Living Ever Bigger Dreams
“My family and I have reached the goals we set for ourselves. But we are still ambitious for more.” Tefera Ana has dramatically improved his family’s livelihood, with support from the GRAD project. Tefera lives in the Mareko district of Ethiopia’s Guraghe Zone with his wife and six children. In 2014 when Tefera first joined GRAD, he did not have the training or resources he needed to use his half- hectare of land effectively. His family could eat for six months from what they produced; for the rest of the year, they depended on the government’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). Tefera assumed that his land was infertile and that there was no way he could improve his family’s fortunes.
Convincing Tefera (and many others like him) that change is possible—building aspirations to graduate out of poverty—was one of GRAD’s key goals. In 2015, Tefera went to GRAD’s hands-on training on red pepper production. That training was a key turning point in his life. Tefera saw that he had the power to improve his production if he adopted new techniques, such as intercropping with haricot bean. Applying what he learned, and investing an MFI loan of 4,000 birr ($145), he increased his production five-fold, from 100-150 kg to 600-700 kg a year, and netted 28,000 birr ($1,020).
Tefera did not let the end of the project in 2016 stop him. His most impressive achievements came after. Building on what he learned about running a business, Tefera used his savings to invest in activities that will yield a higher return on investment. He rented more land and diversified into other high-value crops. “The water pump I bought for 11,000 birr ($401) towards the end of GRAD radically increased my income. I make at least 100,000 birr ($3,645) net profit a year from onion, spinach, and red pepper production. This is a dream come true for my family.” By January 2018 he was earning three times more profit than in 2016.
Tefera also sees a huge difference in his financial habits, which contribute to his continued success. “Before,” he says, “there was almost no culture of saving. We always spent what we got immediately.” Now, he has 121,000 birr ($4,411) savings in the bank, 30 times what he took out in loans to use as startup capital. Tefera has even bigger dreams for the years to come. He has a plan to expand his vegetable farm and start growing tomatoes. Tefera and his wife, Abonesh Kenoro, also decided to help their children start chicken farming so that they can succeed in business, too.
GRAD’s activities to help Tefera build the skills he needed to improve his agricultural production may have been the turning point for him, but the key to sustainability lies beyond that. GRAD also developed market systems that continue to support Tefera and his community even when the project is gone. He can buy seeds, pumps, fertilizer, and other tools from an agro-dealer that won an enterprise start-up grant from GRAD. This makes it possible for him to continue applying new techniques. The habit of saving, and overall financial inclusion, gives him more resources to invest in his business, and come in handy when responding to shocks.
Creating a group sense of solidarity and progress helps Tefera, too. He’s motivated when he sees that many people in his community are succeeding. He is still a very active member of the Village Economic and Social Association (VESA) with 17 of his neighbors. “Most of our members are doing great. We are working from dawn to dusk to achieve more. There is no way we will go back to the old days of contributing labor for PSNP transfers.”