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Farm together, thrive together

Joining a community group has given Thabita the skills and support to help her lift her family out of poverty.

Written by Diane Igirimbabazi | 19 Feb 2021

More than 70 per cent of people in Ethiopia rely on farming as their main source of income. But with no money to buy seeds or fertiliser, and the climate crisis affecting weather patterns, farmers are suffering. They are no longer able to produce enough food to eat, let alone sell.

Thabita and her husband know this struggle all too well. Every day, Thabita works hard on their farm, where she grows maize and raises livestock. She also looks after the house and takes care of her seven children.

‘We were always struggling with food and money,’ says Thabita. ‘Our food production was never enough – our land is small and we did not have enough money to buy fertilisers to increase our production.’

Learning together, working together

Tearfund and our local partner organisations in Ethiopia are supporting farmers like Thabita. Working through community self-help groups, we’re providing training in business skills and new, more sustainable farming methods.

Self-help groups help people in the community to support one another, helping each other to achieve their dreams. They save money together to invest in their businesses or use it to fall back on when times are tough.

When Thabita joined a local self-help group, her life changed.

‘[Before] we had no culture of saving money,’ says Thabita.. ‘The money we got from selling our produce after the harvest was used to meet different household needs. In case of an emergency, we had to go to money lenders who would charge us 50 per cent interest, but now I have learned to save.’

Thabita in her flourishing field of maize | Photo credit: Diane Igirimbabazi/Tearfund

New farming methods

At her self-help group, Thabita learned a new farming method which helped her grow more maize. And with the money she had saved, she was able to buy good quality seeds and fertilisers. Now her maize has grown taller than her, and she gets a very good harvest.

‘Self-help groups have proven to be a successful tool for communities to lift themselves out of poverty,’ says Ephraim Tsegay, who oversees Tearfund’s work in Ethiopia.

‘We believe that self-help groups farmers can become key actors in their local economy. We encourage self-help groups to work together and try new climate-resistant crops. When they work as a group, they support each other and have better negotiation power with buyers.’

Top Thanks to the help and encouragement of her self-help group, Thabita’s farm is now thriving Bottom She’s also been able to invest in some livestock | Photo credit: Diane Igirimbabazi/Tearfund

The best is yet to come

Self-help groups also provide their members with strong relationships and support in the community. The members share their knowledge and work together on their farms.

Thabita has noticed a positive change in herself since joining the group. ‘I am much more confident, I can speak in public and express my opinions,’ she says. ‘I have learned from others. One person taught us how to plant kitchen gardens, so I no longer buy spinach and other vegetables – I get them straight from my backyard.’

Thabita has started a new business of selling grains and maize flour and bought new livestock. She is proud of what her family has achieved so far, and believes that the best is yet to come.

Please pray

    • Thank God for the training that’s helping people like Thabita to lift herself out of poverty. Pray that this training will reach even more people.

    • Pray for provision for the millions of Ethiopians who still don’t have enough food to eat.

    • Praise God for the self-help group movement, and pray that it will spread so more even more lives will be changed for the better.

Written by

Written by  Diane Igirimbabazi

Diane Igirimbabazi is Tearfund’s Regional Communication Officer for East and Central Africa.

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