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.
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.
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.
Moises is a potter in San Juan de Oriente, Nicaragua, who prides himself on creating custom pieces to suit his customers' desires. He uses a traditional hand-powered wheel because the quality of the work is very important to him.
"This business has been running for 40 years. It is a pioneer in this community," Moises shares. "It's a business we inherited from our grandparents and it should last for many years more."
Carlos Hernandez was born and raised on one of the many islands surrounding Nicaragua. When he started looking for work, he came to the mainland to sell goods at a local market before trying to work in real estate, though neither venture was very successful.
Carlos used his first paycheck to buy a boat, leaving behind his previous jobs to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. His idea was to provide tours of Nicaragua by water. Carlos named the boat Scarlett, after his daughter, and Karina, after his wife, who were both "gifts to me from God."
Jamilelh Flores is a tortilla maker and owner of a small roadside stand in Nicaragua selling fast food and natural drinks. She employs three people to help her serve many local customers during the long hours from 5am to 7-8pm. Her most common dishes incorporate tortillas and cheese.
Jamilelh started her business 20 years ago. She had a bad experience with a previous group loan and had to pay money she didn't use to cover the debts of others in the group. "The most difficult part is when you don't have money," Jamilelh openly says. "Once you have the money, you have a beginning."
In Nicaragua, Oracio Perez has been working since he was 15 years old. After struggling to find a job, he went to school to learn ceramics, and has made it his life's work for the past 25 years. "It's a family business. Six of us work together," he acknowledges.
Oracio and his family purchase the clay from a local mine. "We are blessed by God because we have a lot of clay around," he admits. To prepare the clay, potters like Oracio put it through a process to become "clay dough" – initially adding water to make it wet and then adding sand to make it malleable.
In Nicaragua, entrepreneur Rommy makes custom wood closets and kitchen furniture using Chilean mahogany and cedar. With five employees already, he is dedicated to using this business opportunity to help support his family - his mother, brother and five year-old daughter.
Before farmer Melkamu Ayana joined MEDA's EDGET (Ethiopians Driving Growth through Entrepreneurship and Trade) project, he used to cultivate his rice crops traditionally by broadcasting.
"I would sow the seed by cultivating the land only once," he admits. "Once I cultivated the land, I would sow the seed through broadcasting."
With this method, the weeds grow faster than the seed. The weeds and the grain grow together, making weeding difficult and time-consuming.
Before the Project: Before beginning my farming business, I had to take on various jobs in order to give my family the best life possible. I was unsatisfied with this fragmented work because nothing resembled a serious profession and I felt very unstable. I liked the idea of agriculture because it is good, honest, and hard work. With the help of my uncle I began growing greenhouse vegetables. In our area I did some small-scale consolidations with other farmers and due to my central location, I naturally became the leader of an informal group of 7.