Multimedia Producer, Ric Rawlins, recently travelled to Ethiopia to film some of our projects. He got off to a shaky start thanks to some unusual weather conditions...

As a video producer for Send a Cow, I’ve flown to Africa a few times – and usually know how to prepare. Stock up on mosquito repellent, mosquito wall-plug repellent, mosquito nets… that sort of thing.

But it was the Beast from the East that caused the biggest problem with my recent trip to Ethiopia: snow had hit Bath and I was trapped in my home, the flight just hours away from departure.

Luckily, a colleague’s partner owned a four by four and was used to tackling dangerous terrain – so figured he could handle Bath. After a quick rescue mission, I was on my way to the airport. Phew!


The goal in Ethiopia was to film farming families in Gama Gofa and Wolayita, then visit a new project in Dawro.

First stop was the mountains of Gama Gofa. As cheesy as it sounds, this place is like paradise on earth; its epic canyons are coated in immaculate farmland.  There is something peaceful, almost monkish about the pride taken in every hut, farm and cornfield.

The families we met had already been working together in groups for between two and five years, and their solidarity was wonderful.

They were impressively enterprising too: one farmer named Ake has reinvested in his farm by buying more land. His children’s favourite foods were beetroot, cabbage and carrots – especially the sweet carrots! Here he is with his wife Zinke.

Ake’s family were also the first to receive the dubious honour of being filmed by the Send a Cow drone. Admittedly I didn’t know how to fly the thing before arriving in Ethiopia, so I ended up crouching next to a laptop in the middle of the night watching YouTube tutorials.

As a result of my “beginner’s piloting”, the families who encountered the drone looked mildly terrified as it swerved about looking like a mechanical insect from the future.

On the plus side, we did get our first look at Send a Cow from the sky:

After being inspired by successful farmers in Sodo, we drove up another huge mountain to reach the Dawro Zone, where the new project was beginning.

The families we met had signed up to work with Send a Cow, but had yet to begin their training. To put that another way, they knew they wanted to change their world, but were still leading very difficult lives in visceral poverty.

When I’m filmmaking I’m usually concerned with the technical aspects of an interview: is the shot in focus? Is the framing correct? But while interviewing one family, I couldn’t help but be moved when a man named Birhanu told us his favourite thing about life was knowing his children, and at the same time his young daughter came to sit on his lap.

Promisingly, the new Send a Cow staff there are young, energised and determined to deliver change to their hometowns. Gender equality is one area they are keen to address, given the imbalance of workloads between men and women in the region. Nutrition is another, and here’s Metekiya – the senior nutrition and health worker – explaining the approach.

I’m back in the UK now and, of course, acclimatised again to jet showers and shiny supermarkets. When you get back these things seem surprisingly decadent, and as difficult as it is, it’s worth remembering how lucky we are. As for the families on the Dawro Project, they are now becoming hopeful – and that, as least, is the first step to change.