• Formed a Sidama Senior Council
  • Recruited an active Sidama leader to be advisor to the council
  • Oral histories were recorded and shared with the students

The Council does the following activities:

  • Organize Sidama cultural events, which Common River supports (Buhe, Fichees, etc.)
  • Story-telling to the students
  • Advises the students and staff on the traditional gardens
  • Provides information to volunteers who document their history and capture their stories
  • Seniors transfer the ancient wisdom to the youth at Common River’s Cultural Programs and assist to direct cultural shows of Sidama music and dance

Rain-making Ceremony
The rain was late. The crops were thirsty. The prayers were answered.
In local Sidama tradition, there is a special ceremony to bring on rain in times of drought.
A cow was sacrificed by the elders and a traditional rain-making ceremony was held.
By midnight of that very day, the sky opened up with a clap of lightening and the rain began. The power of prayer! It worked two years in a row!


1) Compiled and published a traditional Sidama Cookbook

There were not any Sidama cookbooks that have been written and recipes are orally transmitted by mothers to daughters. Donna compiled traditional Sidama recipes into a cookbook to document the food ways that traditionally fed the population. Its focus is on the basis of Sidama cuisine, enset, which is the staple food. As an international nutrition consultant, who has worked with local village women in 30 countries to prepare traditional recipes that use locally available indigenous foods, Donna found this unique cuisine to be complex, empowering, environmentally-friendly and an answer to hunger in the south. She is a proponent and strong advocate of enset.
Preview the book at:

2) Sidama Shelter Artisans Incorporated

Using the artistic expression of architecture and it’s relation to the land, the traditional builders in the area were organized to become legitimate construction contractors. The bamboo weavers organized into a proper “incorporated business” utilizing their traditional building talent skills. Using locally grown products and ancient building techniques (particularly bamboo woven huts) they will continue their legacy through vocational training of new workers. CR would like to continue its building of traditional woven bamboo huts and buildings and will serve as a training ground for the training of new workers.

If the stewards of local architecture own a governance structure they will help with the spread and perpetuation of this particular knowledge. When the builders are organized and connected in a network it is possible to have the tradition bloom in our neighborhoods. There is access to builders without the need for intermediaries as they form their own business entity. Tafesse, a CR staff member, and talented bamboo weaver contractor, became a “licensed” and formed a construction company, called Tafesse Enterprise. This legitimizes the weavers’ exquisite talents and formalizes their skills as a business that has the capacity to thrive and reach other areas outside of Sidama.
See the brochure of Tafesse Enterprise: ORIGINAL SIDAMO BAMBOO HUTS2


  • Provide basic nutrition supplementation to the elders produce from the garden will be provided to the most vulnerable seniors
  • Traditional greenhouse techniques will be used to produce seeds for distribution to the community. Local farmers will be hired to plant and maintain the demonstration garden.
  • Offer assistance in irrigation and water catchment systems and exchange knowledge with Sidama farmers about their landscape management and indigenous irrigation practices.

Create “Sidama Meals” (a food catering service)
Organizing a cooperative of Sidama cooks to prepare traditional meals and be hired for events, ceremonies and cultural celebrations would help to revitalize the disappearing art of Sidama cooking. “Sidama Meals” would be run by local Sidama women. There is a large commercial kitchen with a brick oven and food storage area, donated by Tsegaye Bekele, in the Bekele Hotel. This was the first restaurant in Aleta Wondo. The Bekele Hotel, in the center of town, served as the hub of the town for years and was a central place for all townspeople to meet for food and entertainment, when it opened for business 50 years ago. Over the past two decades it has decayed. We would like to revitalize it to its original “spirit” and transform it into a place where people can eat traditional food, while enjoying traditional song and dance performances. It is a central gathering place of people of all ages and would be of particular interest to the seniors, who remember if from by-gone years. A ritual tent would serve as a venue for performances and the servers would don traditional Sidama clothing. Enset and other food from the demonstration garden would be the main supply source for the raw ingredients of the meals.

Find out how your visit, medical volunteering, international internship, student volunteering, volunteer teaching and / or donations can help us reach our goal of sustainable development in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia. For more information about Common River and how you can help, contact us today.