When we met her in 2015, Loko Jarso’s choice in life was no kind of choice at all: “If I can’t collect firewood, my children will die.”
Loko lives in a remote corner of southern Ethiopia. She was making a hard, dangerous eight-hour trip up a mountain to gather wood four times a week, walking alone and fearing hyena attacks, her thin plastic shoes punctured by thorns.
She steeled herself, telling us, “I do it so I don’t have to sit and face my children crying, weeping, and yelling when they have nothing to eat.”
And as she made the arduous journey, she prayed to God. “I ask him to change my life and lead us out of this.”
Collecting wood was the only means Loko had of earning money. When she wasn’t collecting, she was at the market looking for buyers – the only way she could afford to give her children even one small meal of boiled maize each day.
There was no safety net for Loko; no one to step in if she fell ill or injured herself.
“What makes being alone difficult is not having the respect of your community”
Within the Borena community, livestock ownership empowers local women and their households. But as a woman living alone and without livestock, Loko was shunned, isolated and ignored.
She dreamed of owning a cow – this would give her a voice in her community, and its milk would help her children to grow strong.
With what was left over, she could make enough money to set up a small business buying and selling tea and coffee.
Then in 2015 her dream came true, thanks to support from our local partner HUNDEE*.
What happened when we followed up with Loko in 2017?
Loko told us about how receiving two goats (and a cow) helped her cope with drought. “I lost the heifer due to the drought, but the goats survived, are giving milk again and have given birth… what we get from the goats is small… but I can give this to the children.”
Although she was still collecting firewood, she was going twice a week instead of four times a week.
"You have brought me happiness"
Loko was able to join a savings group, run by HUNDEE, and send one of her daughters to school with the extra money.
“I am getting credit because I’m in the savings group. Now I have benefited though loans when my children are sick, to take them to the clinic and get medicines, or for essentials for the house. Those in the savings group are better off than others.”
Now Loko can support her family. She says: “You have brought me happiness.”
*Who, in turn, were supported by donations made during Christian Aid Week 2015, and as part of our BRACED Ethiopia programme.
Among other things, the Oromo Grassroots Development Initiative (HUNDEE) give the poorest women in the community cows and goats, which gives them an income and brings them into the community. HUNDEE set up self-help groups for these women, who then hold weekly meetings to save and loan money – and also learn about their rights, maths, and literacy.