Where We Work: Dangla, Amhara Region

By Zach Walters, Volunteer

To better understand the impact of our work and the lives we work to empower, it helps to zoom out and view the matter from a broader lens. Project Ethiopia serves rural villages in the Dangla woreda of the nation’s Amhara region. But where is Dangla, what’s a “woreda,” and what does it really look like? What geographic and cultural traits define the region, and what unique challenges do these characteristics create for its residents? And perhaps most importantly, why Dangla?

The Amhara Region

Amhara is the second largest of nine Ethiopian regions by population and the third largest by area, spanning about 160,000 square kilometres1 – slightly smaller than the state of Florida or the nation of Uruguay2. The region, which is set in northwest and north central Ethiopia, is characterized by a massive breadth of topography. Landscapes vary from vast plains and small rivers to more rugged, mountainous settings with scattered plateaus and gorges. The region contains the ever-important Lake Tana, the source of the Blue Nile River, as well as Ras Dashan Peak, the highest point in all of Ethiopia – topping at over 15,000 feet.


As 88% of the nation’s inhabitants live in rural areas, the region’s inhabitants are mostly involved in small-scale agriculture, relying on the production of coffee, grains, and oil seeds, as well as local fishing and farming of cattle. Despite a more uniform dependence on agricultural success and stability, the population has its share of diversity: an estimated 91% of the ethnic composition is Amhara, but the remainder includes Oromo, Agaw, and Kimant. Residents speak Amharic, Agew, Oromifa, and for a small portion, even English, and practice Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam3.

Unfortunately, a region rich in diversity and culture is similarly rich in challenges:

Poverty: Nearly 1/5 of Amhara residents are considered in Ethiopia’s greatest level of need, and over 15% of adults are unemployed.

Education: only 68% of primary-age children and 12% of secondary-age children attend school, and fewer than ½ of those 10 and older can read and write.

Malnutrition and hunger: Frequent drought and insufficient irrigation methods contribute to regional hunger, and more than 1/3 of children are underweight.

Access to water: Less than 1/5 of residents in Amhara’s countryside have access to safe water, and many are at a risk for waterborne disease.

Housing: Shelter in rural villages is often made of eucalyptus branches and grass roofing, which provide insufficient protection from the elements, especially rain.4

This is just skimming the surface. The issues facing the region are plentiful and complex, fueled by geographical, economic and systemic factors. 

Our Mission in Dangla

As of 2018, Amhara is home to over a quarter of the nation’s 107 million people5. Within Amhara lie 11 zones, and, drilling one level deeper, 167 woredas (or districts). Of these woredas, over a third are chronically food-insecure6 – including Dangla, the woreda in which we focus our efforts to empower positive change. While the outside-in approach may make Dangla seem like a relatively small piece of a much broader issue, Dangla comprises over 250,000 people in rural villages facing some of the nation’s most pressing needs for improvements in health, education, and economic activity – and they need our help now.

Today, we work with 1/3 of the Dangla woreda. Find out how you can get involved to make a lasting difference in the lives of these residents and to fuel our long-term ambition to spread positive change to every village in the woreda.

Click image below to view enlarged slideshow:

1Amhara Geography and Climate. (2011). Retrieved from Amhara National Regional State (ANRS): http://www.amharabofed.gov.et/ANRS/geography_climate.html

2State Area Measurements. (2010). Retrieved from Uniteed States Consensus Bureau: https://www.census.gov/geo/reference/state-area.html

3Amhara Regional State. (2018). Retrieved from Ethiopian Government Portal: http://www.ethiopia.gov.et/amhara-regional-state

4Ethiopia Amhara Region. (2015). Retrieved from Compassion: https://www.compassion.com/ethiopia/amharic.htm

5Ethiopia Population. (2018). Retrieved from World Population Review: http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/ethiopia-population/

6Amhara Region. (n.d.). Retrieved from SaveTheChildren.net: https://ethiopia.savethechildren.net/sites/ethiopia.savethechildren.net/files/library/Amhara%20Regional%20Brief.pdf

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