Beyond My Dreams: Yeshehareg's Story
Beyond My Dreams: Yeshehareg's Story
Massresha Tadesse from CARE Ethiopia writes:
Yeshehareg Asradew, a 48-year-old mother of three, had never once thought that her family’s miserable existence could be changed so dramatically in such a short period of time. Taking time out of her busy day, Yeshehareg found an hour to briefly narrate her family’s story – the challenges, the effort and perseverance, and finally the transformation.
AMHARA REGION, ETHIOPIA – My husband, Kinde Zegeye, and I had been struggling for years to meet our family’s basic needs. What we produced from farming would not last even six months. To try to make ends meet, I was engaged in the business of cotton spinning and sewing sefed, a traditional tray made of thick grass, while my husband worked as a daily laborer. Our income was still too meager – less than $1 per day – to support our children and ourselves. My husband was eventually forced to migrate looking for work. Our older daughter had to drop out of high school, as we couldn’t afford to pay her room and board. Without the food provided by the government’s safety net program, we wouldn’t have survived.
This story of abject poverty became history after I began participating in CARE’s GRAD project. A group of my neighbors and I were supported by the project to establish a village economic and social association (VESA), where we received training on improved farming techniques, business skills, gender equality, climate change adaption, and nutrition, among other topics. Also important, I was helped to get a loan of 50 kg of malt barley seed, which served as a springboard to improve my family’s livelihood. The improved seed enabled me to harvest three quintals of barley, earning me 3,000 birr (US$141). This was an income that I never saw before in my life. In the meantime, my husband returned home, since his search for a better job was unsuccessful, and we started working as a team. The project facilitated access to improved potato seed. This helped us to produce 20 quintals of potatoes and earn 10,000 birr ($470) in just one season. On top of this, we received a 5,000 birr ($235) loan from a local microfinance institution that we used to buy inputs for sheep rearing. This business was also successful, and we earned an additional 6,400 birr ($320) by selling eight sheep.
Our income continues to grow. During the current season, we earned 24,000 birr ($1,130) from the sale of 30 quintals of potatoes, and another 2,000 birr ($94) by selling two quintals of malt barley. I now make and sell tella (a popular local drink), which yields at least 350 birr ($16) profit per month. I even use a byproduct from the tella production as feed for my sheep.
This new income has helped my family become secure and self-sufficient. We have a total of 11 sheep worth more than 11,000 birr ($518). We’ve repaid 60 percent of our loan and have 6,300 birr ($315) in savings. We can easily go to health center when we get sick, and we are able to send our children to the nearby town for a secondary education. We expect our children to go to college soon. We built a small shed for the sheep so they no longer sleep with us. My relationship with my husband has become stronger, and both of us work hard together. Even having a sheep to celebrate the holidays is not beyond our means. I feel that my family is now the richest in the village.
Now that we have the skills, our plans for the future are ambitious. We want to harvest even more from our small plot of land. We want to further expand the sheep rearing and potato and malt barley production. Looking back, my only regret is that all the knowledge and skills came so late. What would our status be today if we had gained the skills, along with loan access, years ago? Anyway, I thank God for keeping me alive to witness and benefit from all these remarkable changes. We will keep on working hard as there will be much more success in the years to come.
 Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD) is a five-year USAID-funded Feed the Future project. GRAD is managed by CARE Ethiopia and implemented in partnership with four highly regarded local NGOs. The Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) provides technical support for value chains and market linkages.