Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast returned from a July 30 to Aug. 8 visit to Ethiopia pleased with the positive response to projects funded by Canadian Catholics there.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) had launched campaigns to raise funds to avert food crises in both the Sahel Region and the Horn of Africa in recent years. Prendergast said the delegation was formed so Canadian Catholics could see what is being done with their money.
"Ethiopia was considered the safest option and, though CCODP has had involvement there for many years, no one had visited," he said.
Included in the delegation were Valleyfield Bishop Noel Simard, several CCODP staff including executive director Michael Casey and people from the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat.
Prendergast saw a range of projects involving drought recovery rehabilitation and improved agricultural techniques. They also talked to the people who had benefited from the programs.
"Time and again they told us through interpreters of their gratitude and joy at the blessings they are receiving through such projects," he said. "They are quite articulate in telling how their lives have been changed and they give thanks to God in the opening sentences."
"When we would arrive, there would be hand-clapping and singing and the women ululating," the archbishop said.
"They are poor but proud and it is clear our projects do not offend their dignity but affirm it. Our interpreters mentioned that Development and Peace is an agency of the Catholic Church which is pleased to offer these resources to them."
Some of the women had received an "asset" in the form of a goat or other animal that allowed them to participate in the local market days, he said.
Prendergast also reported no clash with Catholic teaching in the projects that involve cooperation among a range of Catholic charities under the Caritas Internationalis umbrella.
The Canadians met with the bishops of Ethiopia who have close ties to the funded programs and want those programs to conform to Catholic teaching, he said.
"The social/moral issue they are most concerned about is female genital mutilation and how to work with the other religious bodies to improve the lot of women in this regard," he said.
Many of the projects the delegation viewed touched on accessibility to water, he said. They visited two water points set up to save women from traveling up to two hours each way to fetch water for home, nutrition and sanitation.
"If it is too far and tiring to get clean water, they sometimes succumb to the temptation to use standing water shared with animals, which may be unsanitary, even contaminated," he said.
Another project involved the creation of a containment pool for rainwater for watering cattle and smaller animals, he said.
They also viewed reforestation and soil conservation projects "that show long-range thinking."
These included terraced landscaping and tree-planting to prevent erosion and mudslides, he said. Trees such as avocados and mangos draw fewer nutrients from the ground, provide shade and bear fruits that enrich the diet.