Meselech, 32, lives in Surupha, a small town in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. She used to stay at home to care for her six children while her husband Ibrahim earned a small income working in the local government office.
She enjoyed seeing to her children’s development, but also wanted to work to be able to supplement her husband’s income, as well as increase her financial independence.
Some of the other mothers in Meselech’s community had similar ideas and formed a savings group. The group of 25 were able to organise members to save a small amount of money each month towards a business startup deposit, as well as a social security fund.
The group showed dedication and enthusiasm, but struggled to save enough, due to limited income and inexperience of its members. They were not able to save enough each month towards the business startup fund and even less towards the social security fund.
“All we wanted was a better life, but we didn’t know how to make it happen. Even though the money we saved was very small, we couldn’t sit and wait for a miracle to happen,” Meselech says.
Even though their initiative was challenged by financial and technical limitations, Meselech and her group’s effort was not in vain.
Fertile Ground for Change
With the generous support from Irish Aid, GOAL began working directly with the group. Meselech and her colleagues were supported with technical training to capitalize on the abundant dairy resources in their district. The training empowered participants with technical knowledge, practical skills, and material supports.
Adane Tsegaye, Economic and Food Security Officer at GOAL Ethiopia, is working with the group.
“We provided them with integrated assistance but most importantly they are dedicated people who were ready to change their life. We invested our time, finance, and energy on fertile ground – the initiative was already there. It just needed some support. Their workplace became a well-known business where the community sell raw milk and buy different products.”
The group, by then named the Dembi Anan Surpa Milk Processing Cooperative, is also receiving support from the local government’s Cooperative Bureau. It’s only been in a year since the cooperative was established but business is already flourishing.
“The cooperative is a model business for our area. We closely follow up with them and provide the support they need. We regularly discuss their progress in the bureau and consider them among our priorities. We also work closely with GOAL and coordinate different capacity-building activities for the group together,” says Girumnesh Shiferaw, Quality Officer of the Cooperative Bureau, Oromia.
Future Plans: A Dream to Grow
Today, Meselech serves as the chairperson of the cooperative. She plans and assigns activities, discusses opportunities and developments on behalf of the group.
Meselech is enjoying her new found responsibility and is ambitious for future expansion, “I not only have a workplace and regular income but a dream to grow with my group. As we are working in an emerging business space, we can start to distribute our products to the centre of the country and to nearby district towns and communities”.