Tearfund Ireland works in the Ethiopian regions of Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ with funding provided by Irish Aid. Tearfund Ireland and partners enable women to lift themselves and their household out of poverty through Self-Help Groups, train farmers and households in Conversation Agriculture and Sustainable Organic Farming, train communities to plan and be prepared for disasters and shocks, as well as piloting the cultivation of Macadamia nut.
The Self-Help Group Approach
SHGs are groups of 15-20 women who are among the poorest in their community. The SHG creates a platform for these women to build relationships, solve problems together, save money and receive low interest loans and have an informal insurance in times of shocks. The loans that the SHGs give out to their members are usually invested in individual or group income generating activities which increase the income of the household. The SHG approach is asset based, which means that no external capital is given to the SHGs, but they are only working with assets and resources available through their own members. This approach increases the sense of ownership, dignity and self-confidence among the women. The members of the SHG also experience joint democratic decision making, law and order as they develop their own constitution and bylaws for their group, and they practice leadership and bookkeeping. The SHG meetings are also used to teach women on HIV, COVID-19 awareness and other important topics.
As the income of the women grows through the SHGs, the recognition of these women within their household and communities grow, which leads to an increase of joint decision making within the households and increases the participation of these women in community decision processes. In the long term, SHG members are also encouraged to access additional loans from Micro Finance Institutions and enabled to open their own bank accounts.
Through the weekly meetings, the women experience peer support, an increased sense of wellbeing, dignity and respect. The SHG approach benefits the whole family as it leads to significant changes in the gender relationship between spouses, children’s access to education and household food security.
Conservation Agriculture and Sustainable Organic Agriculture
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach that requires a very low resource input for a high return and is therefore especially suitable for smallholder farmers. It is based on three principles: minimum tillage, mulch cover and crop rotation. It increases productivity of land by retaining moisture, improving soil fertility particularly in drought prone areas, while reducing the use of expensive fertilizers. The principle of Sustainable Organic Agriculture (SOA) is to use land which has so far not been considered for planting such as a family’s backyard to grow variety of crops. The household benefits from their own grown vegetable and crop and are able to improve nutrition or income if they chose to sell their products.
Tearfund Ireland and partners have worked with local churches and trained them in CO and SOA. The churches are now providing land for CA and SOA demonstrations to present the benefits of the approaches to field workers and farmers. Facilitators and volunteers are further training communities to start CA and SOA.
The Macadamia tree can produce up to 20 kg of nuts sold at 1.10 EUR/kg within three to five years. Tearfund Ireland and partners are introducing macadamia as a new crop and is encouraging SHG members to grow macadamia as a group income generating activity.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) trainings are provided to communities and encouraged to develop their own DRR plan on an individual, community and district level.
2021 Food and Seed Provision
Communities in the Wolayita Zone of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region can usually rely on two rain-intense seasons which lead to two crop harvests per year. But this year (2021), the Beleg rains in April fell late and there were no rains in June. Crops which are sensitive to the lack of moisture, such as haricot bean and maize, has been destroyed. The crop failure has led to high demand for food which has led to soaring price inflation and families in the region are unable to afford basic necessities. In search of food, many families are selling their livestock, their land or migrating to urban centres. The COVID-19 pandemic and the secondary impacts of government restrictions have resulted in further economic hardship. In addition, conflict in the Tigray region has added to the wider economic instability and thousands of people displaced from their homes. This crop failure is yet another crisis for thousands of families facing food insecurity.
Tearfund Ireland and its partner provided emergency food distribution to 1,857 households and one-time agricultural input support to 2,548 farmers (50% women). Training in sustainable forms of agriculture to help farmers employ more resilient farming practices were provided.