Urban Livelihood Development

Iddir's Beyond Funeral

Iddirs, traditional burial associations, are the most dominant form of community based organisation in Ethiopia, and an important part of the social fabric in the communities where we work. ACORD believes that development interventions in Ethiopia are most successful and sustainable when Iddirs are engaged as partners. Social movements must have at their core an issue which is of common interest to the community. In Ethiopia, a highly religious society, this is burial.

Realising the potential role that they can play in development ACORD has been working with Iddir's associations in Dire Dawa, Shashamene and Addis Ababa since the mid 1990's. These strengthened community based organisations have demonstrated a growing interest in engaging in diverse development activities, going beyond their traditional funeral role.

Case Study: Iddirs in Development

Peace, Love and Pottery Association, Addis Ababa.
Photo: ACORD / Nicola Bevan

ACORD has been working with nearly a thousand Iddirs covering 163,000 households in Dire Dawa, Addis Ababa and Shashamene since 1995. ACORD provides trainings to Iddirs on leadership, governance, bookkeeping and financial transparency, project management and advocacy. The emerging ambition of Iddirs has signalled the need for umbrella organisations many of which have formed with support from ACORD and are engaging in activities from micro-credit operations to HIV/AIDS awareness and support. 

Tesfa Social and Development Association (TSDA) was established in Addis Ababa in September 2000. Initially this association had just 3 members set up to help members who had fallen behind with their social contributions. Today, the association has grown to 83 members and is providing much needed services in the community including, education, health care & support, nutritional support, home and community based care for bedridden people living with HIV and AIDS and the elderly. The savings and credit service has 1.5 million Birr loan portfolio (equivalent to £76,553) and provides loan and saving services to elderly people, women and unemployed youth who are able and determined to work and improve their lives.

ACORD in Shashamene supported the establishment of the first microfinance institution that is now owned and managed solely by its members (approximately 65 Iddirs). The SEYA MFI microfinance institution in Shashemene, started in 2001 and today has 4 branches, 4000 active clients and an outstanding loan portfolio of 11 million, equivalent to £395,000.

Similar successes have been witnessed by the Iddirs' cooperative Selamina Fikir Yeshekla Sira Association or Peace, Love, and Pottery Association  in Gulele sub city, Addis Ababa. The association was established in January 2004 and currently has 46 members with a particular interest in pottery. In traditional Ethiopian society people working in such areas were highly discriminated against. Until recently these groups were not allowed to marry into other societal groups.

Since 2005 ACORD has helped the group to organise themselves into a producer's co-operative and obtain a license and premises from the cooperative promotion office. In addition to this ACORD has organized training and workshops for the group in the areas of principles of cooperatives, entrepreneurship, leadership and management, record keeping, gender & HIV/AIDS.
After the formal establishment of the cooperative, the group obtained a premises from the sub city with a monthly rent of 240 Birr. To assist the efforts of the association and improve the livelihoods of the members, ACORD has supported them with Birr 40,000 in a form of grant to establish a credit scheme. According to the group members, the different trainings and the financial support from ACORD has helped them to increase production and subsequently their income. They have also been able to have constant access to the required raw materials ensuring that there are no gaps in production.

Currently all of the members have bought moulding equipment. The cost of each machine is 700 Birr. The group members proved that the equipment saves labour and time and improves the shape and the texture of the product.

The women are proud and confident in their work.
Photo: ACORD / Kristin Seljeflot 

Bizualem is 24 years old and married. She dropped out of school and joined the pottery business when she was only 10. She acquired the skill from her neighbours hiding herself from her parents. Bizualem was the first person in the group to use the moulding equipment. She was paying 20.00 birr per month for the rent of the machine. Consequently she was able to attract customers and earn 600 birr per month. Bizualem now has bought the machine for herself taking 1000 birr loan from the credit scheme. Her monthly income has increased from 600 to 1,200.00 (Equivalent to £45 a month). Bizualem is continuously improving the quality and design of her products. More importantly she handles her customers properly. Therefore Bizualem is considered as a role model in the association.

Bizualem and the rest of the association members want to produce quality products and supply the local and foreign markets. However to fully realize their vision they believe that they have to further improve their skills through training and procure equipment such as a kiln and mixer.

In 2011, members of the association are undergoing an advanced training (provided by ACORD) and facilitated by the Vision on Ethiopia Training Centre. Two groups will be trained over eight weeks to produce high quality products for the local and international market.