Along the main road running through Surupa village, several women are removing loads of jerrycans from the backs of their donkeys. There are hundreds of jerry cans full of camel milk lining the road. A few minutes later, a public bus stops by the highway, and everyone becomes busy loading the jerry cans onto the top of the bus.
Habiba Dida, 49, is one of the women working away. A single mother of seven, she has loaded 15 jerry cans onto the bus to Moyale town, where she can sell the milk for a better price. For Habiba, this is an opportunity that she wasn’t aware of just a few years back.
“Two years before, I was looking after a few cattle, goats and camels. I was selling from this small herd to buy food for my family,” Habiba says. “Today, my eyes are open to different options and opportunities.”
The Joint Ethiopia Programme of Development and Peace, CAFOD, SCIAF and Trócaire is working with three local Ethiopian partner organizations to create livelihood options for pastoralist communities like Habiba’s.
One of these organizations is SOS Sahel, which helped Habiba’s village to establish a saving and credit cooperative. The cooperative members were given management, leadership and entrepreneurial skills training. Moreover, the cooperative was given 60,000 Birr ($3,200) as start-up money.
When Habiba joined the cooperative, she paid 50 Birr ($3) as a registration fee and to have a share in the cooperative. Since then, she has been saving 40 Birr a month ($2). Last year, she received a loan of 2,000 Birr ($109). With the funds, she bought a young bull for 1,400 Birr ($76) and used the rest to buy and sell camel milk. At the end of the month her net profit from the camel milk is 1,500 Birr ($82).
A year later, she sold the bull for a profit of 1,600 Birr (87$). With this profit, she expanded her business, which in addition to the camel milk, now includes buying and selling maize, sugar and cooking oil. She has also purchased a goat, which she expects to sell at a profit, and has become a member of her village saving group.
“My life was dependent on keeping and selling just a few animals. My assets were diminishing every year. Today, I have different options. I am buying more animals than selling. I take care of my children with this income, I manage to send all my children to school,” says Habiba.