Women’s cooperative revolving fund with basic business and life skills transforms livelihoods for better
According to Fantu Alemayehu, a young woman member of a saving and credit cooperative established in Galan town, a peri-urban area in Oromia region of Ethiopia, the 3000 birr equivalent of 86USD she borrowed three years ago along the training she received on Basic Business and Life Skills meant a turning point for the better life her family and herself are in today.
Fantu explains, “Sixteen years ago I dropped out of school from grade eight and migrated from a rural area in Northern Ethiopia, Gojam to Addis Ababa seeking for a better life. I worked as a housekeeper for eight years earning only 70birr per month. When I didn’t see improvement in my life, I got married. Although my husband is a supportive one, his little income from provision of cart transport service to the villagers, was not enough to meet our basic needs.”
When the Gender Transformative Climate Smart Agriculture and Agri–Business (CSAAB) program launched by UN Women and SOS Sahel Ethiopia in Galan town, Fantu became among the beneficiaries. As a result, she says that not only hers and her family’s livelihoods have changed, she also became a model woman in her village for effectively using the loan and the skills she acquired, “When I received 3000 birr, during the rainy season I bought Gurage cabbage seedlings, which has a high demand in the community, and planted in my garden. The 10,000birr income from sale of the cabbage, the seedlings, and the dry seeds, was the turning point for me and my family’s living conditions improvement. After I paid back the 3,000birr loan, I used part of the 7,000birr to invest in sheep fattening for sale. Today, I am no longer dependent on my husband’s income to purchase what I need. For instance, because of the labour and fuel saving Injera baker I bought, the smoke from the old baker is no more affecting my health.”
Being economically empowered not only enabled Fantu to support her existing family in a better way, she also realized her dream of having a second child, “When I gave birth to my first child six years ago, the burden on the little income increased and my husband and myself used to struggle for survival. When our livelihood improved, we decided to have the second child and it has been only 50 days since I gave birth.”
As a model woman in her community, Fantu was awarded 25,000birr on business award competition for successfully using the 3,000birr loan and timely repaying. This motivated her to expand her business and to contribute more to her community, “ Since I became beneficiary of the program, I have saved 40,000birr including the award. If I sale the six sheep I currently own, I estimate to have 50,000birr more and my short-term plan is to purchase goats and fatten for sale as they take shorter time to breed. My support to the women in the community will continue by sharing my experiences and by providing them with improved Gurage cabbage seedlings.” Fantu added that her husband, Buziye Yibeltal is one of the reasons behind her success. He supports her in the household duties including cooking after he took the training on Male Engagement and Gender Model family offered under the program.
UN Women in collaboration with SOS Sahel Ethiopia has been applying the approach to four cooperatives and enterprises of 200 members, which comprise more than 1000 family members. The cooperative in Galan town has fifty four members. A weekly contribution of 100birr by each member has reached their saving to 190,000birr. This is enabling more members to borrow from the revolving fund and to invest in various businesses to improve theirs and their families’ livelihoods.