byDaniel Tesfu M&E and Communications Coord. via web
In the district of Kilte Awulaelo, northern Ethiopia, the Relief Society of Tigray (REST) and the local community of Tsalho are ensuring that water, now available thanks to restoration activities in the upper catchment, will contribute to tangible economic growth. For farmers in rural areas – particularly semi-arid parts, financial services are virtually non-existent. There was a risk that without financial linkages, the community would not be able to capitalise on their efforts to restore their catchment. REST provided awareness training and coaching, and this encouraged the community to start a micro-loans group. In 2016, the Lem-Lem (meaning: to bloom or flourish) Savings Group was formed, with operations commencing in July. 24 members (including 9 women) meet every Saturday to save funds, to discuss issues faced, and check on ongoing loans. After 9 months, the group has collected a total of 10,267 birr (USD 490). A further 1,886 birr (USD 90) of interest has been returned by members who took micro-loans over the 3 months’ period. Loans were used to kick-start small enterprises: vegetable gardens, poultry, and apple tree seedlings. So far, the fund has grown at an annual rate of 24.5%. However, the group is not merely a savings-and-loans group. Whilst members must contribute 10 birr each week towards the savings fund, an additional 1 birr each week is given into the group’s social fund. Group meetings are also used to discuss a range of topics such as nutrition, economic issues, climate change, and exchange information or ideas. The group members, all from the same location, share similar economic status and dreams, with plans now underway to expand the group’s income generation and further benefits from the additional water now available.