Maria Popova stated that perhaps the gravest violence we can do to ourselves is to live out our lives believing the world to be a fixity handed down to us by the authorities of history and life to be a matter of taking immutable givens. Daring to believe otherwise — to believe that even our smallest purposeful action alters the monolith of reality in some subtle, meaningful way — is an act of courage and resistance, an act of immense vulnerability to the possibility of disappointment, vulnerability the commonest cowering from which is cynicism. So today, in my subtle effort to inspire from within, I present the humbling story of the Awramba Community—once hailed as a beacon of prosperity but now forgotten in the ashes of the past.


Awramba Community

In a society where compliance to the status quo and humility is considered as the epitome of Ethiopianess, what fuels the rebellious flare to forge an identity that’s befitting a community? Awramba is a utopian community with Marxist ideologies of ethics and morality. This egalitarian society is led by the moral voice of Mr. Zamra Nuru, who advocates for Marxist values of communal living, mutual consideration, gender equality and social order.

Ethnicity, religion, gender roles are completely disregarded and actively revoked in the process of identity formation, considered triggers that incite fragmentation within a community. In fact, it’s customary for a man in Awramba to be hailed for his perfect injera and/or delicious coffee, while a woman is spotted from afar tirelessly working the land to ensure a good harvest.

Members of the community make an active effort to defy social norms and decolonize everyday life. The binding element that cements the community is egalitarianism, coupled with an unwavering discipline, and work ethics to achieve self-sustenance and combat precariousness.

Once ostracized, this community has gained international acclaim after demonstrating a linear progression of development and self-sufficiency. The community members have established the Awramba Farmers and Handcrafts\’ Multipurpose Cooperative which generates revenue from weaving, farming, tourism, and entrepreneurial endeavours. The cooperative is led by elected members of the community who oversee the administrative and technical aspect of the cooperatives. All the members of the community commit five days a week for communal work and distribute equally the earnings amongst the five cooperatives.

Awramba was coined as a model village that protects its traditional values harnesses gender equality, instils work ethics, and enforces a social security system. Government officials, religious leaders and international organizations had once depicted Awramba as a successful model to combat “poverty\”. The head of the EU delegation to Ethiopia stated \”I regard it as the model for the world community on how gender issues should be treated. I have come across nothing else like it anywhere in Africa – and indeed the world.\”

What went right in Awramba?

Contrary to the international development scheme, which fosters neoliberal values, struggle was central to the development of Awramba. The community’s commitment to continuously devise adaptive measures to cope with adversities has developed a communal resilience thinking. Equally important, is the active participation of every member of the community to make a positive impact in their lives and the lives of their friends and family, in the spirit of “us”.

Resilience thinking was harnessed in the everyday life of Awramba, and a community-based resource management was of the biproducts of such thinking. Consecutively the social capital, social connection and social network within the community flourished, and trust was cemented among the members. This forged a widespread willingness to act collectively and forge a notion of development that suited their identity rather than the other way around.

The overarching presence of social capital is of the utmost importance in situations of natural disasters, economical lagging, etc; the vulnerability that surfaces entails greater coordination and cooperation to resist and prevail as a community. A perfect example is the informal welfare scheme in Awramba called Lewegen Derash, which serves to ensure financial security for the elderly, people with disabilities, etc.

Of utmost importance is the trust shared within the community. Lemlem, a 35-year-old member of Awramba, attests to this fact: “Since the committee leaders are elected based on their ability to lead our community guided by our values and principles … leaders are free from ideological/financial corruption, lust for power and discrimination.”

This is an indication of how participatory leadership and power-sharing instil a sense of financial and political security indiscriminately, infusing a sense of trust that’s earned and not willingly given.

Lefebvre stated the social practices contribute to the creation of spaces; in turn spaces produced as a tool control the social practices of the inhabitants. The current fervour of creation of spaces in accordance with international standards of development neglects the trends of the inhabitants and produces spaces which fit the ideals of the project which harbours neoliberal connotations. Nonetheless, the ultimate objective to achieve the highly acclaimed “development”, justifies the colonization of the everyday life as there is a global consensus that poverty would be eradicated as a result. The contradiction begins by the global consensus over the attainment of monolithic notions of development, which would lead to the eradication of poverty in Africa. As a result, the production of spaces for the attainment of the development agenda is preferred over creation of contextually fitted development projects. This ultimately entailed a development plan that addresses the neo-liberal aspirations

So, my suggestion is, let’s aim to be more Awramba … gradually through coordinated action to persevere any ideological shocks that might threaten our identity.\"\"

Images Source: