From smallholder farmer to thriving cooperatives: Nuru’s success model
Agricultural struggles in southwestern Ethiopia
Since 2011, over a third of the population of Ethiopia has been living below the international poverty line. For many people there, struggling to get by is a fact of life. In the Gamo and Gofa Zones in the southwestern part of the country, for example, families can often go without sufficient amounts of food for months at a time. Despite their hard work, many Ethiopians struggle to break out of poverty. The most vulnerable communities are often made up of subsistence farmers who have little in the way of savings or access to markets. These farmers also tend to have low levels of financial literacy.
The situation compounded by COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had an effect on the people of Ethiopia. Restrictions on movement and closures of various industries have caused a decrease in demand, which leaves many smallholder farmers unable to sell their produce. Across all of Africa, COVID-19 has had negative effects on food supply chains, which have been only increasing the existing food insecurity in many areas. Input and output have been hindered by a shortage of transport vehicles, and panic buying has caused price hikes in some areas.
A data-led approach to help farmers: Nuru’s model
Since 2013, Nuru International has been working in Ethiopia to give farmers the tools they need to grow their businesses and improve their lives. For the past five years, Nuru has used SCOPEinsight’s tools to unlock the economic potential of rural communities by professionalizing farmer organizations. Nuru’s goal is to focus on the most vulnerable communities and help them build their own locally-led cooperatives that can continue to work and grow even after Nuru leaves the area.
How Nuru builds successful cooperatives
Nuru Ethiopia works specifically with local members of the community to help them adapt and improve their farming techniques. They help organize the farmers into cooperatives that can work together on a larger, collaborative scale, and then they offer targeted services to these cooperatives to help them grow and improve their economic status. The cooperatives are then able to provide more support for the community, which helps both cooperative members and their communities in a multitude of ways. As these cooperatives grow and become more self-sustainable, Nuru is able to leave the area and move on to the next community with confidence that the cooperatives will continue the work that Nuru helped to start in their community.
Using SCOPE tools to help cooperatives thrive
One of the many tools Nuru Ethiopia uses is the SCOPEinsight Basic® assessment. Their 2019 Impact Report, written in partnership with the Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, discussed how these assessments helped them to compare the nine cooperatives assessed that year to both Nuru’s targets and global averages. More cooperatives were assessed in 2020, and further assessments are planned to continue this year. In their Q4 2020 report, Nuru describes the results from SCOPEinsight’s comparative assessment tool as “great for the long-term sustainability of these cooperatives” because they increase their competitiveness and trust with local government and private sector partners.
Proof that Nuru’s work improves lives
In the years since Nuru began its work in Ethiopia, there has been a significant and positive change in the livelihoods of local farmers. The communities have seen a 65% increase in crop yields. This means the farmers are less likely to go hungry and more likely to have crop surpluses that they can sell for a profit. The communities have also seen a 97% increase in income, which helps the farmers to be more prepared to deal with any crises or disasters that may occur.
Smaller-scale success stories also come out of Nuru’s work, as seen with people like Workenesh Nekeri, a southern Ethiopian woman farmer who joined a Nuru cooperative. Workenesh took advantage of her local cooperative’s programs for women and learned more about savings, and after a few months, with Nuru’s help, she was able to access a loan. She used her loan to buy two goats, and then she was able to sell them four months later for a significant profit. Workenesh is one of the thousands of women who were able to receive a livelihood diversification loan from Nuru, and the project is continuing to grow.
As of 2019, the SCOPE scores of assessed cooperatives were high enough to be considered highly competitive compared to global and regional benchmarks. The work Nuru Ethiopia does help farmers to be able to help themselves, and it does so in a sustainable way that will be able to continue long after Nuru leaves one community and moves on to help the next.
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