With presentations on ways to fatten cattle so that they can be sold at higher prices, Ethiopia’s farmers who are members of the country’s credit unions are learning how to ensure their financial security.
“The Ethiopian model focuses on ‘back to the basics' educational development,” said Stanley Kuehn, World Council of Credit Union’s program director in Ethiopia. “We're not introducing new crops, but instead providing greater access to credit so farmers have the resources they need to increase their yields, improve their finances and feed their communities."
The farmers are members of Sasun RUSACCO, which means "rural savings and credit cooperative," or credit union, and are required to attend farming as well as financial training as part of their membership.
Sasun is one of a growing number of RUSACCOs taking advantage of a WOCCU program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the lives of its farmer-members, WOCCU said.
The program's goals are to provide technical training that will help turn subsistence farmers into commercial producers, expand agricultural finance products to meet growing farmer-member demand and improve community infrastructure to support agricultural production and marketing, according to Brian Branch, WOCCU president/CEO.
A class of 20 men and women recently attended a class held by Redai Halefom, a development agent assigned by Ethiopia's government to educate farmers in the northern region of Tigray. He spoke on ways to fatten the native cattle so they would sell at higher prices.
“Ethiopia has an extensive credit union system already in place that is able to serve members in remote rural areas,” Branch said. “By strengthening that system through member education and increased resource availability, we hope to help raise the levels of credit union service to improve food security for communities and financial wellbeing for members.”
Ethiopia's nearly 8,000 credit unions, many of which serve less than 100 members, comprise a movement that is now more than 50 years old, according to WOCCU.
According to the U.S. Department of State, 85% of Ethiopians rely on agriculture as their primary income source, which accounts for 46% of the country's gross national product and 80% of its exports.