Samuel’s Trees Continue to Bear Fruit


Samuel Abreha, a 43-year-old mother of three, used to depend on the government safety net and some income from her farm to feed her family. Now she’s famous in the Raya Azebo district of Tigray in northern Ethiopia as a successful business woman. How did she make this dramatic change?  By planting trees.

As a participant in the GRAD project, Samuel learned gardening techniques and business skills, participated in exchange visits with model farmers, and joined the local Village Economic and Social Association, where the project taught her how to save money and take out small loans. She also received loans from a local micro-finance institution. Samuel used those loans and the skills she learned with GRAD to start a small nursery growing and selling fruit seedlings.

In 2016, a drought cut the profits from Samuel’s small farm in half.  In previous years, that would have forced her to depend even more on government support. But using the skills she learned from GRAD helped Samuel find another way. In 2016, despite the on-going drought, Samuel earned a total of 36,000 birr ($1,305)—more than twice what she earned before participating in the project. More than half of that was from profits in her nursery.

Eighteen months after the program ended, Samuel is doing better than ever. In 2017, she sold 2,000 trees, had a sheep fattening business, and continued working her family farm. Her total income for the year was 63,600 birr ($2,307)—more than four times higher than it was before the project. She has even become famous. The regional television station aired a 30 minute spot showcasing her journey of change.

Samuel worked hard to change her life. She went to every training session GRAD offered and tried to learn as much as she could. The sessions on climate change adaptation were her favorite. She also liked the exchange visits with other farmers in the area so she could learn from what they were doing. That’s how she got started in the fruit nursery business.

Samuel said, “I had no idea about building a nursery for fruit seedlings until I took GRAD’s training and went to visit a nursery that the GRAD facilitator arranged. Though the site was far away, I went there a second time to understand more about the process from the farmers themselves.”

It wasn’t easy to get started. Samuel had to carry water in a donkey cart from far away so her new trees could survive. The first year profit from the sale of fruit tree seedlings was only 20,000 birr ($725 US). But determination paid off. In 2017, she earned about 50,000 birr ($1,800 US) from just selling seedlings fruit trees, and her business keeps growing. “I now grow ten types of fruit seedlings and have become the main supplier to other farmers in the area.”

“Sometimes I regret those years I left my backyard idle. Now it generates the highest income for my family; even better than my main farmland. I am planning to expand the business even more, and the local administration promised to give me land for that purpose. The income helped me build a better house and get access to running water at home. I also have 45,000 birr ($1,630) savings in the bank.” That’s 4.5 times more than the 10,000 birr ($364) she had in the bank at the end of GRAD. Using what she learned in the project, Samuel is continuing to invest in her future.

GRAD gave Samuel access to the information and support she needed to get started, and she is continuing on her road to success. For Samuel, GRAD’s support to visit successful fruit tree businesses, the connection to the MFI that loaned her the startup money, and the gardening techniques that she as part of GRAD’s training were all critical factors that helped her build her business.  The ability to look at demand in the local market was another part of GRAD’s training, and is one that has helped her continue to grow.  In fact, it’s a key factor in Samuel helping other people start their own journeys to sustainable change. “I helped five of my neighbors to start similar businesses, since the demand for fruit seedlings in the area is still so high.”