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.”

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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A Peek Inside our Meeting in Angecha, Ethiopia

As soon as we walked into our meeting with Sentayu and Tamesgen, the Roots Ethiopia Community Facilitators in Angecha, Ethiopia, we could sense the leadership skills and dedication to our program. These two men manage the 10 School Sponsorships and 15 IGA’s that are currently being supported by Roots Ethiopia.

Both men recently traveled to Hosanna for Program Training. Sentayu said;

“I learned many skills. Mostly skills related to learning to create jobs and setting expectations for the IGA recipients. I also learned how to face challenges and manage these businesses properly.”

Sentayu leads the Roots Ethiopia Program in Angecha, Ethiopia

Sentayu spoke at length about the IGA recipients in Angecha. He feels that they are all moving in the right direction and showed us three different bank books that recipients are using to save money. All are making monthly deposits and excited to have learned the skills needed to save money.

One of the bank books being used by an IGA recipient

Tamesgen updated us about the recent IGA training that was given to all of our recipients:

“Most of the people in the Angecha IGA Program had no business knowledge or skills before coming to the training. Now they have learned how to generate income, manage a business, and save money.”

Tamesgen plays a major role in supporting our work

In Angecha, corn, potatoes, and kidney beans have failed. At this point, they are hopeful that barley and teff will be harvested successfully in the area.

Sentayu reported that nutritional support has already been distributed to the families of our school sponsored children. Grains and cooking oil have been given to each family according to family size. He thinks that this will be sufficient to sustain them during the current nutritional crisis.

As of today, all 126 of Roots Ethiopia sponsored students and their families have received grain and cooking oil to support stressed nutritional needs. Our next initiative will involve food relief in a remote, drought-stricken village in Hadiya, Ethiopia. We are dialed in deeply to the nutritional needs of each community. Your support helps Ethiopian families sustain themselves during this critical time.

Finally, we were able to inform Sentayu and Tamesgen about Roots Ethiopia’s plan to fund a Learning Resource Project in Angecha. They were honored to add this Program and are committed to its success. Our Program Director has worked with the local woreda leadership to identify a school in the region. Community and school leaders are working on the proposal and we are eager to share it with you!

As you plan your end of year donations, please support Roots Ethiopia with a monthly recurring donation. Your end of year giving continues to give life to community-led programs in Ethiopia.

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!



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