Harun and his wife have two lovely daughters, Destro age 15 and Misro age 8. The girls both attend school in the village and work with their parents to farm their land. In the past, Harun’s family farmed maize, sourgum, chat and wheat, in a good year. It has been nearly twenty years since Harun’s family had enough to eat year-round; a good year has not happened in a long time. Drought has devastated much of the Horn of Africa, including this remote region of Ethiopia. In Somalia, a famine has been declared for the first time in decades. For Harun’s family, recent years have proven more than they could bear. Four years ago Harun was forced to sell the few cattle he had in order to buy food between harvests.
Harun explained that during a normal dry season, when whatever crop has survived is being harvested, Harun’s family has as many as three meals per day. As the months move into replanting and the rains fail again and again, his family is reduced to two and sometimes one meal per day. He and his wife eat the least to be sure that their daughters have what they need. Sitting on a burlap sack under a shade tree, Harun’s eyes look tired and sad; his frustration is palpable.
The conversation moves naturally from the problems his family faces today into dreams of a better future. Yet, as I begin down this line of questions I cannot help but feel a pang of sadness for the weight of challenges that 13 million people are feeling today in the Horn of Africa – people just like Harun.
Without hestitation, Harun shared that his greatest hope is that the rains will return. His answer seemed so simple, yet when I asked him what his life would be like if his dream came true he smiled and started by saying that he would be “the richest man in the world” and that he would send his daughters all the way to college. He explained that he would start by expanding the village school to go through post-secondary school so that his daughters would not have to live in another town to attend grades 8-10. He said that without that, he would have to rent a second home 10 km away near the high school, which he cannot afford to do.
Harun interjects as we begin to wrap up our conversation that he also wants to help others in his village, if only he had the means to do so. The sadness of this harsh reality did not lift from my consciousness as we spoke, yet sitting next to the sadness blossomed the feeling that hope is a beautiful thing and something worth cultivating. I cannot solve Harun’s chronic food insecurity, but I can do my part in this work and that is an honor. That day I interviewed 15 farmers who, like Harun, recieve emergency food aid from CARE. I saw passion and pain in each of their eyes. They were grateful to be heard and I am forever humbled to have had the chance to listen.
So, Haron and I sat together under the shady tree in the village of Mumed and explored a life of possibilities and hope.