Adapt, Don't Surrender

Adapt, Don't Surrender

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You don’t break the cycle of poverty by giving people money. You break it by giving them power. This has been CARE’s mission from the start – to give people the ability to take control of their futures, and not let it be dictated by assistance.

Every success story reinforces this mission. That’s why we’re publishing a series of success stories from CARE Ethiopia’s GRAD Program (Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development), a microfinancing program funded by USAID wherein communities set up Village Economic and Social Associations for its members (VESAs).

VESAs give members of the community a chance to buy into a savings and loan program, from which they can pull small, targeted loans to start new businesses and enterprises. It has been a wild success. Members are trained in financial management, adaptation to climate change, promotes behavioral changes in husbands and men, nutritious meals for children and there is an almost 100% repayment rate. Most importantly, it shows women that when the power is in their hands, great things can happen, and entire communities can prosper.

The program shows that when you give someone not assistance, but opportunity, just how far they will run with it. 


For households like Nasir Mohammed’s, climate change is destroying agricultural production and income. GRAD shares information about climate risks with communities and introduces them to tools such as water harvesting and fast-maturing or drought-resistant crops that can help them adapt. 

These days the rains are unpredictable, and sometimes—like over the past two years—we have almost no rain at all. That is climate change. I had heard about it before I joined GRAD, but I didn’t understand what it could mean for us. Through GRAD, we learned about its impact, and we learned that there are ways we can adapt, not just surrender.

So now I am planting trees: neem, mango, papaya, and coffee. These will provide shade for my compound and better nutrition for my family.

I have also started water harvesting. I dug a small pond in my compound, and when it rains, I do everything I can to channel as much water as possible into the pond. I dig paths and guide the water there. So at least I am catching some of it. Even though it doesn’t last very long, it helps a lot.

The nearest source of water is two to three kilometers away. That is where we get our drinking water. But each jerry can costs 50 cents (US $0.03), and I have to bring it with my donkey. There is no way I could afford to bring enough to water my vegetable garden or the trees.

The other thing I am now doing is inter-cropping maize and haricot beans. This is in part because I don’t have the space to grow them separately, but also because—thanks to the maize—the haricot beans get more moisture. As an improved seed, they need less water and their harvest time is shorter, so my family can survive on them until the maize is ready.

The changes in the rain are no small concern. When the scent of rain comes, I sow the seeds. After that, comes the worry. Sometimes it wakes me up at night. I go outside and look up, searching the sky for signs of rain. Now, we don’t know when or if it will come, but we do know some ways we can adapt. That has been one of GRAD’s main values for me. 

Photo Credit: Kelley Lynch