afursa Waro is home to the Fair Trade coffee cooperative Negele Gorbitu where farmers have been empowered by Fair Trade labor practices and have used the premiums garnered from their prized coffee beans to build a health clinic and a primary school.
Fair Trade supporters Nigel Willerton (CEO of Wholesome Sweeteners) and Timothy Young (founder of Food for Thought) are participating in Run Across Ethiopia as an extension of their incredible passion and commitment to Fair Trade. You can follow their progress and read about their thoughts on Ethiopia on Timothy's Blog.
"As the founder of a company that has a reputation for it's commitment to local and sustainable food, it's no surprise that I'm often asked, 'Why are you working on a project in Ethiopia when we have so much need here in our local community?' It's a fair question. There's no doubt we have needs close to home. The key word here is "community" and how one defines it. For me, I define my community as anyone that is touched by actions I take every day. That can be my neighbor next door or a sugar cane farmer in Paraguay
...[Run Across Ethiopia is] our effort to make the invisible the visible and take some responsibility for supporting the people that feed us. So while we'll continue to do the large portion of our giving locally, we will also look for those pins further afield on our map. They represent real people with real needs. They are my neighbors; my community." - Timothy Young, Founder of Food for Thought
For centuries, Ethiopia has grown some of the world’s highest quality coffee beans yet the success of this now multi-billion dollar industry has not produced economic benefits for its farmers. Coffee exports account for nearly 60 percent of Ethiopia’s GDP but in places like the Yirgacheffe region, where some of the world’s most prized coffee originates, only half of its children complete primary school and the adult literacy rate is 36 percent. Access to healthcare and clean water and adequate nutrition is very limited.