A gardener talks about issues with her harvest
Late in 2016, we told you about a pilot program with SPI partner GrowEastAfrica (then DBCO) to establish community vegetable gardens in Billa village and Soyama town in Ethiopia’s Burji region. (You can read the full story here.) GrowEastAfrica works to support folks who belong to marginalized communities and has embraced groups that include large numbers of internally displaced people (IDP), many of whom fled their hometown of Mega to escape conflict.
“The issues that IDPs face in this region is well known to the locals, but little assistance has been offered...and there’s very little international focus on this area.” — Wato Seif, GrowEastAfrica Officer
Despite challenges in the region including scarce access to water and land resources, the pilot groups have been successful and GrowEastAfrica (GEA) has been, well, growing over the past year and a half. GEA now supports 25 women’s groups who come together to share the wealth of knowledge from their Burji traditions and support one another in establishing new livelihoods. By adapting and applying their knowledge to their new environment, these gardeners hope to grow enough food to both feed their families and sell at market. The regional drought has made their work difficult, but they are planning innovative ways to succeed and thrive.
We’re honored to be working with GrowEastAfrica and, by extension, the women who are establishing livelihoods in this challenging environment. GEA works closely with gardeners to ensure that their programs and our partnership are a reflection of these women’s highest priorities.
- GEA and SPI’s partnership prioritizes self-sufficiency and safety.
- Training session are offered at times when women can attend.
- Agricultural projects are tailored to be run near the women’s homes.
- Programs aim to broaden and develop skills necessary to build and sustain whole livelihoods.
In addition to gardening, GEA coordinates financial training workshops for basic financial literacy. As part of this training, the women’s groups participate in chamas, which are group savings plans that build capital so the group can seed future businesses for women in the group. These women are not only building their own economic power; they are creating more opportunities for themselves, and helping the whole community to grow and prosper.
What’s next for GrowEastAfrica? Securing land and water resources.
“At present we are primarily focused on one main site vegetable garden project which is in Soyama. The current plot size is very small and we are trying to expand to accommodate for the size of the families and to ensure a sustainable source of water. We plan to keep the current plots and add more to them. At present we are focused on one group called Biher. This is the Mega ladies we are currently working with.” — Yohannes Chondes, GrowEastAfrica Co-Founder
Women need a safe place to live where they can support their children. Like many women in other parts of the world, the life of a Burji woman in these communities is hard. They have to juggle domestic duties and agricultural work — sowing, weeding, and harvesting crops, all while making food for their families and collecting firewood and water. This is unpaid, and often unrecognized, labor. With access to skills and resources, these women are establishing livelihoods that will create a foundation for self-sufficiency for themselves and generations to come.
Our thanks to you for supporting this project, and a special thanks to the folks at GrowEastAfrica — we cannot do what we do without the financial support of our donors or the expertise of our partners.
Discussing issues with the land