preparing for ethiopia (or thoughts on food & agriculture)


A day trip to New Orleans for a quick speaking gig this past weekend signified my last bit of travel before heading to Ethiopia with the ONE Campaign.  While I've traveled with ONE before (last year's trip to Kenya), this time is different:  instead of being one of the ONE Mom bloggers on this trip, I'm to be the supporting photographer.

Even though I think I know my way around a camera, given this new role, I'm feeling the heat:  last year, as one of the bloggers, I was simply responsible for photographing what I saw for my own blog; this year, I'm photographing for other people.  As a result, there's considerable pressure to up my game.

So for the next five weeks, I'm going to be working on getting my head and my skills in the proper place to hopefully do a decent job.  This means learning everything that I can about Ethiopia before I leave, but it also means studying the work of some of my favourite photographers for inspiration (including renowned photographer Steve McCurry, and the amazing Morgana Wingard, who was actually the staff photographer for ONE last year when we went to Kenya).  And finally, it means practicing as much as I can with my own camera, pushing myself to be more creative with my shots, and figuring out out what tools I absolutely have to have with me to capture the beautiful stories I know Ethiopia will have to offer.

With your indulgence, I'll probably share a lot of my preparation here on Chookooloonks, if only to have a record for myself of my process.  And I'll happily welcome any tips or advice that you have for me along the way.


So, to the story behind these photos: 

I've been reading a lot about agriculture in east Africa (specifically two books by Roger Thurow:  Enough and The Last Hunger Season, both of which do a great job of explaining how starvation can exist in lands as fertile as those in Africa;  the reasons are, unsurprisingly, incredibly complex, and I recommend both books for excellent explanations).  It's so surreal to think that so many people continue to die of hunger in Africa, while here on the other side of this very small planet, I live where the concept of "dieting to lose weight" is commonplace, and where food is so plentiful I can keep bowls of fruit available for Alex and Marcus at all times, for them to grab a piece any time they're feeling peckish.  Add to this an item that I read this week on -- that 40% of food in the United States is wasted -- and I'm just beside myself.  Forty percent.  

This just doesn't feel right.

But there is some hope:  remember the famine in Ethiopia in 1984, when over 400,000 people died of hunger?  It was a horrible, horrible time, but since then,  as a result of the agricultural advances that Ethiopia has made, the drought that the Horn of Africa has experienced during the last year hasn't affected Ethiopia nearly as acutely as it has some of the other Eastern African countries.  Food and agriculture is one of the stories that we're going to cover while we're there, and I anticipate that they will be stories full of hope and success.

I pray I can capture these stories in a way that does their hope and beauty justice.

SongEthiopia by Gigi Stunning song.