During the mid 1980’s, famine left Northern Ethiopia in ruins. Grain prices sky-rocketed and continued drought left the agricultural sector vulnerable for years. Due to a lack of communication and knowledge of food supplies in the south, millions in the north died while southern farmers disposed of excess grain. In 2008, the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) began operations to “connect all buyers and sellers in an efficient, reliable, and transparent market”. Now a government agency, the ECX is attempting to transform the Ethiopian agricultural market by connecting Ethiopian farmers to buyers both within Ethiopia and beyond its borders.
How effective is this new exchange system? A Market of Faith follows four Ethiopian farmers and their interactions with the Ethiopian Commodity’s Exchange. Farmers, for generations, have traded with the same reliable buyers. Grain has always been assessed by visual inspections, manually organized, and sold in same outdoor markets. However, there is no consistency in prices or quality of the product. In an attempt for natives to do what is best for the future of Ethiopia, many farmers find themselves conflicted with breaking tradition and putting trust in a distant government agency. The success of a new market is reliant on the faith of the individual farmer. The film will follow each family for two weeks as they prepare for the rainy season and ration their crop until the next harvest. We will document their experiences as they trade with their regular buyers and the difficulties they, or others in their communities, face when dealing with the ECX grain storage warehouses located throughout the country.
This documentary will bring attention to the struggle faced by Ethiopian farmers as they decide between keeping market traditions or putting their livelihood into the hands of a government program that promises to change the failing agricultural infrastructure. Though it focuses on Ethiopian agriculture, A Market of Faith will serve as a case study of farmers and how the increasingly skewed food systems of the world affect them. Despite the large number of farmers across the globe, they rarely hold power in the agricultural industry. The Ethiopian farmers and the ECX serve as just one example of a global issue that we feel merits investigation and documentation.