Bethel Agricultural Association, Inc. (BAA) started as a vision of the current leader, Warren Dick, so our story begins with Warren’s story. Warren grew up on a farm in North Dakota and is proud to claim this fact of his life history. His mother would plant a large garden to help feed the large family that was part of his growing-up experience. It was always incredible to see how some very tiny seeds would sprout, grow, and eventually lead to delicious vegetables.
As Warren looks back on how God has blessed BAA, he can only say he is amazed. The initial seed for all of this was planted during the summer between Warren’s junior and senior years at Wheaton College (IL) that was spent in South Sudan. He saw much poverty and food insecurities. This led him to a decision to continue his studies in agriculture, leading to both his MS and PhD degrees in soil science from Iowa State University.
After Warren returned to the states from South Sudan and began his studies at Iowa State University, this seed idea of someday going back to Africa lay dormant in his thoughts for many years. In 2007, he met a professor from Ethiopia, Dr. Fisseha Itanna, who shared the same dream of starting an educational institution focused on teaching sustainable agricultural and environmental practices. This led Warren to make an exploratory trip to Ethiopia in 2010 to see if this dream was something that could take root. Upon returning home, he was fortunate to recruit three outstanding individuals to serve on the BEAUTC USA board with him (Our Team). Parallel to this, he was pleased to also be involved in encouraging the development of the Bethel Environmental and Agricultural Association board in Ethiopia with similar goals.
Initially, we operated under the umbrella of Interlink Ministries () in Apple Creek, Ohio. In 2017, we applied for non-profit status within the state of Ohio under the name Bethel Agricultural Association, Inc. (BAA). We received official non-profit recognition in 2018 from the Internal Revenue Service of the United States government. Today both the BEAA (Bethel Environmental and Agricultural Association in Ethiopia) and BAA boards are officially recognized as non-profits in Ethiopia and the United States, respectively.
What followed was a lot of work in terms of locating land, conducting workshops, raising funds, etc. Today, we have 32 acres of land that have been acquired for the development of Bethel Environmental and Agricultural University and Training Center (BEAUTC). This land is located in the city of Woliso—an ideal location because Woliso is in the center of Ethiopia only 70 miles from the capital city of Addis Ababa and also within a leading agricultural area within the country.
Other accomplishments to date have included conducting several workshops with local farmers and officials in Woliso, the most recent being in December of 2018 (Workshops | Bethel Agricultural Association). We have begun plans for BEAUTC with the motto, “Train a Farmer – Feed a Nation” as well as having plans in place to drill a water well and create a demonstration/research farm. This farm will also be an outdoor laboratory for students, farmers and others to gain practical knowledge of productive and sustainable agricultural practices.
It is important to note that agriculture in Ethiopia is the foundation of the country's economy, accounting for half of gross domestic product (GDP), 83.9% of exports, and 80% of total employment. Ethiopia's agriculture is plagued by periodic drought and soil degradation caused by overgrazing, deforestation, and poor infrastructure, making it difficult and expensive to get goods to market. Yet agriculture is the country's most promising resource. A potential exists for self-sufficiency in grains and for export development in livestock, grains, vegetables, and fruits. As many as 4.6 million people need food assistance annually ().