A COW IN THE FAMILY SAVES LIVES – Travel report in southern Ethiopia

Landing in Addis Ababa in the early morning. The sky, which at 11,000 feet was illuminated by a bright sun, suddenly turns grey and rainy on the ground. It is the rainy season that will run out with the passing of the weeks and will last until September. July is the coldest month, schools close because it would be difficult for many children to reach their schools, almost always on foot. Unlike in many other African countries, schools here are state and free.

Getting out of the city proves to be a feat. To travel a few kilometers we need to extricate ourselves in chaotic traffic for over an hour before taking the road that goes to south. Along the way there are villages, expanses of mud huts, roundabouts, according to the iconography of African huts, sometimes cube, both produced by a frame of wooden branches and mud to close the connections.

The roads were mostly built by the Italian Salini Impregilo and in recent years by the Chinese. Along them, everywhere, crowds of people swarming, shouting and marching towards and from homes scattered in a vast and sometimes barren territory, sometimes green and luxuriant with banana trees, palm trees, sycamores and tamarisks. It’s cold. The average height is 2,000 meters with peaks of 2,800 and 3,000. At these heights the banana trees become false, that is, fruitless and the nature, designed by the expert hands of farmers, presents regular and imaginative terraces, with tiny fields hoed by hand that vaguely recall the oriental terraces cultivated with rice in Indochina.

It is mainly women, young or advanced in years, who carry loads on curved backs, often with children wrapped in large scarves against their chests. Gender roles are clear, as in almost all of Africa, and the choice of GSI Italia, to privilege help for women, finds in Ethiopia confirmation of a wise choice. The rain becomes pouring. The crowd continues its careless walk. The most used and immediately available umbrella are banana leaves, under which even three people shelter.

Nature is lush and, in this season, green and colorful. The poinsettias compete in height with banana trees and the acacias exhibit upturned yellow plumes at peak bloom. I rediscover, crossing the villages, children playing with balls of rags held together by a lace and bicycle wheels without tires virtuously guided with a stick by children who have never seen a PlayStation but who show a world of fun.

And children are entrusted with the task of grazing the cows that the charity of the Franciscan friars has made available to the poorest families.

100 dollars are enough to buy a cow in the country of the Horn of Africa where hunger is at home and is often married to death from chronic malnutrition. A cow can literally represent life.

It is in this awareness that the Franciscans of Addis Ababa asked GSI Italia to be helped in the enterprise of saving 100 families by purchasing 100 cows.

And so it is that as Christmas approaches, GSI Italia launches an invitation to buy a cow among its members, supporters and friends. Because in Ethiopia a cow can really save the life of an entire family and give meaning to a Christmas that is such.

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