Empowering People to Stamp-Out Poverty
The mountain ranges of the Gamo Gofa zone of Southern Ethiopia are the legs of the South-Eastern Ethiopian highlands. The Gughe Mountain, one of the highest picks in Ethiopia, is found in these mountain ranges. Kemba district, the southern tip of the zone, is the transition where the mountain ranges start going down stepper to merge with the South Omo lowlands. These down slopping mountain ranges create hills and undulating terrain along the way to join the lowlands.
With the bumpy and terrain landscape, the dearth of fertile arable land combined with erratic weather patterns, Kemba is considered as one of the food insecure areas in the region. The high population pressure and recurrent drought exacerbate the deep-rooted poverty making food security the primary concern among the community. The remoteness and inaccessibility, lack of roads in the areas has also worsened the situation.
Cognizant of these multiple challenges, ActionAid Ethiopia has been implementing its brand development programmes in the area for the past decade or so. It has been working with people living in poverty to empower them to change their lives through helping them to establish community based organizations such as Women’s Saving & Credit Cooperatives and Unions, Women’s Watch Groups, and Women’s Water Development Associations. ActionAid Ethiopia has also helped the communities in the introduction and expansion of small irrigation farming, development of springs and clean water projects, women empowerment, the building of class rooms, libraries, and toilets to schools and strengthening systems among others.
In its entire development works, mobilizing the community and enabling them to actively engage in all development activities was pivotal. Women were at the center of every development programmes it has been implementing.
As much part of Kemba Woreda is located in the nadir of the mountains, it can be considered as an area of huge water potential, with several small rivers and springs flowing down to the lowlands through small gullies and gorges. But people didn’t have access to these waters. Women and girls in villages go far places, walk 2-5 hours to fetch a jerry can of water. Children in schools don’t have any access to clean drinking water.
Since ActionAid Ethiopia began its intervention in the area in 2004, it has implemented 20 water and spring rehabilitation projects and built more than 65 water points near to the villages and schools so as women can fetch water in nearby areas sometimes less than in five minutes and children can access clean water in their school compounds. A total of 18,310 people of which 10,500 are female has benefited from the water development projects of ActionAid in Kemba district alone.
Gontare Gole, 35 years old and a mother of five children, lives in Garse Garde village in Kemba Woreda. She says that before ActionAid built the water point near their village she used to walk a minimum of two hours to fetch water. “But in the dry seasons, the nearby springs dried up and we sometimes walk as far as five hours round trip to fetch water,” she says. “But now thanks to ActionAid we have clean water near to our village and we can fetch water with in less than five minutes throughout the year.”
ActionAid’s approach in the development of these basic services is to make the community to be the owner of the project to ensure their sustainability. To do so, a water users association is established in each village where entirely a committee of women lead, so as they will manage the use of the water points properly as well as maintenance and sustainability. This not only helps the water programme but also the notion that women can lead institutions responsibly and can made decisions that benefit the community.
ActionAid Ethiopia believes that change can happen to end poverty and it rests on the deep and holistic understanding of the underlying causes of poverty and its dynamic nature.
Poverty can be eliminated in its entirety when people living in poverty are able to take a proactive individual and collective action to build their own institutions through which they can organize and lead anti-poverty actions, advance alternatives, facilitate critical reflection and analysis, and influence for a change
To this end, ActionAid in consultation with the community has identified interventions which can help empower the community to ensure their food security.
The livelihood of the people in the mountain ranges of the district is entirely agricultural, and barley and ‘Enset’ play an important role. Communities in the southern low lands villages of the district practice agro-pastoralism and livestock rearing and chiefly cattle and goats are important livelihood sources.
The introduction and expansion of small scale irrigation as a means to ensure food security of people living in poverty in the area was one of the intervention that ActionAid has been implementing. In addition to constructing irrigation canals and structures, ActionAid has provided trainings on irrigation farming and improved fruit and vegetable seeds.
More than 24,500 people, 11, 190 of them female have been benefited through this programme.
In addition to the irrigation programmes ActionAid has helped communities to establish different kind of cooperatives and a union to strengthen their ability to fight poverty and ensure food security. These cooperatives include Women’s Saving & Credit Cooperatives, Irrigation cooperatives, Women’s Watch Groups, and Women’s Water Development Associations. ActionAid has helped communities to establish 13 cooperatives and a union in Kemba Woreda.
In addition to empowering communities through training and community discussion forums, women play the leading role in these cooperatives and the union. ActionAid has also built them structures they can be used for office purposes and as meeting places. ActionAid has built offices for five cooperatives and for a union. The union now has 56 cooperative members serving the community. These cooperatives and the union now reach more than 135,000 people in the Woreda.
Capacity building training to women has also been given to help women play an important role in the cooperatives and other economic empowerments. These capacity building trainings also include men so that there will be a transformation of attitudes and practices in the community. More than 38,500 people of which 21,175 are women have been reached in this empowering women programme in Kemba Woreda.
ActionAid Ethiopia also works to improve the quality of education in the Woreda. It builds classrooms to schools, separate toilets for boys and girls and libraries among others benefiting 11, 152 students of which 5,272 are girls. It also helps communities to improve their health through awareness creation and supporting health institutions on the Woreda.
ActionAid has been working in this Woreda for close to 13 years and now is time to phase out the programmes. It is making sure that a smooth transition takes place to ensure the sustainability of the programmes it has been carrying out and communities own those developments in the future.