March 27th, 2008
Ethiopian wood collector
by Penny Dale, BBC Africa Live
Two days’ food
As the Nobel Peace Prize highlights the environmental role of women in Africa, Amaretch, 10, from the capital, Addis Ababa, tells of her daily struggle.
My name, Amaretch, means “the beautiful one”. I am the youngest of four children in my family. Today, I spent from 0300 to 1500 collecting the branches of eucalyptus trees which people use as firewood. I will sell this big bundle at the market for about $2. This will feed my family for a couple of days
This is one of the hills that I have to walk up with my bundle of wood, which I have collected from the big Entoto mountain, which overlooks Addis Ababa. It is very steep and and it is very far from where I live. I get very tired. Sometimes, one of my brothers or sisters will get up early in the morning to collect firewood instead of me.
No chopping trees
This is my friend Aregash Bayesa. The eucalyptus leaves are used by people in the fire as they cook their injera bread, which Ethiopians eat at every meal. What she has collected today will buy her some coffee and a bit of cereal for her children. Sometimes she goes to collect the leaves every day, sometimes only once a week. It depends on whether her husband has managed to get work. We don’t chop down the trees because we are not allowed.
This is Etensh Ajele, 36. She used to carry wood for 12 years until she got help from the Former Women Fuelwood Carriers’ Association. She now runs this group and helps other women who were forced to carry wood because they were so poor and did not have enough education to do anything else.
“We train women in other skills and gives them loans so that they can start a business. We sell what they make in our shop,” she says.
“Weaving is one of the things that we help former firewood carriers with,” Etensh says. “Most women know how to weave but do not have enough money to buy materials. So we provide that and we also help them with new and different designs so that they can sell the shawls and dresses that they make more easily. Some Ethiopians buy our goods but mostly they are bought by tourists when we take them to a monthly market.”
These are the children of women who used to carry firewood. They are taught by members of the Former Women Fuelwood Carriers Association. They say it is nice to be able to go to school to get an education while their mothers are at work.
I don’t want to have to carry wood all my life. But at the moment I have no choice because we are so poor. All of us children carry wood to help our mother and father buy food for us. I would prefer to be able to just go to school and not have to worry about getting money.
Photos and interviews by Penny Dale, BBC Africa Live