Fifty years, fifty countries: Ethiopia

Environmental sustainabilityCapacity DevelopmentMicro Enterprise50 CountriesEthiopia

To mark 50 years of Tearfund, we’re sharing about 50 countries where we’ve worked, celebrating God’s provision and power to transform, and praying for each of these nations. This week we’re in Ethiopia.

‘There is no lack of food in my home now, rather I can help others who are in need.’ This is the experience of Regatu and many others like her whose lives have been transformed through savings groups in Ethiopia.

Home to over 100 million people, almost 40 per cent of whom live below the poverty line, Ethiopia faces great challenges in overcoming poverty. The 1970s and 1980s saw drought, famine, war and ill-formed policies bringing many to the brink of starvation. And while the country is now much more stable, erratic rains have contributed to the worst drought in over 50 years. This has left 8.5 million people needing food assistance.

Tearfund has been there through it all, initially focussing on drilling wells, but expanding to a range of other projects and emergency responses. Much of this has been done with the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC), the largest evangelical denomination in Ethiopia.

Saving families
It was in partnership with EKHC in 2002 that a pilot project of five self-help groups (SHGs) comprised of 100 women was launched in Nazaret.

The SHG approach is built on the belief that people living in poverty can be agents of change – that they have the potential, no matter how challenging their personal situation may be, to solve their own problems with support within the group.

Through regular savings members of the groups are able to mobilise their, often very limited, resources and take out small loans for micro-enterprises and urgent consumption needs. Weekly meetings allow the members to discuss issues, find solutions to common problems and build trusting and close relationships that support members through personal crises.

‘I am not an educated woman,’ says Regatu. ‘But the training about saving and making businesses changed my entire life and my family as well. I thank EKHC and God for making our family’s poverty history. It was not only the money that I got from my group but the support and frequent visits by the members, which made me very strong and confident in bad and good times.’

A growing movement
There are now thousands of SHGs throughout Ethiopia.

Research undertaken in 2017 has shown that this approach is an effective means of creating sustainable livelihoods, increasing resilience to shocks and stresses and alleviating poverty in urban and rural situations.

Thanks to the amazing growth of SHGs, Tearfund has piloted a microfinance linkage scheme and trained farmers in better agricultural practices. Also, in response to the drought, we’ve distributed emergency food and ensured access to clean water, as well as provided proper sanitation and hygiene training for thousands of people. Please pray with us for this work.

If you'd like to know more please visit the Ethiopia country page.

Please pray

  • Praise God for the powerful tool of SHGs and for their growth in Ethiopia. Pray that we can grow the work in the next six years to half a million members in 30,000 groups.
  • Pray for communities struggling with the ongoing drought. Pray that help can reach the millions of people in need of assistance.
  • Pray for Tearfund’s ongoing work to strengthen communities so that they are better able to withstand the challenges of a changing climate.