Chapter 5. Rural Countryside - Michael McCaskey Photography

Heading north toward the resort town of Bahar Dar, we passed through the fertile land of the highland plateau. Forty years earlier, I had seen the farmers use the same scratch plows that farmers had been using for hundreds of years.

I was not surprised, although a little disappointed, to see the same farming methods still being used.

The image of Ethiopia, as perpetually famine-struck is misleading to say the least. With updated methods and adding dams and reservoirs for dependable sources of water, Ethiopia could produce bountiful crops. In fact, farmers enjoyed quite a good harvest this year. We saw the countryside dotted with haystacks and granaries.

One of the main reasons for driving six to eight hours to Bahar Dar is to travel through the Blue Nile gorge.

Baboons were alert to our passing and on the lookout for food.

In 2008 the Japanese built a new bridge to speed travel through the gorge.

Since most of the people live more than a day’s walk from a major road, people walked for miles to bring goods to market. Eleven million donkeys are an essential means for transporting goods. An Ethiopian tale says that long ago the donkeys complained of their hard, burdensome life, and they decided to send a delegation to God to ask for some relief. That is why when you see donkeys encounter each other today, they always bring their muzzles together and whisper. They are asking, “Have you seen or heard anything of our delegation? Is there any news?”

Interestingly, the father of one of my former students had been in the business of providing donkeys to transport goods. As trucks and roads appeared, he started to move into the trucking business. His son, Lakew, saw this was clearly the future and grew the business into the prosperous transportation firm it is today.

All this carrying and transporting has a marketplace as its destination. In the rural areas, the bulk of buying and selling centers on grains, spices, clothing, and plastic bottles and containers which are essential for carrying water.

In a bigger town like Bahar Dar, the market is more extensive in area and in goods offered. In addition to what the small village offers, one can buy horses and sheep.

You can also find a sewing stand that will tailor for you on the spot. Fabrics change from hand woven to a wide variety of machine-woven goods. Here a merchant with his stall of lustrous fabrics indulges us and agrees to a short posing session.

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