VICTORIA, British Columbia — Self Help Africa is an international development organization working to end rural poverty in Ethiopia through numerous programs that target smallholder farmers. The organization’s mission is to help build a strong and inclusive agricultural sector where smallholder farmers can thrive economically. Self Help Africa also works to increase rural Ethiopians’ resilience to socio-economic shocks, such as drought and conflict, through programs that increase access to markets and financial services, increase farm productivity and improve the nutritional status of rural communities.
Poverty and the Economy
Ethiopia’s economy has grown substantially in the past decade. In 2017, Ethiopia outpaced Kenya as the largest economy in East Africa. This economic growth has led to a substantial reduction in the country’s poverty rate from 46% of the population in 1995 to less than 24% in 2016. Ethiopia’s agricultural sector has driven much of this growth and poverty reduction, which represented 40% of the country’s exports and 37% of the GDP while employing the majority of the labor force in 2016. Given that about 80% of Ethiopians reside in rural areas, agricultural growth is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty in Ethiopia.
While Ethiopia has made much progress in reducing poverty in recent years, 22 million Ethiopians continue to face a vicious cycle of poverty. Eighty percent of impoverished Ethiopians reside in rural areas, where poverty reduction rates are much slower in comparison to urban areas. This is largely due to instability caused by socio-economic shocks, the most frequent being food insecurity and malnutrition triggered by frequent droughts in the country’s south and conflict in the north. The slow rate of rural poverty reduction in Ethiopia is also due to smallholder farmers’ weak linkages with the agricultural markets and limited use of agricultural inputs that help increase farm productivity.
One of the main focuses of Self Help Africa is increasing the market inclusion of Ethiopia’s smallholder communities through programs that help farmers grow their operations. The growth and development of smallholder businesses work to create a foundation for rural communities to cope with socio-economic shocks and escape the cycle of poverty. Here are three programs Self Help Africa has implemented in rural Ethiopia.
Scaling Up Rural Savings and Credit Cooperatives (RuSACCOs)
In Ethiopia, only 14% of the adult population have access to credit and only 22% have a bank account with a financial institution, making the country one of the lowest-ranked in the world in terms of financial inclusion. This is largely due to the limited coverage of commercial banking, which largely excludes rural communities and remains concentrated in urban areas.
Self Help Africa’s MF: Scaling Up RuSACCOs project, implemented in 2020, works to fill the gap in financial coverage by providing financial services to 93,968 rural Ethiopians, 50% of whom are women. Members of these community-owned cooperatives receive training in micro-finance and gain access to financial resources that aid in the development of their agricultural operations. Self Help Africa’s contribution to the development of a rural finance system in Ethiopia has worked to increase food security and income among impoverished rural communities.
Dairy for Development
The Oromia region in Ethiopia is the largest dairy-producing region in the country, and yet, 75% of the region’s population is impoverished and 38.4% of children under 5 suffer stunting. One can attribute the region’s chronic malnutrition to insufficient dairy yields resulting from a lack of sufficient inputs and a lack of access to markets. Self Help Africa’s Dairy for Development program aims to improve income, food security and nutrition for smallholder communities involved in dairy production.
First launched in 2018, the program works with three dairy cooperatives and 600 producers to improve farm management practices through the provision of equipment and training in milk processing and testing. Self Help Africa also works with local governments to help facilitate smallholders’ access to markets. Additionally, the program works to educate households on the importance of nutritional diversity and the benefits of dairy consumption for infants and young children.
MORE: MAIZE – Feed the Future
In 2020, Self Help Africa partnered with Bore Bako and Ambo Farmers’ Cooperative Unions (FCUs) in the Oromia region to help smallholder farmers increase the quality and volume of their maize yields sold in the market. The Feed the Future program provides training to 13,000 households on marketing, business management and post-harvest management to enable smallholders to become more incorporated into the agricultural market.
This will allow farmers to derive more income from their crops, which will work to reduce poverty rates and improve food security within rural communities. The program also works to build the leadership and governance capacity of the FCUs to better establish their position within their communities.
Through the support of Self Help Africa, 200,000 households in 2019 increased their resilience to socio-economic shocks. Self Help Africa’s programs in Ethiopia have worked to fill the gaps that exist within the country’s agricultural sector by providing impoverished rural communities with the basic tools needed to thrive economically.
– Kaitlyn DeWeerd