“My continuous success motivates me for more”
“In the future, I want to lease more land, further expand my shop, and buy a vehicle.” These are aspirations that Zehara Mohammed, from the Guraghe Zone of southern Ethiopia, did not have in 2014. At that time, she was struggling just to get enough food for herself and her three children. She was divorced from her husband and had full responsibility for the children. Zehara depended on the government’s Productive Safety Net Program to cover the income gaps.
Her situation began to change when she joined the GRAD project. In 2015, she became a micro-franchise saleswoman and got trained to sell products door-to-door. She quickly became one of the most successful saleswomen and by the end of GRAD was earning more than any of her peers. She used that income to open a small shop, which is now her main business. In 2017, Zehara earned about 4,000 birr ($148) a month in her shop, twice what she was making before GRAD. After the project stopped activities in her community, Zehara has continued an expansion and now sells a wide range of items, including flour, oil, and personal care products. “Every week, I buy about 10,000 birr ($370) of new stock. I bought a donkey cart a year ago with profits from the shop, which makes it easier and cheaper to transport new stock from the market to my shop,” said Zehara.
The donkey cart wasn’t Zehara’s only investment. GRAD promoted a savings culture and Zehara still puts much of what she earns into her savings account. She said, “I now have 25,000 birr ($926) of working capital for my shop and 27,000 birr ($1,000) saved in the bank.” Zehara took GRAD’s training on resilience seriously and has diversified into more types of businesses in case there is a shock. “I bought two oxen recently, and my profit from the shop has helped me to lease half a hectare of land.” This year alone, Zehara harvested 40 quintals (or more than 4 metric tons) of maize from old and new plots. Using storage and marketing techniques she learned from GRAD, she expects a net profit of 25,000 birr ($907).
Zehara credits GRAD with helping her get a thriving business, money in the bank, and a new life. “I feel proud that I can send my children to town for a secondary education. My eldest daughter will start next year.” By January 2018, eighteen months after the project ended in her village, Zehara’s better economic status helped her make gains socially as well. “My neighbors and relatives have great respect for me because of my success. I also married again, to a man who respects my success. I do not expect him to support us financially but hope he will help with the farming.”
Zehara’s sustained success didn’t come from just one training or one value chain. It came from a package of interventions that considered participants as farmers, as businesswomen, as market actors, and as parents who want a better life for their children. Zehera drew on many components of GRAD’s training and market connections to build a diverse portfolio of investments that help her continue to grow her profits and her savings. If something goes wrong in one business, she has other income sources to fall back on. The success she has seen over the last three years motivates Zehera and her neighbors to keep working to improve their lives, long after the project has ended.