Project Update

What’s in a Name?

Worku in class

Worku in a GTLI Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy class

Worku learning to write her name

Worku learning to write her name

Where we work in Ethiopia, in the South Omo Zone, tribal traditions do not value education, and education for women, especially, is frowned upon.

But how do you vote, how do you access government health services, and how do you negotiate fair prices at market if you can’t read, write, or count?

When communities ask us to work with them, we offer integrated literacy and livelihood classes for men and women. This is life changing for the women as they acquire the skills, know-how, and confidence to negotiate with men and engage in a small business.

Their new ability to self-advocate then leads to better social standing: the women are recognized for their new knowledge and skills, and they participate more in community decision-making and governance.

What’s in a name? A whole new world of opportunity!

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Marti MartindaleWhat’s in a Name?

Before and After Tells the Story

Ola community wants water access point

Before: The Ola community used this water access for their drinking water

These before and after pictures tell a success story of two communities, Ola and Shalla, in the BenaTsemay region of the South Omo Zone, Ethiopia.

A natural spring in Ola, pictured here, supplied the community with water. But people and livestock had to climb into this traditional water source, polluting the water and contributing to extremely high rates of diarrhea and other water-borne disease.

Ola sits at the top of a mountain. At the bottom of that mountain is the community of Shalla, whose only access to water was a 25 kilometers walk away. Watering their livestock took days: one day walking to the well, one day watering, a third day walking home, and a fourth day resting before starting the process again.

The government had previously built a pipeline and reservoir to divert water from the Ola spring at the top of the mountain down to the lower elevation Shalla community. But as can happen when there is a lack of communication between communities sharing a resource, the pipeline became damaged and no one had the resources or know-how to fix it.

After: Both Ola and Shalla communities now have improved water points providing plenty of clean water

The government asked GTLI to help. We worked with both communities, employing our Community-Based Learning in Action   process (CBLA) and our technical expertise. We determined we could refurbish the Ola spring, providing a clean access point for people and a separate access point for livestock. We repaired the pipeline to the Shalla community and constructed two access points for both people and livestock. The community Water Sanitation Committees were  trained in preventative maintenance of the pipe line, spring, reservoir, and water points to ensure the communities can handle any future problems.

Now the communities at the top of the mountain and the bottom have access to clean water. And they can water their livestock without contaminating the people’s water supply. We expected the Shalla water points would help the 500 people in that community. But it has turned out that more than 2,000 people from neighboring communities now use the water points. The community is managing the water points and keeping the water clean, making this a success story for the entire area.

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Marti MartindaleBefore and After Tells the Story

GTLI Presenting at PHE Conference in Kisumu, Kenya


PHE ConferenceGTLI Executive Director Lori Pappas is presenting at the Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Regional Conference September 9-10, 2015 at the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu Kenya.

Her paper, titled Integration + Innovation Transformed Adverse Gender and Cultural Norms, highlights the GTLI family planning and reproductive health initiative in the BenaTsemay and Dasenech communities. This innovative approach transformed the cultural belief that large families mean wealth into healthy families mean wealth, by leveraging their traditional desire to have enough children to work. Read more here.

Hosted by the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) in collaboration with the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat, EAC Partner States, National PHE Networks, PHE Ethiopia Consortium and PHE Madagascar Network, the conference is intended to increase the awareness of and support for integrated solutions to population and environmental challenges in Africa.

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Marti MartindaleGTLI Presenting at PHE Conference in Kisumu, Kenya

These Women Have a Problem

GTLI Intergrated Vocaitonal Functional Literacy class

Wonga Bayno women learning to write and read

The women of the Wonga Bayno and Minogelti communities in the Hamar region of the South Omo Zone, Ethiopia have inspired us from the day we first met them. They work long hours to provide water and food for their families, and they want to do so much more.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. When all of a woman’s time and energy is spent hauling water by foot and grinding grain by hand, that is all she is valued for. Under those conditions how can she help her community climb out the endless reliance on emergency water and food aid?

In July more than 80 women registered for our adult Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy (IFVL) classes in Wonga Bayno and Minogelti. And this tremendous response from the women even though they were still walking long distances for water while waiting for their local wells to be repaired.

With our Economic Empowerment of Women projects we are helping to create and support women cooperatives that operate grinding mills and trading centers, giving all of the women in those communities more productive time.

Wonga Bayno women's cooperative trading center

Practicing using the scale at the trading center

The women in our IFVL classes are learning that they can solve problems. They are learning tangible skills to earn money and raise food, and they are gaining the confidence to advocate for themselves, their families, and their communities.

By working together these women are beginning to transform their communities.

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Marti MartindaleThese Women Have a Problem

Making emergency responses stick

In November of 2014 Dasenech and Nyangatom communities, where more than 60,000 people live, were devastated by back-to-back floods of the Omo River that damaged and destroyed their water points. With the support of our partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC), we responded to this crisis with an emergency clean water project. [Read more about this project here.]

As this project nears completion we are happy to report that we have refurbished 16 wells, repaired two pipelines that supply fresh water, and repaired two roof catchments used for harvesting rainwater.

But our work involves more than providing emergency access to water. In this project, as in all of our projects, we built sustainability into the implementation. The 24,296 people in the communities served by this project are now empowered to self-monitor and self-manage their now functioning water points, keeping them clean and functioning into the future and ensuring sustainability. This is vital in an area where working wells are otherwise likely to breakdown or be contaminated within six months of installation.

community mapping

Community mapping: Everyone helps create a physical map of the area

How do we build in sustainability? By participating in our Community Based Learning in Action (CBLA) activities, communities discover through a dramatic mapping exercise how their traditional practice of open-field defecation impacts the water that they drink. This session “triggers” behavior change—motivating people to practice new hygiene behaviors and to construct and use pit latrines.


Nyangatom WatSanCo members with new uniforms and tools

As part of this project we helped establish new or revitalize existing community-based Water Sanitation Committees in each of the participating Dasenech and Nyangatom communities. These WatSanCo are critical to maintaining the community’s clean water supply. They assume the responsibility for maintaining the well, monitoring its surrounding defecation free zone, and fencing the pump to protect it from damage by livestock. Each committee has equal representation of men and women, ensuring that the all community members are involved in the process. The project supplied every WatSanCo with working tools for preventative maintenance and coveralls and gloves for each committee member.

Nana Lomokuriya

Nana Lomokuriya collects funds for water point spare parts in Dasenech

The government Water, Energy & Mines office conducted the theoretical training, which we supported with additional hands-on, practical training. The five-day training sessions covered well preventative maintenance, water site protection (fencing the well and maintaining the defection-free zone), and water fee collection so the community has the funds for futures spare part purchases.

This project shows how we build sustainability into GTLI emergency water projects. With training, tools, and supplies these local WatSanCo are now empowered to maintain their access to clean water and handle future challenges.

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Marti MartindaleMaking emergency responses stick

Moringa – the wonder food


Thousands of morgina trees await a 12 hour nighttime journey to their planting site

Moringa, moringa, and more moringa! Several years ago, Lori discovered the nutritional value of moringa (moringa stenopetala Bak.f.) and started to add it to her morning oatmeal and tea. Her white hair is already turning brown (just kidding!). Seriously, during the past few years, the moringa plant has gained global recognition as a wonder plant—used as a highly nutritious food source, for water purification, to replenish fragile environments, and even as a traditional medicine. The moringa leaflets and roots are commonly believed to reduce bacterial growth, blood pressure, and cholesterol. The moringa tree is drought tolerant, easy to cultivate and harvest, and is indigenous to Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.

Thanks to our partners the Horn of Africa Regional Environment Center & Network (HoA-RECN) and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), 40,000 moringa trees have been delivered to the most vulnerable Hamar and Dasenech families—another 95,000 moringa trees will be delivered this summer. Not an easy task in South Omo Zone, when you have to deal with flooding, rain, and transporting fragile seedlings in hot temperatures over difficult roads. It is a complicated process to find the right number of moringa trees at the right age that are healthy exactly when you need them. We can only plant during the very short rainy season or where there is adequate irrigation.

More than 27,000 vulnerable people, members of the Hamar and the Dasenech tribes, are learning to plant, grow, eat, and sell moringa. They are enthusiastic and want to learn everything about the plant—how to cook it, how to use it to purify their water, how to help them feel better, and how to cultivate and harvest it. And, because moringa is very fast-growing, some enterprising new farmers are already earning money by selling their excess in the market.

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Marti MartindaleMoringa – the wonder food

Hamar women visit Minnesota

Rotary District 5580 Conference in Duluth

Our wonderful Duluth 25 Rotary friends helped two of our star Hamar women, Dobi Oyita and Gulo Bola, travel to Minnesota be surprise guest speakers at the District 5580 Duluth Conference in May. Gulo and Dobi shared stories of their lives and thanked the Rotarians for refurbishing five water wells in BenaTsemay and for supporting the orphans currently under GTLI’s care.

Lori Pappas looks on proudly as translator Yehualashet helps Gulo and Dobi tell their story to the Rotarians at the District 5580 Conference in May


The Rotarians enjoyed hearing from Gulo and Dobi how projects they supported have helped the communities

Meeting With Old Friends…

It was a special treat for Gulo and Dobi to meet GTLI’s Minnesota and Wisconsin supporters. We had a lovely gathering at Lori Pappas’ house where the women shared their reflections on the things they had observed during their U.S. travels. They now truly understand the importance of learning and have pledged to become Ambassadors of Education. Dobi amazed the group of friends when she stated, “Before I met you, I only felt responsible for my family and community. Now, I realize that you also are my community, and I return home holding your well-being in my thoughts and in my heart!


Dobi and Gulo were delighted to meet GTLI supporters

…And New Friends

Minnesota women, eager to learn how to support women on the other side of the world in their quest to feed their families and help their communities, gathered at the Kitchen in the Market in Minneapolis to meet Gulo and Dobe, Hamar women in transition to leadership. Gulo described the determination to learn of the members of the Minogelti Women’s Cooperative and how that has enabled them to sustainably operate their grinding mill and operate their rural trading center.

Gulo reported that, “because we now are the ones who are making life easier for our entire kebele of 4,000 people, the men respect us. I am often asked to participate in decision-making that affects everyone. Previously, no women was ever asked for her opinion.”

Gulo speaking with Minnesota women at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis

Dakota County Technical College

Gulo and Dobi were invited to speak with students and faculty of Dakota County Technical College, hosted by the Multicultural Student Leadership Association. As the women shared their experiences and talked about  the GTLI literacy initiatives, the students realized how similar Gulo and Dobi’s goals are to their own despite the differences in their respective environments. Gulo and Dobi shared how learning Amharic, the national language, and gaining basic arithmetic skills instantly elevates the status of a woman. A Hamar woman able to communicate in Amharic and perform basic record-keeping earns the respect of her community.

Lori shared that GTLI initiatives are successful because we pay very close attention to the way people think and the influences of their culture. We make sure that our programming reinforces the desires of the people. During February – April, 2015, 154 adults (83 women and 71 men) graduated from our Integrated Functional Vocational Literacy schools, conducted in eight communities, exceeding expectations.

The sentiment expressed frequently by female IFVL participants: “We are gaining confidence now that we are equal to men because in the former time, men and women never sit together but in the IFVL class, we are all treated as equals. This is making it much easier for us to participate as equals in other community meetings. Plus, we have increased knowledge of different things, which gives us more respect.

Dakota County Technical College students and faculty with Dobi and Gulo


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Marti MartindaleHamar women visit Minnesota

Innovation…with donkeys?

One of our latest innovations is creating a lot of buzz: donkey ambulances! These “donkulances” (so named by GTLI friend and supporter Dr. William Himango) are specially constructed metal carts designed to transport pregnant mothers. They are outfitted with a canvas top, removable litter and mattress, and animal-friendly harasses. Slow and unconventional? Yes, but they are community-owned and community-operated and are always available. Previously a pregnant mother would either have to be carried by litter or walk one or two days to the nearest health facility.

GTLI Donkey Ambulance

GTLI Donkey Ambulance


We first introduced donkey ambulances in Dasenech, and after a few months the results are encouraging.

  • A trip made by a donkey ambulance can turn a multiple day walk into a six hour ride.
  • Within the first two weeks, pregnant Dasenech used the donkey ambulances seven times.
  • Patients pay what they can for the service, usually 5¢ to 20¢, which is used for donkey care.

Community acceptance of the donkey ambulances has been even better than expected. The Dasenech communities love the freedom and ease of transportation the donkey ambulances provide, allowing them far easier access to government health facilities.

As a community member states:

We like the donkey ambulance, which is why we constructed and prepared the village roads by hand. Before the donkey ambulance, we had to pay more than 2,000 birr in cows and goats to transport a patient or pregnant women to the health center. Now our community has decided each transported person must pay 50 birr. Thank you, GTLI (and APC) for saving our life and money.


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Marti MartindaleInnovation…with donkeys?