First Person

Ethiopia travel diary, part 1: Behind the scenes

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I just got back from an incredible first trip to Africa, where I learned how Oxfam and our partners are helping people overcome drought in southern Ethiopia. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing some travel blogs that I wrote along the way.          
I’m writing tonight from our hotel in Moyale, a dusty border town perched right on the line between southern Ethiopia and Kenya. We’re here accompanying a film crew as they document Oxfam’s drought early warning system (DEWS), a project that’s helping the region’s semi-nomadic people, the Borena, predict and prepare for droughts.  We’re hoping the finished film will draw attention to the fact that it’s the world’s poorest people–like the Borena–who are hit hardest by drought and other effects of climate change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Of course, Moyale isn’t exactly the glamorous place that comes to mind when you think of a film shoot. The town seems to have only one street, our hotel is only a “hotel” in the loosest sense of the word (in that it’s a building with a roof and beds inside), and while we have electricity and running water, we rarely get both at the same time. (You haven’t really woken up until you’ve taken a cold, trickly shower at 5 am, lit only by the pale blue glow of a headlamp.) So far, the highlight of our stay was the night my colleague Selome convinced the hotel restaurant to make something approximating French fries. 

But it’s worth it when Oxfam staffers, film crew, partners, and equipment load ourselves into three trucks for the hour-long drive to the Borena communities where we’re filming our story. This morning, Alan (the producer) and Milton (the cameraman) even strapped themselves and their camera to the top of their truck as it sped along the bumpy dirt roads—ostensibly they wanted to capture the unique landscape as background footage (or b-roll) for the film, but I also think they enjoyed the adrenaline rush.

To give you a glimpse of what the film shoot really looks like, check out a short “behind the scenes” clip that I shot today on my hand-held camera. As you can see, we often attracted a pretty big audience:


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