Agitu Gudeta Saves the Goats

Play episode

Marina Santee and Roger Basick talk about Agitu Gudeta and the incredible influence she had during her short life in a country that was not her own.

Voice 1

Hello and welcome to Spotlight. I’m Marina Santee.

Voice 2

And I’m Roger Basick. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.

Voice 1

Agitu Gudeta is at a market in Frassilongo. This is a town in northern Italy. All around her, men and women shop for produce. Some stop at her shop. It is called La Capra Fillice. This means The Happy Goat. Goats are small, horned animals that resemble sheep. The Happy Goat sells cheese made from goat’s milk. But these are not normal goats. They are a rare kind of goat called Mòcheno goats. The goats are native to the area around Frassilongo. For many years, the population of Mòcheno goats became fewer and fewer. They almost died off. But Agitu has helped save the goats. And she is the first person to open a goat cheese shop in the area in many years.

Voice 2

Agitu uses traditional methods to raise her goats. But she is far from the typical, traditional person living in Frassilongo. The town is remote. It is far up in the mountains. The same people group has lived there for hundreds of years. They are almost all white. Agitu, on the other hand, is black. She is not even Italian. She is a refugee from Ethiopia. But over the years, she has become part of the community. At first the community might have disliked her. Instead, she has given the people of Frassilongo something they badly needed: hope. 

Today’s Spotlight is on Agitu Gudeta. 

Voice 1

Agitu was originally from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. In her early life, she did not plan to live in Italy. But she did study there. Agitu’s family were farmers and shepherds. She hoped her education would help them. So, she traveled to the University of Trento. This is in a city near Frassilongo. There she studied sociology, or the science of human behavior. She hoped to use her degree to work for farmer’s rights. And she wanted to teach people about sustainable farming. 

Voice 2

But Agitu’s dream was not to be. In Ethiopia, the political situation is very difficult. The government does not permit many freedoms. Many kinds of human rights work are illegal. The government punishes people who disagree with it. 

Voice 1

Agitu tried to begin her work in Ethiopia. But her ideas clashed with the government’s policies. The government officials began to see her as a danger. She began to protest some of their policies. In 2019, Agitu spoke to the German news organization Deutsche Welle about these times.

Voice 3

“Some of us had fought back against a system called land-grabbing. That is when the government seizes private farmland. They give it to multinational investors and companies. Soldiers just show up on private property. They say that an investor wants your land. So you have to leave now. We organized peaceful protests against this. But the army often came. They fired at the demonstrators. A lot of people were arrested. Some were tortured.”

Voice 2

Agitu led many of these protests. She was an important leader for farmer’s rights. But in 2010 the government issued an arrest warrant for her. They wanted to put her in prison for leading the protests. Agitu saw how others had been hurt in prison. Some had even been killed. She feared for her life. So she fled the country. She found political shelter in Italy. Unless things changed, she would never return to Ethiopia.

Voice 1

Agitu’s life in Italy was not easy. At first, she had no job. She had no real idea what to do. She ended up working at a coffee shop. It was very different than the life she had trained for.

Voice 2

One day Agitu visited the Mòcheni Valley. It is an remote community in the Alps, the largest mountain range in Europe. It was also home of the Mòcheno goat. For hundreds of years, the Mòcheni people depended on the Mòcheno goat. It gave them food and clothing. But in recent years, people began to leave the Mòcheni Valley. They left for cities or to get work in larger factories. They no longer had the time to take care of the goats. The community got smaller. And the Mòcheno goats began to die out. By 2005, there were only seven Mòcheno goats left. Around that same time, there were only a thousand people living in the valley.

Voice 1

Agitu was struck by the valley’s beauty. But she also fell in love with the Mòcheno goats. She decided to start raising them. She took on a small number of the goats. And she began to feed them grass on land where nobody lived. She spoke to Deutsche Welle about why she made this decision.

Voice 3

“My ancestors were wandering shepherds. It is part of my family tradition. I have worked on different projects that involved earth-friendly farming. Most of these projects dealt with wandering shepherds. During this time that I started a very special relationship with the goats. I feel very strongly about them. You get to know their character. You get to know the quality of their milk. That creates a strong connection.”

Voice 2

At first, Agitu’s work with the goats was a side project. But soon her herd of goats began to have more kids. She became friends with the people who lived there. And she began to think of the Mòcheni Valley as home. She used ways from her tradition to raise the goats. But she also learned about the Mòcheni tradition. She began to make cheese like the people there used to make. Her cheese began to win awards. People started being interested in the valley again. They came for the cheese. They came to learn about Agitu and her goats.

Voice 1

As Agitu’s business grew, she became a community leader. She spoke about using deserted land for farming. She made plans to build a school. It would be a place where people could come learn about earth-friendly farming. She wanted to help other people bring back their own traditions. And she wanted more people to come to the community she loved. Her work became part of the town’s recovery plans.

Voice 2

Sadly, Agitu’s plans were cut short. In December of 2020, an ex-employee entered her home. They argued about money. By the end of the argument, Agitu was dead. She was only 42 years old.

Voice 1

Agitu’s murder shocked the world. But her dream did not die. In the weeks following her death, the community worked hard to save her farm. They raised money to help start the school. People from all over the world gave money to the cause. There is even an art society in Agitu’s name.  

Voice 2

Agitu’s death was a tragedy. But her time in the Mòcheni valley changed people’s lives. She brought light to a place without much hope. And she helped people understand that their home was special.

Voice 1

Stefano Molter is the head of the Association for the Preservation of the Mòcheni Goat. He works to bring back goats like Agitu did. He knew her well. In 2021, he spoke to the British Broadcasting Corporation about her lasting gift to the community.

Voice 4

“We used to joke about her willfulness. But it was her willfulness that changed our community. This is a valley where most young people leave to find jobs in cities. It took a foreign woman to show us what can be done right here.”

Voice 2

Agitu rescued a special breed of goats. She gave new life to the traditional craft of cheese-making. Agitu Gudeta created hope for both refugees and the people of the Mòcheni Valley.

Voice 1

Is there a tradition near you worth saving? What is it? How have refugees found ways to help your community? You can leave a comment on our website. You can leave a comment on our website. You can also comment on facebook@facebook.com/spotlight radio.

Voice 2

The writer of this program was Dan Christmann. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from The United Kingdom and The United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.spotlight English.com. This program is called, ‘Agitu Gudeta Saves the Goats’.

Voice 1

You can also get our programs delivered directly to your Android or Apple device through our free official Spotlight English app. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Is there a tradition near you worth saving? What is it? How have refugees found ways to help your community?Summary: Marina Santee and Roger Basick talk about Agitu Gudeta and the incredible influence she had during her short life in a country that was not her own.

Join the discussion

3 comments
  • A beautiful story that gives hope. Thanks to Spotlight who this year, in the Christmas nativity scene, also placed a great character with his goats, together with the traditional shepherds with their flock of sheep.

  • In Vietnam, we have a very famous tradition in the North, which is called Bat Trang Pottery Village. However, a lot of young people don’t care much about this tradition because they want to earn more money so there are fewer and fewer young people keeping this tradition
    Luckily, there is a show, which is called 2 Days 1 Night, which presents a lot of traditions in Vietnam. As a result, this show has brought a lot of attention from all Vietnamese people to preserve these traditions

  • Well done work she succeeded to save that poor animal in Sudan Ali am going to help the community to make goat cheese

More from this show

Episode 21