On my way to the Ethiopian Embassy to pick up visas for me and my boyfriend/partner in crime, Bernie Pollack, for our trip to Addis Ababa, I started chatting with the cab driver. Not surprisingly, he was Ethiopian—Washington, DC has the highest population of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia. Many of them immigrated here during the 1980s when famine and conflict were tearing the country apart.
The cabbie asked me why I was going to his country and I explained that Worldwatch is evaluating environmentally sustainable ways of alleviating hunger and poverty and that we want to tell stories of hope and success in food production from all over Africa. He nodded and smiled and as he reached back to take my money, he told me to do just one thing during my trip—“listen to the poor people.” He said that’s who will tell you truth. It’s good advice.
We’ll be looking at projects that nourish both people and the planet, by reducing hunger (the first and foremost goal), increasing incomes and improving livelihoods, improving gender equity, protecting biodiversity, and a whole range of other criteria.
Most importantly, from my perspective, we’ll be talking to farmers and farmers groups on the ground, hearing their stories and learning from them what works best for their particular country, region, and community. In addition to telling peoples’ stories and putting a human face to these international development issues, we want to provide a roadmap for the funding and donor community for agricultural investment, which has unfortunately been declining over the last 15 years. And we’ll be doing what my cabbie suggested—listening to the poor people.
Stay tuned for video blogs, photos, and stories from our trip!