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The Ethiopian Sustainable Tourism Alliance (ESTA) declared it has improved revenue and revived the tradition of craftsmanship that was nearing extinction in central and southern Rift Valley areas, during its past four years’ operation. This was announced at a close-out ceremony held at the Beer Garden Inn, around Bole Medhanialemon Thursday May 23.
ESTA, a five-year initiative intended to create alternative livelihoods through sustainable tourism, conservation, handcrafts and HIV/AIDS care and support activities, organized a close-out ceremony, where improved products produced by the artisans from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s and Oromia regional states were exhibited. Officials of Counterpart International, a 50 years old global development organization which is also the implementer of ESTA, stated that the associations involved in the ESTA’s program have registered an increase in their sales both in their own areas as well as in Addis Ababa at the Artist and Artisans’ Bazaar, a two-days-long bi-annual market event, held here in Addis. 
Artisans described their experiences in their journey and how the program has changed their lives, at the ceremony attended by among others, officials from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) and the Embassy of the United States (US). 
Bedilu Shegen, General Manager of Counterpart International said the program has not only improved the income of artisans by three folds, but also was able to revive the tradition of craftsmanship that was on the verge of disappearance. “One important example to cite is the craft of ‘Mishike’ (unique type of basket making) which was abandoned by the young generation around Lephis and Arsi Negelle areas in Oromiya,” he said. According to Bedilu, after ESTA made a design improvement on the product, Mishike has become one of the highest selling items.     Counterpart International has been in operation since 2009 to enhance biodiversity conservation and economic development through sustainable ecotourism products, services, and other opportunities in the Rift Valley regions.
Through its handcraft program, ESTA has worked with nine artisan associations specializing in textile, basket weaving, carvings and beadworks to create alternative livelihood and develop the tourism sites. Some 33 associations have been created to support sustainable livelihood generations and biodiversity conservation in the central and southern Rift Valleys.