REST, Executive Director
During the last 40 years (1978-2018), REST has shared with the people of Tigray the turbulent years of war, famine and unprecedented internal displacement and the exodus of hundreds of thousand refugees who left behind their homes, farms and the very land where they and their forefathers and mothers lived for millennia. During those dark days of the Derg regime of Mengistu Haile Meriam, our people endured tremendous suffering and untold misery of severe food shortage, one of the basic substances of existence. In those days, food was used as a weapon of war against our people. Instead of breaking their will or forcing them to move to camps of shame constructed by the Derg regime to control them and deny them any capacity to resist its evil designs, the people of Tigray refused humiliation and opted for joining the struggle. They preferred death in dignity to live in servitude. The young, the old and frail, women and men of different ages, ethnicities, religions and ideological doctrines, join the struggle in a deviant and heroic story of resilience and perseverance, moving from confronting the odds to beating the odds. REST has always been there for the people of Tigray as an enabler for a struggle that they had won, a famine they survived and repatriation they cherished, during and after the war, and every time they came home to rejoice home-coming with hope and confidence that the future is on their side.
With the victorious end of the war in 1991 and the ascendancy of the EPRDF to power, REST had to adjust its programmes and activities to new realities and new types of struggle, the struggle for development. The end of war was never an end of the battle to overcome the destruction of war and to strive for a better life for the present and future generations. The fight against poverty, food insecurity, ill health, illiteracy, inadequate drinking water supply and environmental degradation meant that a new era of peaceful but equally relentless struggle, has begun. Instead of making a clean-break with REST past experiences during the liberation struggle and post-liberation reality, REST, assisted by the resolve and agency of the People of Tigray ushered in a new era of continuity and change. Continuity meant putting to good use the successful experiences and lessons learnt during the liberation struggle in relief and rehabilitation, soil and water conservation, seed banks, agriculture and livestock development and blending them with the new context of peaceful struggles.
Little wonder that REST programmes and activities have evolved to capture the needs of the people of Tigray and harvest their energies for realizing their hopes for a people-centered development. REST programmes and activities to-date framed within the context of changing socio-economic and environmental conditions available to the people of Tigray and Region. We opted for food security as a driving force of sustainable livelihood and development in eight pillars:
• Food secure future and sustainable livelihood
• Local institutions for environmental rehabilitation and pool resources management
• Graduating from poverty with resilience
• Social Protection and safety-net
• Water resources development for domestic use and irrigation
• Health and education (social service)
• Climate adaptation (community resilience and community adaptation to climate change), insurance and graduation programme.
• Women and youth empowerment
These eight pillars are mutually reinforcing and framed in a set of principles that are meant to do justice to ourselves as REST managers and development workers, but more importantly for the people of Tigray and our partners without whose support we would hardly been able reached the age of forty. Our values, ethos and core principles revolve around: Serving the people; participation; empowerment; transparency and accountability; gender mainstreaming; and self-reliance. We uphold these principles highly in our everyday dealings and transactions as well as development and food security work.
We are not losing sight of the fact that REST greets its 40th birthday anniversary in a new era of momentous change in our country that also requires that we prepare ourselves for new opportunities and challenges. We in REST, consider the current changes as a beginning of a new phase of the people of Tigray and REST struggle for a brighter future. Today’s fight is neither less enduring nor less captivating than earlier struggles and for we are prepared for new struggles and a future perfect.
REST, Executive Director
Mekelle, Tigray November 2019