From Switzerland to the jungles of Ethiopia


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Concentrated at the wheel. (Pictures Sebastian Hagenbuch)Before farmer and agronomist Sebastian Hagenbuch will be active in Swiss agriculture, he still has to perform civil service days. He is doing this as part of an agricultural development aid project in the remote nono area in Ethiopia.
30 hours have passed since departure in Kloten, Switzerland, and everything, but really everything is different: the temperature humid-warm, the streets dusty and bad, the cars scarce and dented, the people black and mausarm, the vegetation a jungle.
A very white spot on the map is not really the black continent for me. Years ago, with my family, I experienced an adventurous journey through Kenya. Admittedly, before I left for Ethiopia, I prepared badly for two reasons. Firstly, I had no time, and second, I said that you can not properly prepare yourself for what is going on there anyway. For the most part I should be right.
The good six-hour journey from the capital Addis Ababa to my workplace about 250 km southwest of the metropolis of millions was a wild flood of foreign impressions. I intend to dedicate my own chapter to the Ethiopian streets, which is why I start directly with the project. After several hours of gravel road, some river crossings (not: crossings) and increasingly sparsely plastered with mud and straw plastered huts (Tukul) we reach the farm Nono, which at the time seemed like an oasis of civilization in the middle of the jungle. Jungle, so the natural vegetation in this area can be well described. A point I could have expected more serious preparation – but so I had embarrassingly expected more with savannah.
Nono is an agricultural enterprise with about 250 hectares of arable land and just as much entrusted forest area. Mangoes, tef (Ethiopian grain), corn, wheat, beans, chili and various vegetables, herbs, shrubs and trees are grown and sheep and around 70 zebu cattle are kept. The project includes agricultural production on the one hand and a teaching project on the other hand, where the local population is provided with all kinds of knowledge about resource-efficient agriculture (eg vegetable cultivation, compost, organic farming and pest control, erosion protection, efficient irrigation etc.). A clinic is also located on the site. After two weeks, I am the only non-Ethiopian on the farm who employs between 30 and 120 people depending on the season.
There are tons of new faces and names – all as friendly as difficult to pronounce – and memorable ways to get started, because it starts with the work: Create new irrigation for the Mangoplantage, taking into account the training of the “Daily Worker”. For two weeks this meant diverting the river (digging ditches by hand), concreting the dam (collecting sand and gravel directly from the river), laying 1.5 km of 75-meter pipes through the jungle (machete and motor winds are indispensable). Sounds quite trivial, but the endeavor was exotic enough: guiding eight people who only speak Oromo. Place of work: jungle at 28 degrees. Background noise: Dirty monkey lips. Reaching the workplace: First by tractor, then 1 km only accessible on foot. My first learned lesson:
I was glad to be able to pursue a meaningful work immediately, which kept me from brooding for the time being something. Worrying about homesickness, the incredible poverty in the country, the differences between Africans and Europeans, sense and nonsense of development aid or the triumph of cell phones and Coca Cola. That will certainly come soon enough and will probably be processed in the form of blogs for lack of communication with people from my cultural area.
Writen by Sebastian Hagenbuch