About one year ago, 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 part one hereand part two here.) You may recall that they are an Ethiopian diaspora-led group based in the US. We recently received an update from Co-Founder Yohannes Chonde, who shared what’s happening on the ground.
GrowEastAfrica Partnership DevelopmentGrowEastAfrica is doing fantastic work toward facilitating economic empowerment for the communities they serve. Of note, they’ve recently helped organize two new women’s groups and they’re currently negotiating to secure 4 hectares of land for a community garden. In addition to growing vegetables and quinoa, the women are planning activities that can be completed between planting and harvesting seasons to generate more income. Seed saving for market sales and raising poultry are currently at the top of the list.
Assessing their immediate needs, the women have determined that water storage is their first priority. They’re outlining a plan for installing 10,000 liter tanks that can be used for irrigation and other farming activities. Taking their lead, SPI is now working with Yohannes and the women’s groups on the best way to acquire, deliver, and install tanks for each group.
New Women’s Groups Highlights
- Two women’s groups were started, most of whose members are IDPs (internally displaced persons).
- Two business trainings were conducted in December, featuring Marketing and Market Study and Bookkeeping.
- All women received bookkeeping logs, pens, and basic calculators.
- Women are participating in a group savings plan to contribute to seed money for their future businesses. This is known as a chama. (You can read more about chamas here.)
Challenges on the GroundWhile GrowEastAfrica’s communities have accomplished some great work recently, these women are working against both traditional and new challenges. Women in this region face many cultural and societal barriers, and competition for resources can make these barriers even more difficult to overcome. Yohannes also reports recent ethnic clashes in the region between several tribes. Many people have been killed and displaced, though there have been no reports in the mainstream media.
Despite these challenges, group members are fully committed to making their project succeed and grow. They believe that developing their economic empowerment can help overcome these barriers, and they are investing the time and effort to make it happen.
Yohannes’ passion and compassion come through clearly if you have the chance to hear him talk about the people he works with. And with good reason — these are powerful, resilient women.
On his behalf, the behalf of the women’s groups, and on behalf of SPI, thank you for your continued support through Sweet Blossom Gifts’ Women’s Empowerment Initiative!