Back Breaking Work
Esso Aleta is among the many firewood collectors you will see making the long walk up the Entoto Mountains as the sun rises over Addis Ababa.
It's a few hours walking up the Entoto Mountain to collect the firewood, and a couple of hours back down to the market where the wood is sold. A hard graft, and one that's been going on for generations.
At the top of the mountain, Esso collects fallen leaves, dry barks, and twigs of eucalyptus trees. She ties them together into a big bundle that she then loads onto her back, and begins the walk back down to the market.
Once there, she negotiates the best price she can with the buyers, and sells the wood for just enough to support her family for one day.
For Esso, this has been a daily routine for the last twelve years. It is estimated that 15,000 women make their income by carrying firewood around Addis Ababa.
The Mountain of Entoto
Entoto Mountain served was the site of Emperor Menelik's palace and his royal court in the 1800s.
Its hilltop location and sweeping views over the capital made it a strategic outpost for the emperor.
However, poor water supply and unfavourable weather conditions during the rainy season forced the king to leave his royal palace, and return to the base of the mountain.
Here, another problem. There was a serious shortage of firewood, and so the king ordered the importation of Eucalyptus seedling from Australia, and planted them on the mountain faces of Entoto.
Now, Mount Entoto and its forests are known as the lungs of Addis Ababa - and the firewood here provides an income source for thousands of people like Esso.
Recently, in a somewhat lavish ceremony, the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated Entoto Park.
This multi-purpose park contains indoor and outdoor facilities built mostly with local materials. The park includes centers for physical activities, a spa, tented lodging, a horse stable, a library, restaurants and coffee shops, fountains, walkways, and bicycle and scooter lanes.
The park, located on Mount Entoto, takes up 50 hectares in the forests around Addis Ababa. The park sits at an altitude of of 2600 to 3200 metres, and has 10km of roadway for cycling, and 13km for hiking.
The park has created a number of job opportunities, both during construction and post-launch. Esso and her husband are among the 6,000 people who have managed to find employment at the park.
Hundreds of women who used to make the arduous trek up and down Entoto Mountain to sell firewood have found employment at the park, and a further 6,000 job opportunities have opened up for people living close to Entoto.
In Partnership With
This story was written in partnership with Bennett Gizachew and the team at Wild Expeditions. We've been running trips with WE for years, and always love the fresh ideas and unique perspectives they bring to every itinerary we design for our customers.
The new Entoto Park is, for the most part, a very welcome initiative. The park has opened up long-term employment for thousands in the Entoto area, and allowed people like Esso to have a better quality of life.
Bemnet Gizachew Head Guide