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Where We Work 

About Gurage Zone

​Six of the seven health facilities we support are in the Gurage Zone, with one small clinic in the South West Shewa Zone in Oromia. 

The Gurage people are an ethnic group native to the Ethiopian highlands. They speak a cluster of languages known as the Gurage languages. The Gurage zone in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region is the traditional homeland of the Gurage.

At the heart of Gurage culture is their agricultural practice, which focuses on the cultivation of enset or "false banana." Enset has been integral to the survival of the Gurage for centuries, providing them with food, material for clothing and shelter, and fiber for making rope. The Gurage's staple food, kocho bread, is made from the starchy corm of enset. The Gurage believe that enset and butter have medicinal properties and consume them extensively. Thanks to the storability of enset, the Gurage can stockpile surplus food as insurance against famine in hard times.

Alongside enset, the Gurage also grows coffee, khat, teff, and other crops through a sophisticated system of transplanting and crop rotation to maximize yields. Livestock such as zebu cattle provide mainly milk, butter, ghee, and manure, which is used as fertilizer. Gurage cuisine includes kitfo - spicy ground beef with butter and koseret - a stew of cabbage, beans and cheese.

The Gurage are known for their entrepreneurial spirit, hard work and social mobility. They are well represented in businesses across Ethiopia and have a reputation as industrious and skilled artisans and traders. Despite the challenges of poverty, climate change, and conflict, the Gurage culture places a high value on contributing to society through education, meaningful work, and industry.​​​

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​However, communities in Gurage continue to face critical issues, including limited access to education, nutritional food, income-generating opportunities, health care, clean water, and reliable electricity. 95% of people live below the poverty line. People die from easily preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and diarrheal diseases. Moreover, numerous pregnant women must endure long journeys, sometimes spanning 50km, to reach the nearest hospital, while others opt for risky unattended births. 
        
Holistic, community-driven initiatives hold promise for strengthening the community by harnessing its inherent strengths, resilience and resourcefulness. Interventions that focus on areas such as improving the health system, affordability and accessibility of primary health care, and supporting the agricultural sector through better enset cultivation, livestock management, coffee farming practises, entrepreneurship training and technical skills have enormous potential for improving livelihoods and food security in a sustainable manner that is consistent with the cultural values and knowledge systems of the Gurage.​​

Our focus at Engera is to address these challenges by driving healthcare at the grassroots level. We facilitate collective learning sessions on topics such as waterborne diseases and prevention. Our staff at the health centers go into communities to encourage people to use the centers that have become the heart of their communities over time. Through our initiatives, we aim to create an environment where children and their families feel comfortable seeking medical help. This not only fosters a sense of community, but also ensures that health services are easily accessible and integrated into the daily lives of the people we serve. Little by little, people’s lives are changing at the grassroots level and they feel responsible for their own wellbeing.
 

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