For many farmers, lack of access to stable markets is a major obstacle to achieving a basic income. This is particularly true of farmers that manage to produce enough to gain a small excess that may be sold, or they grow coffee or produce honey. The Development Fund supports the organization and establishment of cooperatives, which allow the farmers to sell their produce together. This increases their bargaining power, giving better prices and more stable market access. Through cooperatives, farmers also gain increased opportunities for participating in a larger part of the value chain, and we support measures that contribute to increased local processing of agricultural products. This also increases incomes.
Many Ethiopian women have few, if any, income opportunities and are completely dependent on their husbands. For many years, the Development Fund has worked with savings and loan groups, which allow women to save a small amount every month. We contribute start capital, which in time will allow the women to get loans with which they can start their own small businesses – either alone or with others. This gives the women economic independence. In addition, the savings and loan groups are an important arena where women can meet and discuss the challenges they face in their daily life, and support each other’s efforts to reduce violence, abuse and harmful traditional practices such as circumcision. We also have savings and loan groups for girls and young women.
The conditions at many schools are poorly suited for learning. Many girls, in particular, drop out of school after just a few years. Funding from Norway’s Operation Day’s Work in 2014 was awarded to a project to strengthen the rights and educational opportunities of girls and young women. In order to improve education for girls, the Development Fund works to improve conditions at schools, from better toilet facilities, to school work on how to handle violence and sexual abuse, to consciousness-raising in families on the importance of allowing girls to complete their schooling. We also have other projects directed at education. In the Somali Region in the east of the country we are testing a school meal solution, in which the food is purchased from local farmers. This ensures that children in pastoralist families in drought-prone areas receive at least one healthy meal a day, and is an important incentive for keeping children and young people at school.
There are few job opportunities for young people in the Ethiopian countryside. There are also few opportunities for receiving practical vocational training. The lack of qualified workers discourages private companies from investing, which further limits job opportunities outside of agriculture. The Development Fund supports vocational training in the Afar Region, to the east in Ethiopia. This is a strategic partnership with the Norwegian chemical fertilizer company Yara that seeks to increase job opportunities for local people.