Thabita and her husband are farmers in a rural area of Ethiopia. Every day, Thabita works hard on the 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,” said 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. Tearfund and our local partner organisations in Ethiopia are supporting farmers like Thabita by providing training in business skills and new farming methods through community self-help groups,” she said.
Self-help groups help people in the community to support each other in their individual and collective goals. They save money together to invest in their businesses or fall back on when times are tough.
When Thabita joined a local self-help group, her life changed.
“We had no culture of saving money,” said Thabita, reflecting on how her family approached money before she joined the group.
She added: “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,”
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 trees have 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,” said 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”, he added.
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 in 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 do kitchen gardens, so I no longer buy spinach and other vegetables – I get them straight from my backyard.’
Thabita’s family no longer just eats grains throughout the year, but now includes vegetables in their diet. 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.