What is a Green Famine and How You Can Help.

Suffering and a Green Landscape: What is a Green Famine?

The trees look green, fields are planted…but why is there no food? “Green famines” exist in areas dependent on rain-fed agriculture and areas with extreme poverty. In over 80% of Ethiopia, family food and income largely depend on one thing – the weather. Continue reading “What is a Green Famine and How You Can Help.”

School Sponsorship Scholar: Meet Mihret

The Project Officers for Roots Ethiopia are local to the regions where they serve. This has many advantages for both Roots Ethiopia and communities, as it enables us to understand the sometimes unique needs of a community. It also allows our staff to be frequently in different villages (“kebeles”) on a regular basis, developing relationships. Here is a story sent to us by staff who were alerted to a potential School Sponsorship Scholar in Wolayta by a Project Officer…eleven year old Mihret.

When the Project Officer first brought to us meet with Mihret, she was carrying one of her little sisters on her back.  When we get closer to the house, she came to ask us who we were. She looked pale and tired; the look in her eyes clearly touched each of our hearts.

RE team Interviewing Mihret Wondson in Sodo trying to control emotions March 2018

Mihret is eleven years old. She has a twin sister and also has younger twin sisters. Her Mother is a widow who struggles to raise all four girls. Her mother used to work as a laborer. However, now with the younger twins to care for, she couldn’t leave them to go out and find labor work. The family could not afford to rent a house and are living in a small house provided by the local Women and Children’s Aid Society. Mihret was living with her aunt who lives far from her family’s village, and used to attend classes in the local school. Now it has been five days since she left school to return back home to her mother. We asked her why she had to leave school. She explained that “my twin sister got sick and went to Hawassa for medication. My mother wants to find a daily labor work and I am here to help care for the smaller children.”

As we spoke to her, she continued to carry one child on her back while other little ones played. We would have like to find her playing or studying with her friends. Instead, she has left her dream behind to make things better for her family.

Mihret deserves to be supported. She is now included in the Roots Ethiopia School Sponsorship Program. She was happy with tears in her eyes when she received school materials from the team.  She will attend school and there will be help for her mother’s task to care for her sick sister. We know this: we will work together to create a better future for more children who are in need of our help.



Breaking Down Barriers to Education!

One of the things we are most passionate about here at Roots Ethiopia is identifying and removing the barriers between all rural kids and a good education.

Some of those barriers involve financial means or distance from a school or adequate seating in a classroom or the availability of books.

And sometimes the barrier is a pair of eyeglasses.

Yesterday a volunteer team of Ethiopian vision professionals visited the school children we work with in Halaba.

This is especially important for the 30+ children in our special needs program in Halaba. Children with Down Syndrome have a higher rate of vision impairment, and our plan is to serve their vision needs as fully as we can.

We love that over 80 students and their families were included in vision testing. We planned to evaluate 40 special needs students, but word got out and our team of volunteers worked as long as daylight allowed.

We love knowing that so many kids saw themselves in the men and women who tested their eyes — representation matters! Maybe there is an ophthalmologist in the crew of kids tested!

We are especially grateful for the kindness and generosity of the volunteers! The children benefited from their time, their skills, and their compassionate care. What a difference this will make!

Next step: providing proper eyeglasses for these students. Stay tuned for more details!


7 Incredible Things YOU Did in 2016!

I could not blot out hope, for hope belongs to the future. –Lu Xun

See the dream. Be the impact. Feel the success.

The 2016 sun has set an incredible 366 times, shining a light on all the ways your gifts to Roots Ethiopia have turned dreams and challenges into success.  As we begin what will surely be another year of work to create lasting change in Ethiopia, we thought we would bring you a year in review, by the numbers.

Here are 7 phenomenal ways YOU turned local ideas into lasting change:

  1. 15,000 students and their communities were enriched through Learning Resource Projects that focused on making the school learning environment the best it can be. Desks, chairs microscopes, books, shelves, concrete floors, chalkboards, libraries for public use, the list is long. The impact is broad. The local community is inspired.
  2. More than 8,600 community members received temporary food support during the months following drought-related crop failures. In the darkest of days, these food staples allowed kids to keep going to school and families to stay strong.
  3. 113 librarians and 39 science teachers received intensive training in their field to become better leaders and to improve their innovative use of local materials as teaching tools.
  4. 11 rural schools were recipients of new books in the local language(s). 6,000 students can now expand their literacy skills and love of reading.
  5. 175 students attended school with all-inclusive School Sponsorships.
  6. 40 boys and girls participated in a new sports-based program designed to develop youth leadership skills. The program includes uniforms, sports equipment, and instruction.
  7. Over 300 women and men built their own small businesses that sustain their families. 19 Self-Help Entrepreneurs were in place in 14 project sites for the small business owners to increase their capacity to earn income, increase their self-confidence, and work for social change.

These accomplishments all began as the dreams of small Ethiopian communities. You brought the resources, and you stood strong in the face of the serious challenges that threatened the livelihoods of so many. You gave monthly, or all at once or both. Your hope for better lives for Ethiopia’s poorest families was the thread that linked possibility to progress.

Thank you for an amazing 2016.

In 2017 we will see change, growth, and new opportunities.  In partnership with your commitment, here’s to the hope for a better future for all of Ethiopia.


The Roots Ethiopia Board of Directors


Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

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Families Devastated by El Niño Floods in Ethiopia

There is an emergency of massive proportions for villages in Southern Ethiopia that are already impoverished and vulnerable. 

Over 80% of Ethiopians rely on rain-fed agriculture for their daily lives. This past year of drought has caused devastating losses. Now, extensive and damaging floods in Ethiopia have come just after the worst drought in decades. El Niño weather patterns have left many Ethiopian families needing immediate aid in order to survive.


(Woman in Halaba Kulito who lost all her household materials, May 2016)

Food is a fundamental pillar of basic survival, and today grain and cooking oil are priorities for local families. We are joining Ethiopia and partner aid organizations by directly giving grain and cooking oil to families in Hadiya and Halaba zones. Your $50 donation will feed one Ethiopian family for one month during this critical time.

Better days are ahead, but we can’t get there without your commitment. Your donations will move quickly as our expert team is already preparing food support as part of a community-wide coalition of emergency relief.

Families need food support immediately.


The floods in Ethiopia have displaced roughly 5,000 families in Hadiya and Halaba in the last month. Farmers had just planted their fields for a long-awaited harvest, and now their farmland is under water and crops are ruined. Rains have destroyed household materials, drought-weakened livestock have perished in great numbers, and food supplies have been lost. This is a crushing crisis.

Give to our general fund so communities remain strong, healthy, and together as they work to rebuild what was lost. $50 feeds one Ethiopian family for one month. Thousands of families need your help immediately.


(Location of current Flood Relief work for Roots Ethiopia)

While we respond to this crisis, know that Roots Ethiopia’s ongoing work in communities is making a real difference for families and children. In Hadiya and Alaba, we continue to support the core project work to help families and communities stay strong as they recover from the crisis. In addition, projects in Kembata Tembaro and Wolayta continue to grow and strengthen.

Snapshot of our project work – making a real difference:

  • 175 children enrolled in our school sponsorship program.
  • Over 500 small businesses (IGA’s) created for families.
  • 12 regional schools improved with resources and 4 more in development.

*Note: The El Niño effect this year is the strongest on record, and the scale of the crisis has meant Ethiopia and partner aid organizations have made extensive efforts to help during this ongoing crisis. Flooding from belg (Spring) rains has displaced over 120,000 people countrywide. Nearly 1/2 million people have been affected in some way, and an estimated 200,000 people have lost their homes. Somali, Oromia, SNNPR, Afar, Amhara, and Harar Regions have been particularly affected. Continued rains are expected, and more damage is sure to follow (Source: UN Office For the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education.

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Stories From The Field | Teachers and Innovation in Ethiopia

This post is contributed by Jessica Steinberg, member of our 2014 Travel Team and Board Member at Roots Ethiopia. Jessica will return to Ethiopia next week where she will continue to work closely with school leaders to develop policy around data collection and reporting for each of our programs.


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The universality of a teachers’ love for their students is something I have witnessed firsthand as I have traveled the world. Many teachers around the world work in less than desirable conditions and are often significantly under-resourced. As a former educator, I understand what it means to have to be innovative in the classroom. Teachers around the world are often underpaid and in the US are also underappreciated. Most public schools are underfunded and lack many basic supplies. Many teachers I know spend a percentage of their paychecks buying supplies for their classrooms and extras resources for their students. Being a resourceful teacher in the US often means the difference between a classroom filled with electronics, learning supplies, and supplemental materials, versus the bare minimum of state-issued textbooks, notebooks, and some writing utensils.

It wasn’t until our recent visit to Ethiopia, that I truly saw what a resourceful teacher can do. It was absolutely awe-inspiring to see the number of teachers who took time out of their busy days to meet with us and share their stories. They spoke about the challenges of trying to teach a class of 60 students with no standard curriculum, no books, and barely anything, but benches and a blackboard in the classroom. They spoke about the challenges of getting girls to come to school on a regular basis. And, they also spoke about the challenges of getting higher level degrees for themselves which would, in turn, help their students. The most interesting part though was that they were not saying these things to complain or for us to feel bad for them (I don’t even know if the concept of complaining exists in Ethiopia.) They wanted us to understand that were able to achieve success with their students even without any real resources. This helped us understand how much more they could do if they actually had some quality supplies and resources to work with. As they each told their stories and shared their hopes and goals for their schools, there was an excitement to their tone and a spirit from within that assured us that they were doing whatever it would take to help their students and school be successful.

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At each school, after we spoke with the principals and teachers, we got a tour of the classrooms and the resources that were available. My mind was truly blown by the innovation and ingenuity that the teachers used to create resources for their students. In a strange sort of way it almost made me disappointed in myself and all of my teacher friends who regularly complain about the lack of resources in US schools. If these teachers could do so much with so very little, we had no excuses for not making more out of what we have. While we saw innovation in every school we visited there were two specific instances that literally brought tears to my eyes. They were not tears of sadness or even tears of joy; they were tears from overwhelming inspiration. We met one science teacher who showed us his “science lab”. Most anyone from the US who walked into that room would have seen some broken glass, a dusty old microscope, and some woven material and scraps with no seeming purposes. As we asked the teacher to describe what he had in his lab, his face lit up. He explained to us how he used old buttons and twine that he had fashioned into a model of a molecule.


He had also created a modified bunsen burner out of some leather, wire, and scrap materials he had found. He understood that the school could not afford this type of equipment, so he figured out a way to create models for his students to learn from. It was obvious how much pride he took in what he created. It was also obvious what this dedicated teacher could do if we provided him with quality teaching materials.

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The other impressive use of innovation was in the learning resource room at another school. When we arrived there were five teachers copying diagrams and pictures directly out of the limited number of textbooks they had. These freehanded diagrams and pictures were far superior to many of the educational posters and visual aids I have seen in schools in the US. As is typical with Ethiopians, they were extremely humble when we praised their work. I could only imagine how much time they must spend each week creating these materials. I thought about what these teachers would do with their extra time if they didn’t have to spend hours drawing and creating posters and other learning materials.

Roots Ethiopia Ethiopian non profit

This is when the value of Roots Ethiopia’s work truly hit me. By supplying schools with additional, much-needed resources, teachers could spend more time doing what they do best – teaching children. What a simple, but challenging concept in these schools. Giving teachers the resources and the time to effectively teach could have an enormous impact on students’ learning curve. I look forward to focusing the majority of my Roots energy on these ideas and making sure the resources and time have a measurable impact on the students and their schools.

Hygiene and Sanitation Initiatives in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia’s ambitious plan (<—really good article from The World Bank) to end exposure to communicable diseases caused by improper sanitation and hygiene practices in rural areas is something we care deeply about.

Lauren Werner, our Board Member and team photographer also holds an MD from Wake Forest University and an MPH (Master of Public Health) from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is passionate about becoming part of the solution that improves sanitation and hygiene for Ethiopia’s children. 

“I am interested in promoting the clear connection between sanitation and education success. I personally believe sanitation is a better solution to school attendance than food programs, excluding food insecurity times like we have now. I also want to see the maintenance of the latrines become an IGA.” – Lauren Werner

Lauren contributed this valuable overview of what Roots Ethiopia is doing to improve hygiene and sanitation in Ethiopia:

  • Roots Ethiopia works school by school to address sanitation and hygiene needs where we work (nine schools).
  • Roots Ethiopia is partnering with local health educators to understand local health beliefs and behaviors. Change must come from within the communities themselves.
  • Diarrheal illnesses spread quickly in schools due to poor sanitation and hygiene practices. Adequate latrines, a source of clean water, and a well-placed hand washing station are the first steps in prevention of diarrheal illnesses.
  • Our goal is not to achieve ODF (open defecation free) areas, but to support safe and effective hygiene practices that will, in turn, prevent illness so that kids can attend school.
  • Latrine construction and maintenance must be done properly so that they function far into the future. This is one of our major long-term goals that is not always addressed in the World Bank Sponsored or government funded latrines, which are built, but if they fall into disrepair then they are no longer used.
  • Girls are missing school due to inadequate facilities, especially when they are menstruating. Gender-specific latrines can help address this issue so that girls can go to school throughout the month.

Lauren Werner is running the Twin Cities Marathon on October 4th, 2015 to raise money to support Roots Ethiopia’s latrine initiatives in Ethiopia. You can support her “Run For The Potty” fundraiser on Razoo by clicking here: https://www.razoo.com/story/Run-For-The-Potty



To learn more about our hygiene and sanitation plans in Ethiopia, please email us at info@rootsethiopia.org.

Let’s Build Latrines!



Roots Ethiopia Delivers 800 Books to Jajura School

This post is contributed by Lynn Steinberg, Media and Communications Director at Roots Ethiopia.

Back in September, my family and I furiously led a Learning Resource Project for a school in Jajura, Ethiopia. It was a psychotic worldwind of tweeting, overt networking, a wildly successful eBay sale called #Bags4Books, and some really good luck. Mix that with my over the top Type A work personality and somehow $15,000 was raised in under 6 weeks for The Jajura Primary School in Ethiopia. I am STILL catching my breath!

So, what has been done so far? As of early March, over 800 books were delivered to the school! When our Program Director and his local team delivered the books to Jajura they encouraged the ecstatic students to study hard and become “brilliant and moral people.” Check out their faces!!!’

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Then, the school principal registered the books right away as you can see from this awesome photo. I met this principal in person and he is all business. I have no doubt that these books are in great hands!


The Jajura Primary School is a very special place. We thank you for your support in funding this school with what they need to achieve success. Jajura, located in the Hadiya Zone of Ethiopia is a unique community that is filled with bright smiles and progressive attitudes concerning education and female rights. Seriously, check out my post on my personal blog from December! This place is S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Overall, this was a FUN project! My family and I learned a lot about fundraising, eBay’s archaic listing system, and my need to “take a chill pill” when I have a heart led task at hand. I look forward to sharing some more updates after Meghan, the Founder of Roots Ethiopia, returns from her May visit to Ethiopia. I am going to seriously flip out in joy when I see the gender-specific toilet buildings completed. Here is the current bathroom situation in Jajura. I repeat, this is the current bathroom situation in Jajura:

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Consider reading this post from UNICEF that explains why building proper toilet facilities is so INCREDIBLY important in the developing world. Bathroom talk is a very important topic right now. In fact, Ethiopian girls miss 3-5 days of school per month, or 50 days per year, because they lack adequate supplies related to menstruation.

The Jajura Primary School will also receive locally built desks, blackboards, and bookshelves as part of this project! Thanks again for your continued support and contact us for more information about leading a Learning Resource Project in your community.

What Causes Gender Inequality at Rural Ethiopian Schools?

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As a boy, Desta Seyoum lived a traditional rural farming life in the same Ethiopian Kebele as The Duna-Sadicho School. He remembers passing through Duna Sadicho village on his way to Secondary School giving him many chances to witness the needs of the community.

Desta, who now lives in London, just returned from Ethiopia after a prolonged family visit in the region and was able to talk to us more about inequalities in Duna Sadicho, specifically addressing the problems that girls face in the region. He is very worried about gender inequality at Duna Sadicho School, and quickly pointed out the number of girls drops even lower at the secondary school level as girls are unable to pass the required national exam to continue their education.

Desta explains:

“Many girls in the region face challenges of gender inequality that exclude them from school. Extreme household poverty, walking distance to school, inadequate school resources, lack of sanitation facilities, child labor and marriage, and female genital cutting are among obstacles that prevent girls from education. Lack of education means girls forced into informal labor market at an early age. They will never reach their potential to become positive forces in their communities, and remain trapped in a vicious circle of poverty.”

While data seems to show that gender inequality is narrowing at other area schools, the gender gaps remain a problem at Duna Sadicho. Desta feels that the gender makeup at Duna Sadicho may be largely associated with what happens in the school as well as in the community. According to Desta,

“the lower number of girls may have a direct correlation with the poor quality of resources they have in the school. It may also reflect the level of poverty and poor living standards of the community.”

Desta points out that a gender audit may be required to deepen our understanding of girls’ education in the region. But for now, one thing is very clear to Desta,

“providing basic learning resources is imperative so that girls may have an equitable chance of continuing their education.”

By providing school children with essential learning materials, Roots Ethiopia will help rectify the gender inequality at The Duna Sadicho primary school. These basic learning supplies will give girls what they need to stay in school, pass their national exams, have the opportunity to continue education, stand a chance of going to college, securing an employment and eventually becoming significant contributors to their community.

Help Ethiopia by donating to The Duna Sadicho project today! We are 40% of the way there and need your help in taking step one to rectify the gender imbalance at this rural Ethiopian School.

Roots Ethiopia is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working in Africa, specifically helping Southern Ethiopia. Roots Ethiopia supports community identified solutions for job creation and education. 


2012 Grain Drive

In May 2012, Roots Ethiopia visited Hadiya, Kembata, and Tembaro zones to evaluate our programs with Meseret Kristos Church (MKC). We visited Hosanna, Doyogena, Hadero, and Shinshecho church headquarters. During our meetings, in every case, when we asked church leaders to share their concerns about needs in the area, the overwhelming response was hunger.

Hunger impacts so many people in Ethiopia, especially during the time when late rains delay the season’s harvest. Experts suggested that this year the late start of the rain meant the early July harvest would be delayed until late August and early September. Called ‘green hunger’, this time is particularly difficult for the very young, the very old, and anyone suffering from both chronic and acute illnesses. Hunger impacts everything and everyone.

This information put Roots Ethiopia’s Grain Crew 2012 into action. Roots Ethiopia raised $5,156.14 USD in funds for MKC to plan and distribute grains to the neediest and most vulnerable families in their communities. Funds were sent in early June—our donors were quick and compassionate responders!

The grain distribution was completed at five locations in early July. The locations of distribution were Shinshecho, Hadero, Tunto, Bonosha and Gimbichu.


MKC church staff supplied 165 families with enough food to last six weeks per family. The supplies included 50 kilograms of maize, three liters of cooking oil and some produce. The food supply was calculated to last through August, when the harvest is estimated to occur and when additional food resources will be available to families in the region.

Through their ongoing community service in the region, MKC was able to identify the most vulnerable families in the region. Largely, they were women-led households and particularly households without any land to farm.

Roots Ethiopia celebrates Grain Crew 2012 as a great success. Our work is work that is well worth doing.

“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion” – Ethiopian Proverb