As a Canadian, I have often worried about my home country of Ethiopia. Then again, how could I not be worried?
For Canadians, as CBC's great journalist Brian Stewart once said, "Ethiopia is one country that I can never stop worrying about. Nor can the world."
As I embrace my adopted citizenship and build my own foundation as a Canadian, I often reflect if I am doing enough to forward the cause of a country -- a continent -- that I left as a youngster.
The beauty of our unique Canadian citizenship allows us to celebrate our heritage while embracing our new adopted citizenship. As Canada becomes less involved in the affairs of Africa, I hope that is the commitment of the African diaspora in Canada as well as Canadians to continue to commit our citizenship in the betterment of Africa. Are we ever becoming spectators in the transformation of the continent?
Canada's commitment to Africa is our signature in the world and is the way the world still sees Canada as builders of great institutions. Canada and Canadians need to continue to help reduce human misery and make Africa self-sufficient, free and democratic for once and for all.
As most African countries move forward with an agenda of growth and developments, what worries me the most is that Africa's desperate and dire poverty has not diminished one bit. The rich Africans are occupied with being super rich while the vast majority of Africans are busy trying to feed themselves.
The faces of destitute Africans still occupy much of our TV screens here in Canada and war is still part of the African agenda. As for the countless NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization), what is really their role in Africa and how effective are they? Is helping Africa still a ticket to individual wealth and are African charities effective in the long term? How long are we going to exploit African faces in our determination to raise funds that mean little to everyday Africans in Africa?
There are too many questions and no simple answer.
The warriors of my continent are not those that are building the tallest nor the richest buildings in Africa but those that are fighting for real and practical solutions to Africa's dire problems. Take for instance - the work of Dr. Melaku Worede, which has already earned him - the Right Livelihood Award in 1989 -- two years after I left Ethiopia.
Upon completing his education from the University of Nebraska like most of my father's generation, he went back to Ethiopia and became a public servant. He became an advocate for the preservation of genetic diversity with the Plant Genetic Resources Center, becoming its Director at the time of his retirement. When the cause needed him to be active once again he left retirement and started his own foundation, the Seeds of Survival Program of Ethiopia with the support of Canada.
He became a consummate collector of Ethiopia's genetic wealth from total destruction. He discovered how famine, drought and methods of farming are the root causes of its fast disappearance. His group distributed genetic seeds to the local farmers when the land became too dry to produce its own. In the process, he became the architect of the world's premier genetic conservation system.
His effort became a movement as new generations of Ethiopians became plant breeders and geneticists. As one time Unitarian Service Committee of Canada's Program Manager for Ethiopia. David Rain, recently reflected in an article how"he (Dr Worede) developed his pioneer work on a farming-based native seed (land-race) conservation, enhancement and utilization". According to him - "the locally adapted native seeds developed in this way (e.g. durum wheat) have been shown to exceed their high-input counterparts on the average by 10-15% and the original farmers' cultivars by 20-25% in yield".
I hope Dr. Melaku Worede gets to live long enough to see a better Ethiopia and Africa. His efforts was even recently featured in a film - Seeds of Freedom - with Oscar-winning Actor Jeremy Irons as its narrator. He is Africa's true hero and as Canadians - we should be proud that we have part of his great humanitarian journey.
This coming Saturday, Melaku Worede will be in Ottawa to share his success, challenges and raise much needed funds to eloquently help a great cause. He is a worthy candidate to support and his efforts are clearly Canada's success story in Africa.
The event will be held at Sandy Hill Community Center - 250 Somerset St. E. between 6-11 p.m. Tickets are $25 and they can be purchased from USC Canada at 613-234-6827 or via The Solomon Dawit Foundation at 613-884-7487.