Projects Abroad volunteers among those making a change in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia, in east Africa, is a country that is for many synonymous with food shortages and famine. By undertaking volunteer work, like Projects Abroad you can help Ethiopians to prevent hunger.

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We've got to figure out how to make an efficient market work for everybody – for the farmers, for the buyers.

In 1984 the shocking images of the Ethiopian famine moved the world. Musician Bob Geldof spearheaded a campaign to end this awful situation by organising the famous Band Aid and Live Aid events, with the famous words: “People are dying now.”

Journalists such as the BBC's Michael Buerk also took their cameras to the country to raise awareness of the plight of Ethiopia's people. Much work was done with the money raised by these campaigns, but in 2002 famine struck again. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, an Ethiopian-born economist, explained the situation in a recent interview with the Guardian:

“There were consecutive bumper harvests in 2000 and 2001, and Ethiopia was doing really well. Then six months later prices collapsed almost to zero, and farmers could not sell the grain. In mid-2002, Ethiopia went to the world for emergency food aid for 14 million people at risk of starvation,” she explains.

The problem, Eleni realised, was with food security and distribution. In 1984, while there was massive food shortage in the north of the country, there was in fact surplus grain production in the more fertile western Ethiopia.

“We've got to figure out how to make an efficient market work for everybody – for the farmers, for the buyers, because otherwise we're always going to be in this cycle,” Eleni adds.

Eleni and other Ethiopian economists have set up a commodity exchange system, which means quality of produce is guaranteed, and if producers trade through the exchange, they will receive payment the next day.

This system is being heralded as highly successful, and one of the most important issues is to raise awareness. But it is just one part of the development work taking part in the country. Every year, organisations such as Projects Abroad send hundreds of volunteers to Ethiopia to work in disadvantaged areas.

They get involved in work such as teaching the next generation of Ethiopian children, lending a hand in care centres, and even providing medical treatment.

The Projects Abroad website has full details of the volunteer opportunities that exist in Ethiopia. There are also projects in other parts of Africa, including Ghana and Togo, as well as in Latin America, eastern Europe and Asia.

For more information about volunteer projects in Ethiopia and beyond, visit the Projects Abroad website.

About Projects Abroad:
Established in 1992, Projects Abroad is a leading organiser of volunteer projects, work experience and gap year placements. With a flexible approach and experienced in-country staff Projects Abroad has now helped over 50,000 volunteers achieve their goals by working with developing communities in over 25 destinations worldwide. Visit for more information.

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David Flaschner
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