Ethiopia is the oldest independent country and the second most populous nation in Africa. It is located in the Horn of Africa, just north of the equator. It shares borders with Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan. It is roughly twice the size of Texas. Ethiopia traces its history back to the ancient Axumite Empire. For most of its history, following the coming of Christianity to Ethiopia in the 3rd century AD, Ethiopia was ruled by a monarchy, said to be a dynastic line from King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, with strong ties to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The last Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, was overthrown in 1974, during a period of revolution that eventually resulted in rule by a military committee known as the Derg until 1991. After the Derg fell to a coalition of rebel forces in 1991, and after a period of transitional government, a new constitution created the current Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
There are over 80 different ethnic groups and languages amongst the Ethiopian population, which is over 100 million. The official national language is Amharic, and English is promoted as the international language of trade and diplomacy. The Aerie Africa / CCC project is located in the Wolaita zone of the Southern Nation, Nationalities and Peoples Region in southern Ethiopia. The primary ethic and language group in the Wolaita zone is the Wolaita people (sometimes spelled Wolayta or Welayta). Wolaita is a language in the Omotic language family.
Depending on who is doing the measuring (WB, IMF, UN, etc.), the Ethiopian per-capita GDP is listed between $350 and $500 annual, which, regardless of the measuring organization, places it among the 10 poorest nations of the world. When adjusted for purchasing power parity, the picture improves slightly, but Ethiopia is still within the bottom 15 nations in the world. There is some good news, however, as Ethiopia has averaged about 10% annual GDP growth since 2005. This growth has itself presented challenges, such as inflation and a growing wealth divide. Ethiopia has also made strong strides towards many of the Millennium Development Goals, such as reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, improving access to primary education, and reducing extreme poverty.
Despite great strides in recent years, Ethiopia still struggles. Barely over 50% of the population has access to improved drinking water and more than 75% of the population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Only 40% of the adult population (age 15+) are considered literate, though Ethiopia has made education access improvements, with net enrollment in primary education now up to over 85% of the school-age population (stats from CIA World Fact Book, last accessed January 2015).