Visiting Sintayehu Belachew in the Ethiopian mountains of Wof Washa
TREE AID travelled to Wof Washa recently; a 6,000-hectare natural forest. Nestled up in the Amhara highlands, it is home to thousands of families who rely on the trees around them.
When we got out of the car and began to navigate the terrain on foot, it was difficult to imagine anyone being able to survive there. We were 3,000 metres above sea level and the views were breath-taking! But the air was thin, and the land was steep and crumbling.
We met Sintayehu on his small plot of land. He walked us through his orchard of apple trees and pointed out his produce. Sintayehu keeps over half the apples he grows for his wife and five children to eat, he told us. He sells the rest at the market.
After a few minutes, two of Sintayehu’s young daughters came to the orchard. They were inquisitive but shy and watched us from behind their dad. Once he saw our camera, Sintayehu sent them to get changed into their best clothes.
Then he began to tell us his story.
He told us he could not even begin to compare his life before the TREE AID project to his life now.
Before the project, his five children were hungry. They ate the same meal – low in nutrition – over and over again. The whole family shared a small hut with their livestock and had just one set of clothes each.
How TREE AID transformed Sintayehu’s life
But when he joined the TREE AID project, his life changed.
Sintayheu received apple tree seedlings and the tools he needed to get started. He received training in apple tree management and visited nearby apple tree orchards for advice.
An apple a day!
It was during one of these visits that an encouraging fellow farmer told him, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” At first, he had no idea what this phrase would end up meaning to him. But as he reflected on that day, his passion and love for his livelihood showed in his expression. He explained that, for him, apples don’t just mean a tasty snack, full of nutrients. They mean an income clothes and education. They mean a rounded diet for the children, keeping them from falling ill.
Today, Sintayehu has over seventeen apple trees in his orchard. He spent some of the money he’s made from the apples on a bee hive, and now he sells honey too.
A new home
With his income he has built a new home for his family, it is simple but comfortable, and they no longer have to share with their animals. He has bought them more clothes so they can get changed when they go to gatherings. And they are able to eat nutritious diets as there are always vegetables available.
We followed Sintayehu through a small, muddy yard. His neighbour was busy chopping fallen wood and a newborn lamb lay with its mother. He told us the lamb had been born the day before our visit.
Outside the house, his wife and children gathered around him, ready for their family photo. As they posed, he told us he doesn’t have the words to thank the people in the UK who have made this project possible. Above all, he said the project had made it easier to care for his children. They now have food, education and clothes.
In the future, he hopes to be able to access a bigger market closer to town. He knows his apples and honey would make more money there. More money could pay for his children to stay in school for further education.
Given the lack of opportunity and choice, it was incredible to see how far Sintayehu and his family had come. His determination and faith were truly inspiring.
As we sat in their home and drank coffee, the neighbours joined us and Sintayehu’s wife offered them corn. Watching them all together, it was hard to imagine a stronger family