Editor’s note: This is the fourth of seven case studies from the files of iDE Ethiopia which we’re posting here to spotlight the human reality that motivates our work and gives it meaning. The people featured in these vignettes are the true heroes in the fight against global poverty.
The retail shop and vegetable stall pictured here is owned by the Gudina Degagina marketing cooperative, an all-female group initiated with the support of iDE (International Development Enterprises). It’s based in Elkachelemo kebele in Adami Tulu woreda (district), Ethiopia.
At the start of 2008, 16 female smallholders began organizing producer and marketing support groups. Members were expected to pay a weekly contribution of 2 birr (about $0.10) to use as running capital. According to the members, business skill training and advisory services provided by iDE field staff helped them to start raising seedlings on a 200 square-meter plot of land given to the group by one volunteer member. These seedlings were irrigated with a rope and washer pump. ‘‘Just then, since all of us were very poor and couldn’t pick up the tab to work single-handedly, I was keen to work together,’’ said the chairperson of the cooperative.
The group raised onion seedlings twice and sold them to other iDE clients in the nearby woredas with the support of iDE field staff, earning 3,917 birr ($205). The group also earned a net income of 12,350 birr ($647) from their own onion production on rented land.
To strengthen the capacity of the network, IDE provided support and training while the groups constructed the aforementioned retail shop. Due to these improvements, during last production season, the co-op harvested 162 kilograms of onion seed and earned a gross income of 40,350 birr ($2,114). They are currently cultivating their rented land, two hectares of which is dedicated to growing improved maize varieties and onion seedlings for the next production season.
The group is now a legal entity and cooperative. Membership gradually grew to 33 members, and the cooperative now has 55,000 birr ($2,881) in capital, or nearly $1,000 per member. Capital is generated from the sale of vegetables and seedlings as well as from weekly member contributions. A member of the group explained that, before, the women did not take part in any household decisions. “Now,” she stated, our working culture has changed and we’ve had a chance to actively play a part in household decision-making. We have respect, and we realized that women can be actively involved in production activities and can change their lives. We have a plan to buy a grid mill and an Isuzu.’’