Karlheinz Böhm

„There is no first, second or third world. We all live on one and the same planet, for which we carry joint responsibility.” Karlheinz Böhm (1928-2014)

 

A single person’s anger…

“Anger is my work’s main motive – anger about the injustice between rich and poor”, this is how Karlheinz Böhm always defined his motivation. It was this anger that, more than thirty years ago, in the family programme “Wetten, dass..?”, made him bet “that not even every third viewer will donate one Deutschmark, one Swiss franc or seven Austrian schillings for people in the Sahel region”. Karlheinz Böhm won the bet, but it amounted to a sum of about 8.4 million Austrian schillings (the equivalent of about 610,452 Euro), the basis for his organisation.

In October 1981 Karlheinz Böhm travels to Ethiopia. Near the town of Babile, in eastern Ethiopia, he meets about 1,500 semi-nomads from the Hauiwa tribe that lead a miserable existence in a hunger camp without any prospects for the future.

“I want to help these people. But not in this camp, no. I want to help them settle in the Erer valley, 30 km away. There they can start a new life as farmers.”

Karlheinz Böhm met people at eye level and listened to them, he asked what they needed the most. Less than two years later it was done: the farmers could reap their first truly profitable harvests, and the hunger camp in Babile was closed forever.

 

 

…helps millions of people

By helping the people in the Erer valley, Karlheinz Böhm laid the foundation for his “help for self-help”. Thirty years later more than 5 million people benefit from long-term projects with the goal to enable farmers to promote their development, and with that the development of the entire region, themselves. Today there are 15 project areas in Ethiopia, on a surface of about 56,000 km² (about two thirds of Austria). 6 of them could be entirely transferred to the responsibility of the population. This made parts of Karlheinz Böhm’s wish come true: “one day not to be needed any longer”.

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Photo: Peter Rigaud