Staff members traveled to Ethiopia in January and evaluated the Women in Agriculture (WIA) projects set up at three universities.
During the trip, Melekte Truneh, the Director of Financial Services for AREC, and Taryn Devereux, Faculty Specialist in AREC, met with partner university administrators and faculty members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Truneh met with the respective finance directors for the program and worked on strengthening their finance reporting.
“It had been a year since the last time I had been there,” said Devereux. “We set up budget reporting a year ago, now we see new challenges and we are working together to find solutions.”
The University of Maryland works with Wolkite University, Debre Berhan University and Bahir Dar University to implement the WIA program in Ethiopia. The University of Maryland and the three colleges have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which is a working agreement between the institutions.
Every few months, the universities submit program and financial reports in exchange for the next installment of funds.The Rotary Club International funds the program, with support from the College Park chapter. The chapter featured the progam in the March issue of the newsletter The Cogitator.
In Ethiopia, WIA focuses on integrating fish farming systems and introducing new chicken breeds to local women who sell the eggs in their communities, among other low-input agricultural activities.
“Women use their own cash to set up their chicken coops, then the project provides the chickens and training,” said Devereux. “It is a cost share.”
During the visit, each university also presented on the progress of their projects. The group visited Debre Berhan University and saw demonstrations and field sites the college had set up in women’s homes in the community.
“I think there have been challenges, funding is small, there’s no in-country project manager so everyone shares responsibilities and the universities are doing their best,” said Devereux.
Women in Agriculture (WIA) is a program within the University of Maryland, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC), that aims to “...prepare female extension educators and leaders to work with poor or vulnerable women so as to improve family food security,” according to their website.
In Ethiopia, food insecurity is a barrier to development, with low land productivity and subsequently low income. The goal of the program is to strengthen the abilities of higher education institutions in Ethiopia to improve family food security and livelihood through community service outreach programs for women, according to WIA’s website.
It is also a requirement in Ethiopia for faculty members at universities to dedicate 25 percent of their time to community outreach, according to WIA.
The program is set to end in Ethiopia next year. WIA hopes to replicate the program in another developing country, possibly in Zambia or Somaliland. They are currently applying for additional grants and are interested in further collaborations.