Under the cool shade of a tree by the entrance of Hanja Chefa Primary School, 10 women gather around a table, putting final touches to preparations for an exhibition of their Rural Savings and Credit Cooperative activities. The chairperson is calm and ready to receive Queen Maxima and a high level UN-delegation.
The group of women are part of the 62 member -strong Hanja Chefa RuSACCO, formed in 2012. The Chairperson of the Rural Savings and Credit Cooperatives or RuSACCO, tells us that “our incomes increased since we started participating in this FAO project. We were inspired and organized ourselves to form Hanja Chefa RuSACCO.” Aiming to improve their lives the group saves their earned income to start vegetable gardens or buy small ruminants, such as goats and chickens.
All the women are beneficiaries of the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme supported Purchase from Africans to Africa project, which supports farmers in Boricha Woreda (District) to propagate Haricot bean seeds to increase farming production. The project gives a package of seeds and fertilizers to farmers, after they received basic training on how to propagate quality seeds. Consequently, they are required to sell 30% of their harvest to multi-purpose cooperative unions, which aggregate produce from members in the region to sell it to the WFP, which then distributes food aid and supports school feeding programmes. This develops farmers’ engagement with Cooperative Unions giving them the opportunity to pool resources together with other farmers to exploit wider markets and gain a better price for their produce. Farmers who receive seeds eventually make in-kind repayment of the 25kg seed bags, developing a local seed bank for the area.
The women voluntarily saved Birr 15,350 (USD 812) through the sale of Haricot beans. Striving to maintain the groups’ motto “Saving for a better tomorrow” the SACCO has deposited these savings in the National Commercial Bank and started to distribute loans to their members. So far fifteen of the women have used these loans to establish vegetable gardens and buy small ruminants. Recently, the SACCO also purchased 4,300Kg of Haricot beans, which they will sell to unions at a higher margin.
Queen Maxima and the UN High level representatives applauded the women’s efforts to develop their incomes while viewing their display. The delegation also had an opportunity to see how Samuel, an agent for Omo Microfinance Institute travels with a donated motorbike to remote rural areas to sensitize the community on the benefits of financial services.
In Ethiopia, IFAD’s support has catalyzed the financial sector providing credit lines to Microfinance Institutions and developing the capacity of Cooperative Unions and RuSACCOs. The Rural Financial Intermediary Programme (RUFIP) supports Omo MFI to expand its services through a credit loan of Birr 18 million. The MFI now reaches all Woredas within the SNNPR, with 15 branches and 163 sub-branches. Furthermore the project provided trainings to cooperative promotion agents within implementing regions.
Queen Maxima, in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, was accompanied by senior officials from the three Rome-based UN agencies during her visit to the farmers exhibition in Boricha. Together they underlined the role that expanding financial inclusion plays in strengthening food security and to enhance access to affordable financial services for the poor. Traveling with the queen on the trip was UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Adolfo Brizzi, Director of Policy and Technical Advisory Division and representing the President ofthe International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).