I just got back from my first trip to Africa, where I learned how Oxfam and our partners are helping people overcome drought in southern Ethiopia. This post continues a series of blogs that I wrote along the way.
Today we drove to the place at the end of the road.
I’d tell you where we were, but I don’t know exactly. Somewhere in the Liben region of southern Ethiopia. But when I pull out the creased, dusty map to locate myself, I find only white space, the blank territory of the most remote place I’ve ever experienced.
I’d tell you the name of the road, but it doesn’t have one; those who live here just call it “the road”. The vision of community leaders, this road was hand-built by local people with support from Oxfam’s partner the Liben Pastoralist Development Association. Now that it exists, the 600 households in Malka Haloye—a remote community long cut off by its sheer distance across difficult terrain—can access services like schools, markets, and medical care.
Even in our Land Rover, it took two hours to travel these 45 kilometers. The drought-stricken landscape made me think of Mars, or maybe the moon: red earth, gray stones, and the bent filaments of bare white trees. A choking hot dust swirled through the air, even with the windows rolled tight shut. Dry branches scraped the edges of the car with a snapping sound like breaking bones.
And the bouncing… let’s just say this road isn’t for those prone to motion sickness, as you can see from the above video.
But just when you think the road can’t get any steeper, or the terrain any more forbidding, you arrive at Malka Haloye. It’s a cluster of plowed fields and small earth huts along the banks of the Dawa River, surrounded by leafy trees that draw an unexpected stripe of green across the harsh terrain. As we pulled over at last, I realized this was the first time all day that I’d seen living, flowing water.
It was a welcome sight. And it reminded me that, for those 600 households, this place is home—even if it’s a long road to get here.