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Making a difference in Ethiopia

SCIAF’s Bishop President Joseph Toal of Motherwell reflects on a recent visit to our projects in Ethiopia where he saw firsthand the huge difference they are making.

As I return from Ethiopia having spent a week visiting projects which SCIAF supports in northern Ethiopia I record some thoughts on what has been a fascinating few days. I have experienced something about this large and complex country and the outstanding work undertaken by SCIAF and our partners through the local Diocese of Adigrat, supporting rural communities as they seek to improve their lives in a challenging natural environment.

Bishop Toal prays for peace

The landscape of northern Ethiopia is spectacular, especially when you travel into the mountains but it looks and feels extremely dry and can be very hot. The fundamental struggle to find sufficient sources of water, and to store the water that does fall during the rainy season, has always been part of the challenge of living in such areas.

We visited a number of communities whose lives have been greatly assisted by the resources we have provided to help access water, to store water, to circulate the collected water to a wider area, and to slow the flow of water when the rain does fall in torrents. The work supported by us, but undertaken by the local people, includes making bore-holes to access water deeper underground, providing solar-panels to power the pumps to lift the water to ground-level and then taking it to higher ground. With a regular supply of water for the fields three harvests are now possible rather than the single one previously possible after the rains fell.

It was remarkable to see the long-term transformation of people’s lives in these sometimes quite isolated communities. It is a great blessing for them and they deeply appreciate the support of the Adigrat Diocese and her partners, including SCIAF.

Our hosts in Tigray were Bishop Tesfaselassie of Adigrat and his Social and Development Commission. They gave us a great welcome and emphasised the great bond between us in the Universal Church and how the sharing of our resources with them is a powerful sign of our union in Christ. For me this is a strong part of SCIAF’s mission - through our aid agency the Catholics of Scotland reach out to the Church in poorer countries and share what we can with them. So I bring back a very positive message to Scotland about SCIAF’s work in Ethiopia and in other countries from the people of the Church - they love us very much and greatly appreciate our help.

+Joseph Toal