Rain rules the lives of rural Ethiopians. When drought came to the district of Mesela, people coped by reducing their number of daily meals, and selling their remaining livestock (often their most important assets).
In December 2011, CARE initiated a livelihoods recovery project with funding from the Austrian Development Agency, distributing cereal and vegetable seeds, poultry along with agriculture training.
The community divided families into the “poorest of the poor”, the “poor” and the “better off”. They decided that the “poorest of the poor” should receive the goats distributed by CARE first and these families would give the first four offspring of their goats to the families of the second group, the “poor”. This practice, widely accepted and appreciated, shows the sense of solidarity in the Mesela community.
CARE also invited women to participate in Village Savings and Loan Associations.
Fantanesh, a 25-year-old farmer, convinced 19 women to create a Village Savings and Loan Association and reached out to CARE for training. Today her association has saved 1,200 birr ($USD 67.70). ‘Before the VSLA’, she explains, ‘I always faced a shortage of money. Now, I have access to credit for my petty trading and I can do what I want. The market is now my farmland.’
VSLAs elevate the status of women in their communities by demonstrating how the economic empowerment of women helps not just women, but everyone around them, including men and boys, giving them ideas on how to overcome poverty in the future.
Fantanesh says the men in her community are supportive. ‘They support us at home when we meet every week. They keep the animals, they fetch water and they collect wood so we can participate in VSLAs. They are very happy because additional money is brought to the family.’