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Fegegta Lemma Kebret-יוני 2023


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קהילת סיד-ישראל מורכבת מארגונים ומאנשי ונשות מקצוע במגוון תחומים הקשורים לפיתוח בינ"ל וסיוע הומניטרי. בואו נכיר את חברי הקהילה ונלמד מהעשייה שלהם ברחבי העולם.

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In this Month’s SID-Spot, SID-Israel’s Digital and social media Director, Shir Efrat, sat down for an interview with Fegegta Lemma Kebret, JDC’s Country Director for Ethiopia, to discuss her impactful work in the country. Through innovative nonsectarian projects in agriculture, medicine, and women's economic and social empowerment, Fegegta and her team have been instrumental in bringing transformative change for vulnerable communities.


Fegegta was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where she experienced limited exposure to global affairs due to the country's political climate at the time. However, her eyes were opened when her family moved to Zambia and she attended an international school, meeting people from diverse backgrounds. This experience ignited a passion within her to create positive change in Ethiopia.


After completing her education abroad, Fegegta felt compelled to return to Ethiopia and utilize her knowledge and skills for the betterment of her country. She joined various agricultural programs and organizations, specifically focusing on small-holder farmers who form a significant portion (80%) of the Ethiopian population. In 2016, she became involved in a new JDC initiative called "TOV” or – Tikkun Olam Ventures, which leverages Jewish philanthropy and Israeli agricultural technology to benefit Ethiopian farmers.


TOV helps these farmers develop their businesses by accessing cutting-edge Israeli agricultural technologies, training, access to financing, and market reach for their crops. Fegegta played a vital role as Program Director, witnessing the tangible impact it had on hundreds of farmers' lives including improved livelihoods, acquiring more land, constructing better homes, and providing better education and healthcare for their families.


Among other projects in Ethiopia, JDC has initiated work with women's cooperatives, like the "Imagine More" initiative, empowering women through entrepreneurship and financial training. Fegegta emphasized "I always say that if you empower women, you are investing in the current and future generation which will bring about an economic transformation in the country. This is why I believe it is important to empower women. They invest in their children and their families to better their lives." Imagine More provides women with access to clean cooking stoves which are more cost effective, eco friendly and better for these women's health since they produce significantly less smoke than coal. These women are provided with financial business training to ensure that they have the tools to establish their own businesses (small coffee and snack shops).


Another program Fegegta is proud of is JDC Ethiopia’s medical care program targeting spine injuries around rural Ethiopia. The “Spine Program”, was founded and built by Dr. Rick Hodes, JDC’s renowned medical director in Ethiopia. It offers medical care and surgeries for spinal injuries, improving mobility and quality of life for those injured or with spine and heart conditions.


Despite the remarkable progress made, Fegegta acknowledged the challenges inherent in her work and her efforts to overcome them. These include ensuring innovative tech solutions if equipment or goods cannot be imported into the country and that local women, often hindered from full participation in the economy, can join in the programs and enlist their husbands to be supportive of these efforts.


Collaboration has been at the heart of Fegegta’s work and she recognizes the value of partnerships, noting the importance of working with organizations that bring complementary expertise to the table. Notably, JDC has partnered with Israeli NGOs, such as CultivAid and FairPlanet, to deliver training on technology usage and maintenance, and with Yozmot Atid on the Imagine More project. Fegegta notes that collaborations are essential for the sustainability and long-term success of their programs.


“I would like to further strengthen the partnership with all these different organizations that are engaged in development work. I think we should continue to work together and support each other, scale up our work as much as we can, especially in countries like Ethiopia, where there is a huge need in every sector, she says. “I believe it is crucial to design projects that can be sustainable and scalable so vulnerable communities can establish their own income generating activities and be able to emerge from poverty on their own.


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