Life-Changing Microloans – Assaye and Amarech

Assaye and Amarech live in the Dengeshta community and have been married for 35 years, but their families have lived only 2 km from one another all their lives. When they were first married, Assaye and Amarech lived with Assaye’s family. After four years, the couple received one hectare farmland (approximately 2.5 acres) from Assaye’s parents who also built them a tikul (the traditional grass roofed home in the countryside) to start their own family.

Over time, they added four girls and four boys who now range in age from 11 to 31. The four oldest children have completed their education and are working, another is attending university, and the youngest three are in high school and primary school in Dangla.

Over the last 31 years, Assaye and Amarech have worked diligently to strengthen the economic resilience of their family and the larger community. In addition to working the farmland they received as a young couple (which now totals 1.5 hectares or around 3.75 acres), they now have 12 dairy cows, 15 chickens, and 3 mules. They produce enough on their farm to feed the family and retail their crops in the market. Making regular contributions to their account at the local savings and credit association has made them eligible for low interest loans from Project Ethiopia which they have used to build their dairy production efforts.

Despite having the largest number of cattle than any other country in Africa, Ethiopia’s total yearly milk production is very small, averaging out to only 19 liters per person a year. Currently, 53% of the overall population in Ethiopia suffer from stunted growth due to poor nutrition with children among the greatest number of those affected. The government is now looking to dairy production and consumption as a key strategy for improving the overall health of the population. As a result, dairy production has increased steadily in the Dangla area over the last 4 years.

Seeing the economic opportunities of local dairy production, Amarech applied for a loan in 2020 with a 13.5% interest rate through her local savings and credit association. Soon after repaying her first loan, Amarech learned about Project Ethiopia’s micro loan program that charges only 5% interest. She was able to apply for a second loan of 14,000 birr ($330) through Project Ethiopia this past June to build a proper shelter, purchase a balanced feed, and plant green forage for her cows – a more diverse mixture of plants that support healthy cows and better milk production.

Over time, Amarech has been able to increase the amount of milk the family delivers to the local milk association for purchase from 6 liters a day to 12 liters a day. With the current price of milk at 28 birr per liter ($0.62), Amarech generates $45 in profit for her family each month – nearly 40% of the overall profit from the family’s various farming and livestock activities.

Looking forward, Amarech envisions a future in which they can grow their dairy production even further, potentially to more than 50 liters a day! She also hopes to be a model to other female dairy farmers so they, too, can play a significant role in improving the economic situation of their family. Together Assaye and Amarech are demonstrating the possibility of increased economic resilience in rural Dengeshta, with the help of Project Ethiopia’s micro loan and Farmers’ Association programs.

Assaye is truly a leader and believes deeply in supporting efforts that strengthen his community. As part of the Dengeshta Farmers’ Association formed and supported by Project Ethiopia, Assaye serves as the chairman, leading both board and general assembly meetings every month. In addition, he is also the chairman of the savings and credit association in Dengheshta where he leads the meetings for the association along with supporting the loan approval process for individual applicants.

“Serving my community feels important to me because it is part of my social responsibility,” Assaye shared with Project Leader, Workineh Genetu. “I am happy to voluntarily give my service to the community, especially for the children and the next generation.”

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