Abstract by TomDonnelly


                                                                              CEO: Kristen Ligotti
                                                                        Co-CEO: David Schepperly

     We at Safety Net seek to provide an access of resources to developing nations which will
alleviate food insecurity. We will be utilizing a user-centered design where we will take in the
needs of the citizens and develop viable options based on their country‟s structure (i.e. political,
social, climate, culture). Our innovative approach differs from traditional help organizations
where they would rater offer limited supplies to these countries, while we seek to provide a
long term solution. An old Chinese proverb comes to mind, „Give a man a fish and you feed
him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.‟ We are not limited to only
one solution but to provide every possible solution to the people and thereby giving our input.
In the end it will be up to the country to determine their course of action.
        All over the world, there are developing countries that are forced to deal with the
problems of food security. In such countries where food is scarce, it is the individuals who are
the ones that suffer. It is the millions of farmers who are unable to support their families on a
daily basis due to the inability to obtain the necessary amounts of nutrition. “Food security is
the availability of enough food so that people are able to lead an active and healthy life.”1
Problems with food security mean that people may go hungry, or even starve. Sadly this
insecurity is affecting more and more people every year. In some cases, farmers aren‟t able to
grow enough food for themselves and their families. As a result, people who are unfortunate
enough to be in these circumstances are living in a state called poverty. “Poverty is a condition
in which a person or community is deprived of, or lacks the essentials for a minimum standard
of well-being.”2 Due to the lack of food people are forced into this dismal state.
        Food insecurity directly adds to the problem of poverty in certain developing countries
yet what is causing this problem of food insecurity? In the case of Ethiopia it is caused by the
lack water and access to it. Ethiopia is a country that goes through both dry and wet seasons.
This results in its lack of water situation. “Variations in precipitation are caused by differences
in elevation: higher elevations receive rainfall though out most of the year, other areas rainfall
is seasonal, while in the arid lowlands rainfall is insufficient.”3 Often times, this results in
droughts that may last weeks, months or even years. “When people don‟t plan correctly, by
either storing water, or choosing weather resilient crops, tribulations ensue.”4
        One of the major effects caused by droughts is reduced crop yields. In Ethiopia the
major crop for export is coffee. This alone accounts for 50 to 60 percent of their total valued
exports. The major staple crops include cereals, pulses, oilseeds, and again, coffee. Grain is
the most important crop grown because of its significance in the daily diets of most Ethiopians.
If crops such as these are reduced due to droughts, then there will be major effects on the
standard of living. When this occurs it has the possibility not only to influence the agriculture,
but also the lives of the farmers who depend on these crops.
        Nations experiencing poverty and drought all over the world are continuously being
aided by organizations and other nations. Food is constantly being donated to feed the hungry
and needy. What will happen to these people in the future when their rations run out? It is
unrealistic to assume that by giving people what they need to eat on a daily basis will allow
starving nation to be fed. By addressing these issues causing food insecurity, the chances that a
solution will be found is much more likely. Ultimately the goal is to create a long-term solution
that will increase the internal food production amongst these nations that are unable to fully
support themselves. There is no point in simple throwing money or food in this case, at the
problem of poverty.
Problem definition:
         Food security has embellished nations globally for centuries. Today these problems still
exist; even with the world‟s most sophisticated technology. Among the suffering nations,
Ethiopia is amongst the top poorest countries in the world. Ethiopia is currently under
Emergency Alert in the “Food Security Status Alerts & Headlines”5 produced by USAID. With
the more than 190 countries throughout the world, only two other countries assimilate with this
stature of Ethiopia. This report shows that Ethiopia needs our help in the field of food security.
         Ethiopia has an economy that is based primarily on agriculture, which makes up almost
half of their gross domestic production and employs three quarters of the population, but yet 45
percent of the county lives below the national poverty line. This country is like many of the
countries in the sub-Saharan and eastern Africa. Of the various problems that make up food
insecurity, irrigation along with water collection issues is the basis of this problem in Ethiopia.
“Water is becoming an increasingly precious resource that must be managed judiciously.”6 This
issue is not subdued to Ethiopia but in fact exists worldwide with the “worldwide demand for
water doubling every 21 years.”6 Though this issue is at an international level, Ethiopia is clearly
in most dire need of this necessity. Irrigating and hydrating the nation of Ethiopia is a major
problem that needs to be fixed.
         Weather is a major contributor to the irrigating and water collecting problems Ethiopia
faces. “Ethiopia is constantly battered by extremes of weather, by cycles of drought and floods.
For the rural populations who depend on agriculture for their survival, farming is highly
precarious.”7 This country constantly faces an uphill battle with Mother Nature. Of the 110
billion acres farmed throughout Ethiopia, less than 2 million acres are irrigated. With a country
who depends mainly on livestock to farm their land, this is a major issue. Drought kills off
livestock along with shriveling up the majority of crops. With the absence of rainfall in one year
alone drastic effects can occur. In 2002 there was an inadequate rainfall which “withered over
70 percent of the maize and sorghum crops, decimating grain production.”6
         This proves that Ethiopia is in need of long-term help. Money can be thrown at the
problem but needs a long-term solution. The over whelming threat of drought is inevitable and
cannot be avoided; it will persist unless Global Warming overbears the continent and melting
glaciers flood the world. Therefore Ethiopia is in need permanent help unless a perpetual
system is set up to irrigate the country. Ethiopia lacks the means of collecting water in all
phases. It does not have a system to collect rain water nor ground water. Though other forms
of water supply exist, Ethiopia doesn‟t have the technology for them either.
         Of the many different locations in Ethiopia that face food in security, Southern Ethiopia
is among the worst. “The southern region of Ethiopia suffers from acute water scarcity.” 6 Rural
farmers lack the necessity of water which dehydrates their livestock and kills their crops. These
farmers live simply off what they produce, and when Mother Nature fails them they are as well
off as a fish in a desert. “The pastoral communities are the most affected in eastern and
southern Ethiopia which have had three consecutive years of little or no rainfall. Pastoralists
depend almost entirely on livestock, and more than 90 percent of grain production in Ethiopia
depends on draught power, mainly of oxen.”8 Millions of livestock have died as a result of the
major drought in Ethiopia. With the severe drought the “surviving animals are less resistant to
disease after being weakened by a lack of feed and water.”8 The problem of irrigation in
Southern Ethiopia is amongst the worst in the world and as a result is the focus of our
         Along with the obvious irrigation issues Ethiopia faces, cultural differences bring about
additional problems as well. Hypothetically if an organization was to go in and damn up a river
to save a crop from dying in a drought, there would be much more hard feelings than praise.
Culture is a major component of everyday life in Africa; Ethiopia included. Therefore any
restructuring done to the environment or land would have to be carefully analyzed before
         Safety-Net is focusing primarily on these issues in Ethiopia. The fact is “rural water
supply programs, which affect the majority of the country's population, have not been given
sufficient attention.”9 The problems are quite severe and therefore there have been numerous
other organizations that have done ample amounts of work on the issues of food security
already. Irrigation and water collecting issues are the major cause of these problems and may
be the ultimate way to resolve them.
Problem Solution:
         Our solution is simple in theory, while at the same time putting great importance on
cultural values in its execution. It emphasizes on a long term commitment to improving water
collection and irrigation systems which will then improve food availability and security in the
afflicted regions. We will be targeting southern Ethiopian regions such as the Afar and Oromiya
as they have been hit the hardest by droughts in previous years. What we propose is the
formation of an organization that will provide struggling areas with the chance to research state
of the art water collection and irrigation technologies. We will custom tailor these technologies
for their own use, and help the people in implementing these technologies.
         In order to carry out this plan, we will require a wide array of experts such as
translators, irrigation engineers, civil water engineers, ecologists, and communications
specialists. We will also require the assistance of experts in cross cultural communications as
well as anthropologists specialized on Ethiopian culture. Then we will contact the people in the
afflicted areas to spread knowledge of our cause as well as invite local people to come see what
we are all about. This is of paramount importance. For us to be successful, we have to have the
people of Ethiopia involved, if not in charge of the project that affects their area. Using
participatory design methods, the people that have the most to benefit from new technologies
will be the ones most influential in the design and creation process. They are the ones that
know what their people need the most. In essence, the organization answers to the people,
with any solution fitted to the culture and area it will be influencing. The hope is not to become
the foreign interloper pushing their ideas on the supposed “uninformed” locals, but to work with
the communities closely, and to allow them to keep most of the control over the project.
However we will operate on guidelines that will influence what systems are deemed possible.
      The system must be able to be installed by the people
      The system must be able to be maintained and repaired using techniques available to
         the people (unless of course they express a desire to use more advanced systems, in
         which this rule will be disregarded)
      The system must not influence the culture in any harmful way
      Projects must work with natural resources and respect existing social structures
      The system must be created not only with the society in mind but the environment as
         Other guidelines will be added as the project progresses to better shape our procedure
and improve performance.
         We do not ascribe to any single solution to the Ethiopia‟s drought problem, we want to
improve flexibility when dealing with individual areas, and have a few viable options at our
disposal. “These options include underground water storage and distribution under the farmland
in question, drip irrigation systems that would allow for uniform moisture with minimum
waste”10,11. Using and developing on dehumidifying technologies that would allow for water to
be taken directly from the air and stored for later use. “Underground water storage and
distribution is a technique used in India and would be the most efficient option for areas that
are not interested in new expensive technologies.”12 Drip irrigation on the other hand is a more
costly solution as it uses many plastic components. Finally dehumidification systems offers an
advanced technology alternative with higher start up costs but greater benefits, although it is
only viable in areas of high humidity.
        Our plan allows for a high degree of flexibility. As previously stated it allows us to
anticipate, react, and plan accordingly when dealing with: High technology versus local
manageability, cost versus efficiency, water distribution between agriculture, livestock, and
human consumption, and inter-area politics.
        Once again to reiterate, the key theme of this our organization is to give the people
options, not come down with our proposed superior ideas on how things should be done.
Differences between cultures must be taken into account respected.
Resource Request:

              Item                          Description                         Cost
          Management                          Salaries,                     $10,000,000
          Start-up costs            Shipping, materials (farming             14,000,000
                                     supplies), Initial Expenses
        Traveling Expenses                Gas costs, food                   4,000,000
                       Total Projected Costs                                28,000,000
                           Fund Buffer                                      2,000,000
                               Total                                       $30,000,000

Based on our needs, we project we will have 3 different areas that will require funding. First
we will need 10 million dollars to cover initial start-up expenses such as the purchase of farming
supplies and to cover the costs of shipping. Another area is a management salary of 10 million
which is enough to support 100 members. Then finally traveling expenses are also factored
into our budget. A fund buffer of 2 million will be set aside for additional expenses from
unforeseen circumstances.


    http://www.fews.net/, USAID
    http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/TcDevelop/two.html, Managing Water Resources
 http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/news/2003/18548-en.html, Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations
 http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/OIS/PRESS_NE/PRESSENG/2000/pren0028.htm, Drought in
 http://www.ethiopians.com/Main_FSS_Paper1.htm#rfethio, Water Resource Development in

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