The women of Kumbi Kebele community in Ethiopia have learned to battle climate change impacts to their livelihoods through leveraging loan and saving associations and cooperatives.
The Kumbi Kebele in Herana Bullluk Woreda, located in the Bale zone of the Oromia Regional National state of Ethiopia has been subject to climate change impacts which have drastically affected the lives of people in the area, with many small rivers drying up and bigger rivers shrinking, making irrigation difficult. This has caused recurrent and prolonged drought and extreme weather conditions, affecting the farming production and livelihoods of the people.
The Story of Momina Adam
Momina Adam, a 42-year-old resident of Kumbi kebele in Herana Bulluk woreda, located in the Bale zone of the Oromia Regional National state, has taken up the challenge to combat the devastating effects of climate change by organizing and leading the Biftu Beri women’s village savings and loan association. With over 4,000 households in the kebele, the main livelihoods of the people are livestock rearing, forest coffee, and agricultural crop production.
Realizing that climate change is due to the shrinking of the forest lands, which generate water streams and bigger rivers that support their production system, Momina and a group of 25 women formed the Biftu Beri women’s village savings and loan association to conserve forest resources and support themselves by saving and lending money to members for small businesses.
Protecting the Forest: The Birth of Biftu Beri Women’s VSLA
As the chairperson of the “Village Savings and Loan Association” (VSLA) group called Biftu Beri which translates to the rising morning sun, Momina with her team is actively involved in conserving the forest by regularly patrolling the area and planting indigenous trees in degraded areas to increase and maintain forest density. The group has a weekly regular savings scheme, and the money is lent to women to support their businesses to generate income for their household livelihoods. To adapt to climate change and cope with the induced challenges, women are engaged in agroforestry practices around their homestead areas, producing climate-resilient and short-lived early maturing varieties of fruits, vegetables, and crops that withstand drought.
Momina credits international NGO Farm Africa for supporting their group in organizing women into VSLA groups, through organising of Participatory Forest Management cooperatives (PFM cooperatives), providing training and creating awareness on climate change, and supporting them with inputs such as forestry materials, agroforestry technologies, and coffee production and pre- and post-harvesting technologies, and linkages to the market. This has helped the group gain better awareness to conserve their natural resources.
Empowering Women to Combat Climate Change
Through the training and experiences gained from Farm Africa, Momina and her team are teaching others to conserve their forest resources and improve their livelihoods. They are leading their associations and cooperatives without external support, and the women are actively participating in various committees and leading forest conservation cooperatives, women and savings, and lending associations, patrolling the forest, and more.
In terms of economic change, Momina has been able to build her house from corrugated iron sheets and send her children to school. Many other women have benefited from agroforestry practices by planting trees with a variety of crops, fruits, and vegetables in backyard gardens around their homesteads, engaged in small businesses like shoats fattening, petty trading, and egg production. This has empowered the women to overcome climate change impacts.
Momina is also working as the leader (chairperson) of Abdii Guddinaa (hope for growth) cooperative. Like her, many other women from her community are actively participating in various committees and leading forest conservation cooperatives, women and savings, and lending associations, patrolling the forest, etc.
The Biftu Beri women’s village savings and loan association is a testament to the power of community-led conservation and adaptation initiatives, especially in the face of climate change. By coming together, women like Momina are making a difference in their communities and securing a better future.
Interviewer’s Perspective & Way Forward
The role of women in locally-led initiatives is so real and extremely important. The impacts of climate change in the Bale Eco-region of Ethiopia are real, and disproportionately impact women.
The main objective of the locally-led initiative by the local women’s group was to save and conserve natural resources, particularly natural forests, for future generations. It was a truly a community-led solution delivered for the benefit of local people. This fantastic initiative started by the women’s groups needs to be supported and scaled up in the future.
About the Interviewer
The interviewer, Abera Getahun Ababu works for Farm Africa delivering the organisation’s work in the Bale Eco-region of Ethiopia. He has a BSc in Natural Resource Management, a BA in Accounting, and Level IV in Natural Resources Conservation and Utilisation Management. His interests are tree planting and wildlife conservation.