The following is the story of a woman named Kibeme that I met at Alem Tena villagew in southern Ethiopia. When I met her at her hut’s door step, she held a framed picture, the proof of the story that she was about to share with me. The picture showed her old and new huts. I asked her permission to take pictures of her at different spots within her compound and backyard. She agreed. Afterwards, we sat down and she told me the following story.
I used to have eight children. Four died, and now I am left with four children. My eldest son died from a minor illness after he started helping me take care of the family. I was so crushed by poverty that I couldn’t feed my children or take them to the health center. My husband is bedridden due to kidney disease. He is unable to farm or engage in physically demanding activities.
I gave up all my farmland to secure small loans and rented the remaining on a crop sharing basis to feed my children. Getting enough food for the family was unthinkable. In order to sustain our weak bodies for another day and to shorten the length of the day without food, my children and I would lay down on our mat until midday. Then we started going into village to cut tree stumps to sell. From the sale of fire wood, I bought some food for the family that helped us sustain for one more day.
I believed and accepted that my Creator destined my family and I to lead such a doomed life. I lived a life full of bitterness and darkness. I did not see any hope to recover my farmland and plow for myself to produce food for my family.
One day in 2009, people from Food for the Hungry (FH) came to my house and registered me and my family. They asked me a lot of questions related to my livelihood and depth of my poverty. Finally, they told me that I was hired at a tree nursery site to take part in the cash for work project along with other poor villagers.
It was a new beginning. I was considered worthy to work and earn money to buy food for my family. Laying down on a mat is replaced by rising up early and going to work. After some months of work at the tree nursery site, I redeemed all my farmland from the money lenders. I bought wheat and teff seeds and planted them on my land. I harvested 882 pounds of wheat and 441 pounds of teff in the first year. I joined an FH irrigation users group and got haricot bean seeds, which I planted. From the sale of the produce, I bought a sheep for breeding and rebuilt my hut. I joined an FH savings group and from the money I saved, I bought two oxen and a heifer.
I worked for three years in row at the FH tree nursery as one of the cash for work beneficiaries in my village. We produced millions of tree, coffee and fruit seedlings that were planted on rugged hills, valleys and backyards of the village. The FH project filled my valley of poverty and lifted me out of it. I now produce enough food for my family. My children are going to school and help me on the farm in their spare time. My oldest son has finished his high school studies and is getting skills for a better career. The rest of my children are attending grade 6, 4 and kindergarten in the village and don’t have any problems relating to food or school supplies. I can now supply all these things to them.
My dream for the future is to build a grinding mill in front of my house and start a new business. This will enable my children to have a stable income and future. Poverty is no more my destiny.
Food for the Hungry in Ethiopia, with partners like you and USAID/OFDA, created temporary job opportunities in cash for work programs for more than 32,000 people in Shashego, Angacha and Halaba districts in Ethiopia. Many families were able to improve their lives because of partners like you.