Lifting pastoral women and youth out of poverty through community-based natural resource management
Ethiopia is the second most populous nation in Africa and boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the region. However, this growth has been uneven and per capita income is among the lowest in the world, as are other socioeconomic indicators such as gender equality and food security.
The Borena Zone in the Oromia Region is a nomadic and agro-pastoralist area where approximately 95% of inhabitants rely on livestock for survival. In the past twenty years, cyclical droughts have become more severe as a consequence of the climatic crisis, and it is increasingly difficult for cattle herders to find water and pasture.
To survive, local households are pursuing unsustainable diversification strategies such as charcoal burning, illegal timber removal for fuel wood and building, clearing forested land for small-scale subsistence farming, mining, and petty trade.
The BOMA Project has developed an innovative, gender-focused poverty-reduction programme designed to help pastoral communities overcome extreme poverty, while restoring degraded forests and pasture in the drylands of southern Ethiopia.
Building on a successful pilot model developed in northern Kenya, the Trafigura Foundation is supporting BOMA in scaling up its Green Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP) model in the Borena region.
The Green REAP aims at lifting around 13,000 people out of extreme poverty through the creation of green enterprises and the restoration of forests and degraded lands.
The project entails two years of sequenced interventions with a clear exit strategy and rigorous criteria for success. Local communities are called to nominate their poorest, most vulnerable members to participate in the Green REAP. The selected participants receive a cash grant to start environmentally-sound small businesses, as well as skills training and mentoring to manage and grow their business. They also contribute to a savings pool, which they can access to cope with shocks or to expand their activity.
Participants are considered to have successfully “graduated” from poverty once they meet determined benchmarks for food security, sustainable livelihoods, shock preparedness and social and human capital development.
Another important aspect of BOMA’s model is the primacy of women empowerment. In the Borena region, women and girls are highly constrained by rigid gender norms and roles, including the responsibility for most of the household tasks. Yet, despite their heavy responsibilities and their intimate knowledge of the forest ecosystem, Borena women hold no role in communal decision-making and do not control household property.
The Green REAP is designed to revert this trend, with the purpose of actively involving women in the creation of livelihoods and in the preservation and management of local natural resources.