Greetings from Ethiopia, where we work with GrowEastAfrica to reduce hunger and malnutrition, while also providing women with income to keep their children in school and increase their financial stability. Currently, our focus is on improving the lives of internally displaced persons through active women’s groups. We’d like to introduce you to Buzunesh, one of the women of the Birhan Ladies Group.
Before, Buzunesh and her husband, Oume, worked on the family farm growing teff, beans, and wheat. She sold excess cereals, like teff, at the local market, but had neither the training nor the support to expand her trade. Money was tight on a good day with a good harvest, and Buzunesh, like many women like her, knew that one poor harvest–due to missed rains, grazing cattle, or a rise in internal conflict–could easily put her and her family in a dire situation.
After being approached by her community coordinator, Buzunesh joined the Birhan Ladies Group with the hope of expanding opportunities for herself, her husband, and their six children. Since joining the group, Buzunesh has not only received training for new skillsets, but the camaraderie of a group of like-minded women all trying to do right by their families with the resources they have. Now, Buzunesh has worked with the group to cultivate her vegetable and quinoa farming skills, and has been a part of trainings that taught her important skills in market development approach and bookkeeping.
That’s not all. GEA, a local organization driven by local solutions, ensures that every training is holistic and all-encompassing. In addition to market development and bookkeeping, as well as basics in diversifying crop types, Buzunesh also learned to incorporate modern drip irrigation systems and solar energy into her farm. Her farm has expanded to include tomatoes, kale, round head cabbage, onions, peppers and carrots. With a growing family, she values the added nutrition and food security the new crops provide her and her children.
Her market endeavours have expanded too: she trades at fruit stands and prepares local drinks as a value-added agricultural product, which brings her more income than the base ingredient ever could. This is made possible by collaborating with the fellow women in her group and a GEA program which matches their investment dividends. For example, last year members contributed 1,000 Birrs ($21) each to a fund that GEA matched, giving the group a total of 10,000 Birrs ($214!) to invest in their community. After selling teff in the local market, their fund grew to 13,000 Birrs, and is projected to grow. This projection is in part due to the “Equibb” savings plan, where members save 100 Birrs a week to set aside for investments. With their newfound financial abundance, Buzunesh and her women’s group are excited to expand their vegetable and grain production.
The women’s group has been a smashing success, and it’s safe to say that the women are prepared to build off that success. With the group now having the skills to meet and adapt to problems as they come–from market changes to climate variability–the women have a well-founded sense of optimism for their futures. For example, Buzunesh explained to us that while the 2020 floods ruined their teff and quinoa crops, they were able to shift gears and invest their time and energy into preserving their vegetable fields. This hard work paid off, and shows that crop diversification leads to great resilience, as now they have multiple avenues for increasing successful seasons.
These programs are able to continue in part thanks to donors like you. On behalf of Buzunesh, the Birhan Ladies Group, GrowEastAfrica, and our team here at Seed Programs International, thank you for your support. We hope you’ll continue on this journey together, to provide seeds of change to communities throughout the world.
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