The Irish Sisters of Mercy are extending their legacy of mercy to Ethiopia through a new form
of Green Aid. Calling on their many years of community development experience, the Sisters of
Mercy, based in the West of Ireland have partnered with Irish development Agency Vita to bring
fresh thinking to aid in Africa and get away from the culture of hand outs.
Traditional Irish missionaries were well known for their tireless work in many continents but today
the Sisters of Mercy have a revolutionary approach to this legacy. The Mercy/Vita Partnership has
piloted a model of building community self-reliance in Ethiopia in the form of a Green Zone. The
programme focuses on supporting aid dependent households to build wells, latrines, fuel-saving
stoves, community led tree planting, vegetable gardens, access to safe water, food and energy
enabling communities to build sustainable livelihoods and become self-sufficient.
The Mercy/Vita Partnership aims to raise awareness on critical global issues of hunger and climate
change. The current Ecological Policy of the Sisters draws attention to a Culture of Consumerism
in the Western World and how that contributes to global crises, particularly relating to food and
In October, two members of Vita/Mercy Partnership working group returned from Ethiopia and
presented a report to the Mercy membership in the Western Province highlighting progress made in
the first phase of this project.
The key elements of the Project within the Gama Gofa Green Zone are:
Community -Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) where to date five million units have been installed.
Community-based energy efficient stove training programme for women. These new stoves
use 50% less timber, emit less smoke and results in a major reduction in eye and respiratory
diseases. On a global level the stoves reduce CO2 emissions thus mitigating against climate
The selling of carbon emission reductions in carbon markets to fund expansion of the Green
The Irish potato which can provide an Ethiopian family with enough food to both sustain the
family and sell a surplus to earn an income. This saves families from buying food and saves
Ethiopia from importing food or depending on food aid.
The Green Zone also assists the local people through providing a Self-Supporting Cooperative
Pottery Project where men and women work together and also a Weaving Industry. These small
industries allow the locals to support their families with food and education and they can sell their
produce on the markets.
Missionary aid began in Ireland during the famine years when Ireland's beleaguered people were
supported in the worst times of her history by those who followed their Christian calling. In the
worst famine years of the 1840s, hundreds of sisters from the order of the Sisters of Mercy accepted
the calling of their founder Catherine McAuley and spread across Ireland bringing sustenance to the
most deprived. They opened hospitals and schools and started a legacy that has extended to this
The Sisters of Mercy spread their wings even further across four continents including the United
States. Since their arrival in the 1950s the Sisters have brought their distinctive service to over 18
American communities. Today, their provence is based in Simpson Wood, Atlanta.
Vita CEO John Weakliam lauds the shared values that drive the partnership. "Bringing Enablement is
a cornerstone of the Sisters’ work in Ireland and this is the key to unlock the potential and yearning
of Ethiopians to lead their own development".
The Mercy Sisters and Vita are now bringing the Green Zone message to the US and invite like-minded partners to engage. To find out more about Vita and the Mercy Sisters visit;