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  • Beles comes to Town


    Yoseph Moges, 23, was a waiter until two weeks ago, when he started selling cactus fruit on the streets of Addis Abeba. He is usually found in Atkilt Terra, Piazza, pushing a wheelbarrow full of beles, the local name for the fruit.

    Every two days he purchases 50Kg, paying between 3.50 Br and five Birr a kilogramme. He then spends his days roaming around the neighbourhood looking for customers. He only ventures out to the rest of the city if business in Atkilt Terra is slow.

    He sells a kilo of beles for 10 Br. His supplier, Mikielle Teklay, a wholesaler in the neighbourhood, distributes the fruit to street vendors like Yoseph.

    Mikielle, who came from Adigrat, in the Tigray region, 898kms North of Addis Abeba, claims he is one of the two wholesalers who introduced beles to Addis Abebans, when he started stocking it three years ago. His brother, who still lives in Tigray, sends him 90 wooden crates of cactus fruit every two days, loaded on an Isuzu pickup truck.

    Beles from Adigrat is considered high quality, producing the sweetest fruit in the country. He buys one wooden crate of cactus fruit, containing between 45 to 50Kg, for 70 Br from farmers in the region, he told Fortune.

    Although he is a pioneer in the sale of the fruit in the city, Mikielle claims that more wholesalers stocking beles from other regions have joined the market since its early days. This has reduced the profits he enjoyed two years ago.

    The supply of the fruit in Addis Abeba seems monopolised by street vendors. After visiting numerous supermarkets and fruit stalls, Fortune only found one, in Piazza, which had it in stock. The owner, Tewodros Getachew, says he included the fruit in his store last year, after an Atkilt Terra wholesaler approached him.

    The initial agreement was that Tewodros would just stock the fruit, but all the profit would go to the wholesaler. This arrangement was mutually beneficial, since Tewodros incurred no costs – if the fruit did not sell, the wholesaler took the financial hit. On the other hand, if the demand was promising, the wholesaler would secure a regular buyer in Tewodros. Within the first three sales, the fruit vendor decided to make regular purchases from the wholesaler. He now restocks on a weekly basis, purchasing 40Kg at a time and reselling for 10Br a Kg.

    Although the fruit is new to Addis Abeba, it is ubiquitous in Tigray, where it has long been used as a food source as well as cattle feed. A study published in the Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO) newsletter, Cactusnet, in May 2010, stated that 6.74pc of Tigray is covered by cactus plant. A total of 30,000ha is used for cactus cultivation by farmers, with an additional 300,000ha being covered with wild cactus. The Tigray Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) gives different figures, however. They state that Tigray has a total coverage of 320,000ha of beles, of which 120,000ha is occupied by farmers, according to Mizan Amare, crop research director at the Institute.

    The cactus plant, which can bear up to 300 fruits on each plant, of which there could be 3,000 to 4,000 on one hectare, is particularly popular during periods of drought. This is because it thrives in arid conditions, sustaining the population until conditions improve. This has earned it such appellations as “life-saving crop” and “fruit of the dark days”.

    The importance it holds in Tigray’s agrarian circles is aptly described by a local proverb – “a farmer without beles is like a stream without water”.

    A study conducted by the FAO in 2008 showed that 25pc of the income of farmers in Tigray is generated from the sale of cactus. While cactus is also found in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country, it is not held in the same esteem as in the North.

    In Tigray, the fruit is finally ready for consumption during the long rainy season – from June through mid-September. This is just in time for farmers to sell it and use the proceeds to cover their children’s educational needs. The children, who are in the midst of their annual school break, also help to sell the fruit that will keep them in school the following year. It also provides a good job opportunity for local women.

    Back in Addis Abeba, Yoseph’s customers, mostly pedestrians, tend to buy one or two fruits at a time, paying up to two Birr a beles. Others purchase as much as 15 Kg at once. While Fortune was talking to Yoseph, a customer, Semira Ahmed, bought four kilogrammes for 40 Br. Semira, who was observing Ramadan, said she broke her fast every evening with cactus fruit, after she observed other families using it during the fasting season. She found that the fruit helps her to avoid gastric issues. Like his customers, Yoseph also enjoys his merchandise, eating as many as 20 fruits a day.

    While its popularity in the city is growing, many Addis Abebans are still unfamiliar with the fruit. Tewodros, the fruit stall owner, states most of his customers are originally from Tigray, and selling to Addis Ababans is more difficult.

    “I have to persuade them even to taste it, if I want them to buy,” he said.

    Some see it in the wheelbarrows and ask to taste it out of curiosity. In fact, Fortune met Tagay Hussein as he was enjoying his first taste of the fruit. Tagay, who had previously heard of beles, declared he found it “delicious.”

    In addition to consuming it directly, cactus fruit can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as in beverages, vegetarian dishes, jam and even in cosmetics and drugs. The leaves are also used for human consumption, as a salad.

    However, while cactus fruit-based recipes are popular in countries like Mexico, this trend is yet to reach even Tigray, where it is most consumed, let alone Addis Abeba, a city still getting acquainted with this exotic fruit. The chefs Fortune contacted stated their knowledge does not extend beyond the basic step of juicing the fruit. Chef Yonas Tefera, a teacher at Bienvenido Catering & Tourism Institute, says that although he has never prepared a cactus fruit recipe, he is aware of its nutritional value and its use in juice, fruit salad and syrups. The same idea was echoed by Giordana Kebedom, producer of the Giordana’s Kitchen Show on EBS television.

    For a while it had seemed like cactus would have more uses, when an investor tried to export the cochineal insect that feeds on the plant. This insect is used to make red dye. The export effort did not last long, however, because of the damage caused on the cactus while breeding the insect, according to Mizan. The flowers of the plant were also, a year ago, exported to Europe for cosmetics production, but that too was suspended, as it came at the expense of the fruit.

    Source: addisfortune

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  • Google honors Abebe Bikila on his 81st birthday


    Today August 7, 2013 Google have selected Abebe Bikila to be honored with a Google Doodle. The Google Doodle show a race track with presumably Abebe Bikila running over the finish line. Abebe Bikila was a double Olympic Marathon Champion born in Ethiopia and most famous for winning his Gold Marathon Olympics Medat at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome Italy.

    Originally Abebe Bikila was not included into the 1960 Olympics but due to the misfortune of his team mate Wami Biratu who broke his ankle in a football match, he made the team at last moment literally just before the plane took off for the Rome Olympics.

    Adidas, the shoe sponsor at the 1960 Summer Olympics, had few shoes left when Bikila went to try out shoes and he ended up with a pair that didn’t fit comfortably, so he couldn’t use them and he ran the Marathon bare foot and still won.

    After the race when asked why he ran the race bare food Abebe Bikila said that, “I wanted the whole world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism.”

    Abebe Bikila was born on the 7th of August 1932 and died 25 October 1973 at the age of 41. His legend lives on today and he is a hero and role model for Olympic Athletes today.



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  • Inspiring Girls: Stories of Accomplished Ethiopian Women


    A collection of stories and photographs of accomplished and inspiring Ethiopian women

    We never hear about accomplished Ethiopian women, even though Ethiopia is a country of nearly 90 million people.  Not because there aren't any, but because their stories haven't been recorded and few outside their own circles know anything about them. This project aims to change that by telling the stories of 70 remarkable Ethiopian women who are pioneers in their fields and have expanded opportunities for girls and women in their communities.  We are producing a high quality coffee table book in which these amazing women tell their own stories, talk about their early years, the evolution of their interests and careers, their motivations, their dreams, their values and their advice to young women growing up today.  Beautiful photographs by internationally renowned Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh bring their stories to life on the page.

    For most girls growing up in Ethiopia today, going to school and staying in school is a struggle.  Most never dare to think about a life that goes beyond home and family, or to pursue a career in the face of community pressure.  Ethiopia's recent constitution, adopted in 1994, incorporates strong fundamental rights for women and a framework for overcoming longstanding inequality, but societal attitudes are changing slowly.   We hope this book will accelerate the improvements in women's status - offering role models for young women that can inspire them to dream big and educating the larger Ethiopian and international public about women's accomplishments.  In addition to the coffee table book, we will be distributing an Amharic language version of the book to libraries, schools and girls' clubs throughout Ethiopia to help inspire the next generation of accomplished women.

    Learn more and support the project at

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  • Contribution of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie celebrated


    Addis Ababa, July 27, 2013 (WIC) - His majesty Haile Selassie’s contribution to the establishment of Organization of African Unity has been celebrated in Addis Ababa in the presence of Thabo Mbeki, former South African president.

    Mbeki recognized his majesty’s immense role in Africa’s independence struggle and in the establishment of the African union organization.

    The keynote speaker, Mr. Mbeki said it is a duty of this generation to glow the contributions of former African leaders that bring Africa where it is now; in that regard, he noted, his majesty Haile Selassie did a lot to African independence from colonialism and in realizing the union of African states.

    The event that celebrates the illustrious deeds of the former king happens in Addis Ababa at the headquarters of the African union in the presence of dignitaries and senior government officials.

    His majesty bring together the two sides that differ on issues of African Unity and make the union a reality with a resilient diplomatic effort of his team.

    Mrs. Solome Tadese reminded the conference that having no reminder for his glowing contribution is the failure of this generation not anyone else’s. She encourages the generation to erect things that celebrates the contributions of former leaders and individuals.

    While Kwame Nkrumah has a statute in the African Union headquarters new building, Haile Selassie gets nothing to his name. The conference agrees to erect a statute in cooperation with the government to illustrate the contributions of the king who does a lot to his continent in its needy days.

    According to ERTA, our staff reporter, the meeting attracts ambassadors, ministers, other dignitaries and families of his majesty.

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