Voices & Views

There Are A Wealth of Stories To Be Told, Says Deputy Director General


While visiting Resilience and Food Security related projects in Ethiopia last month, Marcus Cornaro, Deputy Director General of EuropeAid, was so struck by the people he met, and their stories of challenge and success, that he used his smartphone to film and document what was happening around him.

Last month, in Africa on a busy and broad agenda that involved political and African Union matters, Marcus Cornaro, Deputy Director General of EuropeAid, was keen to get hands-on exposure to projects which correlate and link around the major Directorate General policy themes of Food Security and Resilience. 

He was able to visit three very different projects in Ethiopia. “They all converged to one broader message,” he said in his Brussels office this week, “namely that Resilience, the consistent building up of household assets and household security, is worth our collective effort.” 

Mr Cornaro chose to travel in a small team, accompanied by Delegation and local project staff, and specifically without press.  But upon understanding the challenges of the projects, and seeing the magnificent scenery in Ethiopia, Mr Cornaro reached for his smartphone.

“The reflex was instantaneous - without any previous experience I grabbed my iPhone and took a few shots,“ he explained. “Initially the colleagues that I interviewed were a bit nervous and taken aback, but as we did two or three of these interviews against different backdrops, everyone got excited.”

First, Mr Cornaro visited the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) of Ethiopia, a multi donor Trust Fund, which works in hand with the Ethiopian government, and is mainly based on cash- for- work initiatives. The European Commission (EC) is one of the major financial contributors to the programme, so far committing € 241 million from various instruments including the EDF and the EU Food Facility.

“It has managed to also reach out to an impressive number of beneficiaries,” said Mr Cornaro.   “I myself heard the very credible evidence that after two to three years, about a third of these families graduate from the programme saying, thanks, we have re-established the basics and we can fend on our own. “

In a remote village in the southern highlands, next Mr Cornaro met people from the Konso culture who have been practicing Resilience measures for over 300 years.  

“They are doing very imaginative, intensive productive capacity, very much the resilient aspect we are looking for in terms of household security, the village community and also the adaptation capacity, “ said Mr Cornaro. 

One farmer whom he interviewed showed him the working structures of Konso culture irrigation methods, and that, in response to population pressure, the villagers had been able to expand the irrigative capacity, and practice crop diversification through the EC funded Konso Culture, Best Practices and Promotion project

Mr Cornaro was impressed by the cross fertilisation of ideas relating to Resilience. “Konso was very much a good reference point that there is good capacity that we can still capture, even in the remotest parts of Africa, and make a good and best practice out of that.” 

The final project on the agenda was The Sustainable Productive Rural Capacity Building Project for the Rural Poor in six weredas of SNNP Region , implemented by the NGO VITA

“With not too much ado, they were quite able to make a significant difference in overcoming first initial drought, and then also making quite a large area drought resilient,” said Mr Cornaro.  Farmers involved in the project gathered to explain to Mr Cornaro how they had built an irrigation bridge to enable a large number of house holds to irrigate over 400 additional hectares. Combined with crop diversification, and with marketing assistance, they have started to market produce from this land not only locally, but also as far as Dubai.

Mr Cornaro’s video footage provides an intimate and fact-filled viewpoint of a project visit, and it is now being used to illustrate project profiles and reports on capacity4dev.eu. 

“The main message is that I could show that even as a generalist, a newcomer, it would have been a pity not to try at least - even in an amateurish way - to capture some of the story and some of the moment. We have superb stories to tell,“ he added. 

You can watch Mr Cornaro's project visit videos on their relevant project pages in the Public Group on Food and Nutrition Security:

Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) of Ethiopia  

Konso Culture, Best Practices and Promotion project 

The Sustainable Productive Rural Capacity Building Project for the Rural Poor in six weredas of SNNP Region

On your next field trip, are you planning to capture important moments, views and testimonies on video? It is easy to upload video to capacity4dev.eu - contact the Coordination Team for details and advice.

This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Marcus Cornaro, Xavier Marchal, Denis Thieulin, Laura Gualdiwith help from Stina Soewarta, and support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.

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