GAMO PROJECT – Improvements for Eight Villages
Omo Valley, Ethiopia
Gamo G-8 Democracy Project
The Inti Raymi Fund provided financial support for a variety of self-help projects within eight distinct villages of the Gamo Peoples in Omo Valley, Ethiopia. In the very remote, high altitude cloud forests of the Omo Valley, live the wonderful Gamo Peoples, rich in culture and tradition. We were first introduced to these exotic peoples, through Jacque Macharia – Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organization known as MPIDO. We met Jacque during our recent attendance at the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples in New York.
On this Gamo Project, the Inti Raymi Fund brought along the following Team: Chaski, Head Director of Inti Raymi Fund, Jacque Macharia of Masai descent from Kenya, Mikius Hailu of Ethiopia, Nicole Marsh of the USA, and Kantia of Gamo descent for translation.
Our personal observation was that the entire region appeared so heavily dependent upon foreign aid. They showed no sign of self-starting determination. This difficulty in making decisions is caused by a dependent relationship with foreign aid organizations and their lack of trust or interest in trying to figure out what the community they are intending to help actually want. Foreign aid comes in to help with its own agenda: they have a “to do” list but usually don’t bother asking the community what they want or need. This is not a criticism of the local peoples, but a direct commentary on the “traditional western style charity model, which we believe is broken”…there is no respect or dignity in this model.
During our visit to the Omo Valley region, we went to see approximately five of the eighty villages which all belong to the same Gamo Community. We visited other “NGO” or non-governmental organizations and public charity projects currently underway, farms and ranches, local community villages, local coops and stores, a textile factory, multiple homes, false banana production, etc. The Gamo Peoples were gracious with their hospitality, allowing us an inside look at what life is like in their villages. They shared their local foods, songs, dance and folk stories in front of the fire, as well as their tribal brew; it was memorable to be sure.
Inti Raymi Fund and the Gamo Peoples
After multiple discussions with the approximate 250300 attendees the courtyard meetings, it was determined by the community that eight separate projects would be better than one collective project. Since their self-determination was respected, we proceeded towards the specifics of their requests. The following is a brief summary of the events as they unfolded in the last few days of our trip:
- We asked, “How can we Help?
- Each Village assembled to discuss their community needs (see below).
- Each Village presented their projects for implementation.
- Each Village democratically elected 5 trustees from within, whom could be trusted to guard the money for each project after distribution.
- The Inti Raymi Fund team headed by Chaski determined during this democratic (and slightly chaotic selection) process, the trustee groups would have a female majority (3of 5). These committees of five would later be involved, not only as guardians and trustees, but also as project committee leaders in the villages of the Gamo Peoples in Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
Each of the eight communities opened bank accounts for each committee member to keep the money for these projects. They opened their accounts in the local branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia. Later in the process we learned of the limitation of three signors on new saving accounts at the bank. The decision was made to have the three signors, on all eight accounts, be the three elected women within each community.
We found that every trustee was so proud to see their name on a bank account, that it becomes clearly evident in the photographs taken to document this journey. Treated with respect and dignity, the Gamo Peoples found it was easy to determine their own path and future. Far greater than what the Gamo elect for their passion projects, is their inalienable right to determine what to do. We have left the decision up to them, with the funds guarded by their democratically elected trustees.
Good luck Gamo, we know you will make the best decisions for yourselves.
The Inti Raymi Fund became aware of the Arhuacos Peoples while attending the World Conference of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Inti Raymi Fund provided a $25,000 Grant into Arhuacos Community for the above aforementioned Human Rights Project.
Start Date: August, 2013
Completion Date: YE, 2013
Funded so far: $25,000 USD
Total Project: $25,000 USD
Lives Affected: 400
Driver, Mikias, Jacque, Kantia, Nikki & Chimu