In July 2009 more than 20 people from eight countries set out for the Millennium Village cluster of Koraro, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, to see firsthand the progress and challenges experienced by one of the most remote Millennium Villages. Individuals represented the Earth Institute, Millennium Promise, Millennium Villages project (MVP) sites in Haiti and Nigeria, universities recently selected to begin John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-supported Master’s in Development Practice programs, and other organizations.
The Koraro cluster consists of 11 villages, is home to approximately 67,000 people, and lacks access to quality health care, education, transportation, milling, safe water and sanitation services. Due to recurring drought and a heavily degraded environment, Koraro is also one of the most food-insecure villages in the area.
“Thanks to the improved agriculture and irrigation practices…the rocky landscape will be much greener in a few months…”
Drought is a persistent challenge in Koraro. With the support of donors such as the Ceil & Michael E. Pulitzer Foundation, the project is focusing on improving access to water for both irrigation and household use. During a walk through Koraro, the group saw much evidence of this work. The Millennium Villages project hired local community members to build four embankment storage dams to store water for use during dry periods. An irrigation and drainage project uses locally available stone and wire mesh to minimize erosion and runoff so that soil will retain the silt that is so beneficial for crops.
The group was most impressed by the ability of the Koraro team to work in such a dramatic and remote landscape. The area resembles the southwestern United States – dry and rocky, with spectacular rock formations and miles between villages. Thanks to the improved agriculture and irrigation practices that the Millennium Villages project has helped research and implement in Koraro, the rocky landscape will be much greener in a few months, once newly planted crops reach maturity. The farmers of Koraro now grow a diverse range of crops, including oranges, avocados, spices and teff, the Ethiopian staple grain used to make the national bread injera.
The group also visited a bright and cheery primary school and a health center that provides services such as HIV testing and essential medicines for diseases like malaria. In the past year, the health center has received additional lab equipment; hired a lab technician, emergency obstetrician and anesthesia nurse; and renovated its operating room.
After a full weekend, the group returned to Addis Ababa inspired and eager to participate in the Millennium Villages project’s annual retreat. MVP site teams, including the team from Koraro, shared successes and strategies to improve their work to demonstrate that even the poorest and most remote communities in rural Sub-Saharan Africa can reduce poverty, improve health and achieve sustainability.