Let Me Tell You About Koshale… / by Art Zaratsyan

Let me tell you about Koshale…

To get there you need to leave Arba Minch early in the morning. Then you drive for five and a half hours, two of them on patchwork of gravel and asphalt till you reach Geresse, a sort of a district center. After Geresse it's just dirt, blasted rock, occasional stream crossings, and—sometimes—no roads at all. At around noon you're there, but you only have about two hours until you need leave—to make it back to Arba Minch by nightfall.

Koshale, pronounced koh-sháh-leh, is a village in the lowlands of the south of Ethiopia, not too far from Kenyan border. It's far, it's hot, it's dry, and it's the home of a few thousand Ethiopian families. First thing that comes to your mind when you arrive is "why would anyone want to live here?"

Ethiopia is Africa's second most populated country: the latest figure is 98 million people—half of them under 18. For me that translates to the following: anywhere you go, people live there. Pick any direction, drive for hours, you'll still run into a bunch of kids, who will pop from behind some tree or pop up on some rock, screaming "Faranji, faranji!"

The reason I took the long trip to Koshale (twice) is water. There isn't much of it in Ethiopia in general, even less here. For generations the people of the village have walked for hours a day to the nearest stream to bring water to their homes. But all that changed last December. 

With the help of HOPE International Development Agency the people of Koshale completed a big water project, laying over 15 km of pipeline to bring clean water from a capped source on the nearby mountain down to the village. The project is impressive in its scale. The community provided the labor: digging the trenches, laying the pipeline,  mining materials like sand and gravel. HOPE provided the pipes, the know-how, the cement and all the materials unavailable to the area. The result: clean water available to the whole village—right in the village. And me, photographing this modern day humanitarian miracle, wishing I could be there to document the project as it was being constructed…

See the "Water for Koshale" gallery in the "Stories" section for more photos.