The project is both straightforward and deeply uncertain. We have spent hours talking about the possibilities of the project: the kinds of cheese to make, improved agricultural techniques, building a company with a sense of community, how to expand in the future…
The straightforward part is easy. In the short term, we want to go to Ethiopia and set up an creamery specializing in small batch ice cream and cheese : Agere Creamery (“Agere” meaning “to the countryside”). Whenever we tell people this idea, we get the same look: bewildered amusement. “Where did that come from?” is the usual response. Fair enough. Ethiopia has no real cheesemaking industry at the moment. So, if you want to buy cheese, you have to import it for an exorbitant price. A local cheesemaker would do very well. Especially thanks to the high demand from the many foreign workers, rising middle class, and tourists.
Although it’s essential to create a profitable business, the core purpose of this project is to enable greater agency in the community surrounding Agere Creamery. One where people can create richer lives for themselves. That is also the uncertain part of the project. We don’t yet intimately know our community, so we don’t know their hopes and aspirations. We want to listen. More importantly than just listening, to actively collaborate with our community in the building of Agere Creamery.
The community needs to guide Agere in the way that builds them up, and to keep building long after we are gone. Agere cheese is a social development project. It is social development by Ethiopians, rather than for Ethiopians. We see ourselves as project facilitators rather than project leaders. People are at the heart of the project. And there are so many people to meet, connections to make, stories to hear, meals to share. It is a journey of discovery, and we’re excited for you to join us.