GROW – Helping women in Ethiopia transform their lives

The women of Angacha are transforming their lives – and their community.

In many developing countries, women produce the majority of food that is consumed, but they are often cut off from the resources they need to improve their crops and their lives such as land, tools and water.

In Ethiopia, Oxfam Canada works with local organizations to ensure women and their families have enough good food to eat.

One recent example: We partnered with KMG, a local organization in the Kembatta region, to help women of Angacha. These women are transforming their lives – and their community. The key is savings. Every week, each woman, however poor, puts at least two cents aside. In the space of a few years, they've grown from a group of 35 who in their first year managed to save 5,225 birr ($325) to a group of 85 with 46,600 birr ($2,410) in capital.

By Canadian standards the sums are small but for these women, their wealth is a source of great pride – and power. By saving and investing in one another, they are growing and diversifying their incomes, improving their livelihoods and their family's nutrition, and ensuring their daughters get an education.

One woman says that where once she bought her food, now she produces it, growing her own vegetables, coffee and cabbage. "We are intercropping chickpeas," she says. "We have chickens and eggs we can sell as needed. Now I am self-reliant and can feed my family. My children are well dressed. My quality of life is better now that I'm not buying everything. The only thing I buy is salt."

A widow in the group shares her story. "When I went to the first meeting it was for food. I was asking, 'What can I get?' We thought bread was in other people's pockets. We didn’t know it was in our own. Now we are our own boss. We have savings and skills. When I look back on that first meeting, I’m amazed at the results we've achieved. We've saved more than we had ever dreamed possible. And now some of our children are going to college."