5 Minutes of Inspiration: How Families Gain the Confidence to Change Their Lives

5 Minutes of Inspiration: How Families Gain the Confidence to Change Their Lives


 For the poorest families in Ethiopia, the first step to a better life is believing that they can change.  Find out how.

Mulu Aberra says, “[Before] I never really gave any thought to changing my life. … Now, whether GRAD is here or not, I have the confidence to keep  going and keep changing.”  That may matter more than all of the short term impacts a project has—the fact that women and families now believe that not only is change possible, but that they can do it themselves. In fact, nearly 80% of families in the GRAD program were able to earn enough income to graduate out of the government safety net program.

With the generous support of USAID’s Feed the Future program, GRAD’s first phase ran from 2011-2016.  Phase one worked with 65,000 households. The project continues as the Livelihoods for Resilience Activity, scheduled to last through 2021 and targeting 110,000 households.

What did we accomplish?

Poverty dropped: 80% of the families participating in GRAD were able to graduate out of the government-sponsored social safety net program.

Incomes went up: Families’ income went up by an average of $353 per year—an 84% increase.

Families were more resilient: Families were better able to respond to crisis, even during the extreme El Nino event in 2015-2016. There was a 3.8 fold increase in families using savings to cope with shocks, and a 19% decrease in the number of families who reduced the number of meals they ate in a day as a response to crisis. There was also a 40% drop in the number fo households that suffered weather-related crop loss.

People ate more, better food: There was a 15% increase in the number of months out of the year where families had enough food, and a 35% increase in dietary diversity.

Loans supported businesses: families who took loans changed the way they used them.  Before, the most common reason to take out a loan was to buy food.  Now, they use loans to invest in productive assets and grow their businesses.

Women got more involved in decision-making: There was a 7 fold increase in women’s involvement in household decision making, and a 10 fold increase in their ability to make livelihood and production decisions.

How did we get there?

Help families find more coping mechanisms: Families savings went up nearly 12 times, and they doubled the assets that they had.  They also increased their productive assets by 20%.

Connect families to financial opportunities: 77% of GRAD households saved their money in VESAs (the Ethiopian version of a VSLA), and 41% got access to loans from formal institutions.  The average loan amount went up by 89%, and families shifted their borrowing from loan sharks to VESAs.

Increase access to training: 52% of participants got agricultural training, and they said that participating in the VESA meant that they were more willing to adopt new techniques and improved seeds.

Get access to inputs: The project worked with agro-dealers to help 30,000 households access the inputs they needed to improve production.

Create safe spaces: The evaluation points out that one of the most important actions GRAD took was creating safe space for dialogue between men and women on traditional gender roles.

Be flexible: The project built in a crisis modifier, which meant that when El Nino hit, they could easily shift their strategies to respond to the new situation.  One example is that they distributed seed vouchers in women’s names so that they could access inputs to replant when droughts wiped out the crops.

Want to learn more?

Check out the final evaluation here.  You can also find videos, human interest stories, learning briefs, and more at www.care.org/grad. Or check out the book Aspire, full of beautiful photos and more stories like Mulu’s.

Special Thanks

In addition to the generous support of USAID’s Feed the Future ($25.2 million), GRAD worked with CRS, SNV, the Government of Ethiopia, The Meki Catholic Secretariat, the Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), the Relief Society of Tigray (REST), and Tufts University.

By Emily Janoch

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