Ato Solomon is a processor in Woreta town, in a village called Menhar. His residence is located next to his business site.
He has been in business, collecting grains and selling to processors, for 15 years. Since 2007, he established his own processing business and engaged in grain processing—focusing on rice. In addition to rice, he processes and wholesales oats and rough peas. He has two rice de-hauling/polishing machines and four employees.
Solomon is married and he has two daughters. His sister and a housekeeper are other members of the family that he supports financially. His wife helps him with the business activities.
With his loan from Bunna Bank, Solomon is able to compete with large rice processors in town.
He has received working capital loan from Bunna International Bank, a private bank in Ethiopia, of 180, 000 birr (about $10, 000). His previous loan history is from a local microfinance institution called Amhara Credit and Saving S.C, with a maximum amount of 5,000 birr.
The loan from Bunna Bank is the first of its type and amount in his life. This loan enables him to buy and process in bulk, which has increased his revenue to a large extent. He is able to collect more paddy rice by giving cash advances to 15 farmer-traders for 5,000 birr each. Furthermore, he is engaged in buying processed rice and wholesaling to retailers in Addis.
Now he is able to compete with other big processors in town. This is a result of his added financial capacity to attract more customers with the immediate cash payments he can make. Even though he has accessed the loan recently, already he is able to see the difference in terms of increased numbers of customers and the higher revenue generated. He believes that he will make his monthly loan repayments without any delay. Solomon anticipates more benefit from the additional working capital and realizing the impact of the loan in his life in the near future.
Asetu Tipeani Amadu, is a soybean farmer and the lead farmer of her group in the Nyoli community of Wa West District in MEDA’s GROW project.
Through her active participation in the Naamwin Sunte group (meaning “God help us”), Asetu became a Lead Farmer and had the opportunity to participate in training sessions in the areas of best agronomics practices, group dynamics and soybean utilization. During the farming season: “I successfully cultivated 0.5 acre of soybean for household consumption due to its high nutrition. I also adopted no-tillage farming to make my production cost lower. I have increased my farm to one acre this year and expected to harvest about seven bags at the end of the season.”
Asetu is one of the only nine women to win an Assembly seat and will represent the silent voices of more than 600,000 women and children when she helps the Assembly make investment decisions. She said that being a GROW Lead Farmer helped her to prepare for her role as Assembly Woman. Through her involvement with GROW, she has attended important training sessions, has access to important information, has gained an understanding of community issues and gender dynamics, and is better able to manage her workload and support other women. Her experience with the project has boosted her confidence and made her more confident, which will help her represent the community in the Wa West District Assembly.
According to Asetu: “I was greatly supported by the GROW Project to have quality posters, package my message and identify entry points and not to insult others. The men contenders tried to frustrate me but I was determined and I had great support and encouragement from other GROW women.”
And in the villages they dance with joy. We were honored again and again with music and dance and clapping and singing. We were thanked for coming to see them and for being supporters. And we brought Mary Fehr and Sarah French, who cycled across Canada last summer as part of Bike to GROW to raise money for them and other women like them in the GROW project.
This group of a village’s lead farmers don’t have to be coaxed to come forward!
The upper Wa Valley, where GROW works, has over 1,000 lead farmers. Some were chosen for their farming/leadership ability; some came forward when they heard of an opportunity to do something new.
They all have similar stories: They started small and their success grew. These lead farmers each have a group of 15-30 other women farmers that 'report' to them. The program already reaches over 20,000 women farmers. Thanks to them and their local partners and MEDA, they can now see:
- that soya is better for the soil,
- that soya is more nutritious than maize,
- that an acre field of soya creates a larger yield than the same acre of maize,
- and that this extra production allows them to have some for their families and some to sell.
Through MEDA and their local partners:
- They have been taught better ways to plant and grow the soya.
- They have been taught many new nutritious ways to prepare the soya for their families, which provides a marked improvement in their diets.
- They have learned about value chains – understanding that they can't just grow their crops but need sustainable ways to sell and market them. MEDA has created incentives/loans to local people who want to 'risk' becoming entrepreneurs as well.
One man has begun a soy milk processing plant; other women have been growing soya seeds to sell and they are locating markets to sell their soya, and so again the sustainable chain continues to grow.
This is Mary Babele from Tendoma, one of GROW’s lead farmers. Is there any question that this woman is confident? Look at her stance. Not only is she a lead farmer – she is a Ghana soybean farmer of the year!
Here is a common lead farmer story: As it is her husband’s land, she has to ask for half an acre. When she does well, she asks for one acre, then three, and now is aiming for 10, then 30!
Dayi first won a district soya farmer award, and she received a bicycle and tools that she needed for her farm. Then she won soya farmer of the year! Not only did she earn the bike and tools, but she won a cell phone that makes it easier to coordinate with her other farmers.
She also won money. And as we hear over and over, the money that she earns she brings back to her village and family: Her children can go to school, the family can afford better food, she can work more with her other farmers. And of course she brings pride to her family and village. And this is how the sustainable model of MEDA grows.
This is Mandela. He is from one of MEDA KFPs – key facilitating partners – a fancy name for the local organizations that provide the bulk of the interface and training between MEDA and their clients.
MEDA does extensive research to identify projects and their local partners.
But this is what Catherine Sobrevega, MEDA country project manager for GROW, said when she described MEDA's original plan for the project: “They said it would never work! Why? Africans were used to all the nonprofits giving them things – they wouldn't participate if we didn't give them something. MEDA actually scaled back their program due to the local partners’ concerns.”
How often we think that because we have always done it one way – a hand out – that people don't really just need a helping hand.
But now that KFP, Pronet, is MEDA's biggest promoter. It has changed how they view their work. They praise the model of lending/finance and entrepreneurship over giving. They have seen that this is a more sustainable model and seen – in a relatively short time – the women are more independent, more confident, seen as more important in their villages, have increased income that they have channeled into healthier futures for themselves and their children.
Madebo is a 40-year-old potato producer from Delbo Wogane, in Southern Ethiopia. Before joining E-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation), he found it difficult to provide for his family in terms of food and affording his children’s education expenses. Now, he is benefiting greatly from improved production and new skills and knowledge gained from the project.
My name is Tsehay Alemayehu and I have six children. Since the age of three, I have been taking medication for my illness. Despite my physical problems, I am determined to leave my children with something that can change their lives. I joined E-FACE under the VSLA (village savings and loan association) financial service intervention and it has changed my life for the better. It has been one year since I became a member and I cannot imagine life without this service.
Mofida Khudana, with a diploma and a degree in business management, owns a modest women’s clothing store in her city of Ghadamis, but she has much bigger dreams.
She wants a building to attract both Libyans and tourists – a combined centre for human development and small hotel. Mofida joined the LWEE (Libya Women Economic Empowerment) program to learn new business skills and access resources to be better prepared to implement her new, larger plan. “I was determined to start my own business.”
Tekabech Teklu is a member of the village saving association for youth (VSAY) group, Worek Amarfe, which translates into "The Golden Seat." At sixteen in Addis Ababa, she is keen on studying political science and hopes to become the first female president of Ethiopia. She is well spoken, confident and full of positivity regarding her future and that of her country. But Tekabech was not always like this.
Prior to being part of the E-FACE (Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation) project, Tekabech was a different person. She talks about arguing with everyone in her neighborhood and at home. She was quick to pick a fight with others and didn't see the value in helping with housework or with the weaving work done by her parents.