By Robyn McCallum |
In Ethiopia, agriculture isn’t just a way of life: in many respects, it’s the cornerstone of life itself.
Approximately 80-85 per cent of the country’s population is employed in agriculture. The country has the largest livestock population in all of Africa, and agriculture contributes more than 40 per cent of the country’s total GDP. But the country is both heavily populated and economically poor — the second poorest country in sub-Saharan Africa, in fact. There’s widespread food insecurity, limited social support for and acceptance of women, and 30 per cent of the country’s 85 million people live on less than $1.25 US a day.
Improving Ethiopia’s economy and addressing the poverty of its people both depend a great deal on growth — in all meanings of the word.
For more than 10 years, Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture has had strong collaborative partnerships with Ethiopian agricultural institutions, working together to increase the country’s agricultural capacity. Now, a new international development project will take those partnerships to a whole other level.
Supporting Ethiopia’s future
On Sunday, the Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development announced a nearly six-year, $18-million project in Ethiopia. Titled “Agricultural Transformation through Stronger Vocational Education” (ATTSVE), the project will be led by Dalhousie with the support of partners the Mennonite Economic Development Associates of Canada (MEDA), Jimma University College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine (JUCAVM) in Ethiopia and McGill University.
ATTSVE, one of the largest international development projects ever awarded to a Canadian university, will focus on enhancing current Ethiopian agricultural education programs available at agricultural colleges. Its goal is to help evolve the country’s agricultural practices and education beyond its subsistence-based foundation towards a market-focused system that better supports not only the economic strength of the country and its citizens, but also the unique needs of farmers, rural youth, the agri-industry and the broader rural communities.
The official launch for ATTSVE was held Sunday at the MacRae Library on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, timed with the start of International Development Week. Minister Peter MacKay, MP Scott Armstrong, representatives from partner institutions as well as 14 deans and vice-deans from Ethiopia were in attendance.
“Our government is proud to partner with Dalhousie University to help Ethiopian agricultural students to participate in market-led and growth-oriented agriculture, either as producers or employees of commercial agricultural enterprises,” said Minister MacKay. “This means increased incomes and better access to food for thousands of families.”
The event featured a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an important cultural component for ceremonial and social gatherings in Ethiopia. (Coffee is one of the country’s leading crops.) The ceremony is traditionally led by a woman and in this case, was led by Ethiopian doctoral student, Bizuayehu Mengiste, who has, under another project with Ethiopia, studied at the Faculty of Agriculture and Dalhousie’s Halifax campuses.