Ethiopia: The Power of Collective Action in Dire Dawa

In recent years there has been a large increase in extreme poverty in urban centres of Ethiopia as vast numbers of people migrate from rural areas in the hope of improving their livelihood opportunities. The densely populated capital, Addis Ababa and Ethiopia’s second city Dire Dawa have borne most of the influx with over 65% of Dire Dawa’s population living in slums.

Building on ACORD’s successful experience of working with Iddirs (the most dominant form of community based association in Ethiopia), ACORD is implementing a programme in Dire Dawa with funding from Comic Relief to increase Iddir’s capacity to provide low cost credit and basic sanitation services in slum areas, provide livelihood support to women, youth and people living with HIV and give the urban poor a space and a voice in urban planning processes.
As a result of this programme ACORD and two Iddirs councils in Goro Sabiyan, Sabiyan Tesfa Chora Yebego Aderagot Maheber & Goro Yegera Gudayoch Ageleglot Maheber have helped women headed households to improve their livelihoods and mobilised the community to ensure their basic rights are respected.

Rehima, 40, is a widow living in Goro on the outskirts of Dire Dawa. She is currently supporting a family of 4. One year ago, Rehima was living in poor conditions. Despite living in this area for over 20 years she had no license for her land and she struggled to meet her daily needs and those of her family. What little income she made was from daily labour and washing clothes. Over the last year Rehima has benefitted from awareness raising activities, training in animal husbandry, home and family management and received 5 goats along with a grant to construct a small ruminant house.

Inspired by these initiatives the local community was galvanized to help Rehima and working together they helped her to upgrade her home and build the small ruminant house. Rehima started her new life in her new house in high spirits. Unfortunately soon after the kebele (local administration) task force demolished her home and threatened to demolish the small ruminant house also. With support from her Iddir’s council Rehima and her neighbours managed to engage the kebele officials and Rehima was allowed to re-construct her house which was achieved with the support of her community. Rehima is now in the process of securing the license for her new home and she plans to continue saving money from breeding and selling her goats to construct a latrine and install piped water as well as support her children to attend school. She has big plans for the future.
Atsede, 42, lives in Sabiyan, with her two daughters. She used to work in the local textile factory but was laid off when the factory went into decline. Atsede is an entrepreneur and has turned her hand to baking injera, selling tap water and working as a cleaner but she was unable to make ends meet. Over the past year she has received training in small ruminant production, 5 goats and a grant for a small goat house through her Iddir’s council Sabian Tesfa Chora Yebego Aderagot Mahber. Her goats have started producing offspring and in addition, she used the allowance from the training to purchase a cockerel, one layer and poultry feed. Now she has 15 chickens. Among her peers she is the most successful producer! Her neighbours have also rallied around to provide labour and basic building materials to improve her compound as well as bring animal forage when they return from the fields. The support has been a relief to her and her daughters who now attend school regularly without stress.

Empowered by the project Atsede and her peers have organised themselves in a group and have started saving 10 birr per month each. Their members gather regularly and discuss issues related to animal health, feed, the cooperative legalisation process and other social issues once a month. With hard work and support from the project and her peers Atsede has changed her life in a short period of time. She was one of the initiators of her Cooperative and played a lead role in its registration.
“I developed self confidence and learnt that the poor can prosper if they get empowered with appropriate skill and means”.  

These a just two examples of the power of collective action.