The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Project: A case study of the development of the Kokeb SACCO in Menjar Shenkora

In Ethiopia, in the heart of Menjar Shekora district in Kombolcha community, a remarkable transformation is taking place within the Kokeb Saving and Credit Co-operative Organization (SACCO). Established in 2017 with 62 members, the SACCO confronted numerous challenges before the game-changing collaboration with the 4R Nutrient Stewardship project (4R-NSP).

Before the 4R project, monthly savings within the SACCO barely amounted to 20 Ethiopian Birr (ETB), roughly the equivalent of $0.50 CAD. Membership had dwindled to a mere 30. Prior to collaborating with the project, savings were minimal, and the membership was quite limited. Consequently, the loan amount was notably small, and obtaining access to it proved challenging. This difficulty in accessing loans discouraged members from maintaining their membership.

Zenebu Zeru milking her cow in the Kombolcha Community. (Photo credit: Rahel Getachew)

“The moment we became involved in the 4R project, we began to access substantial loans that enabled us to diversify our business activities. This transformation attracted many others, resulting in a remarkable threefold increase in our membership to a thriving community of 200 individuals,” said Zenebu Zeru, a devoted member of the SACCO, who, in addition to being a mother of three children, also serves as the SACCO’s secretary. “As a direct outcome of the project, our association experienced significant growth and expansion in terms of capital, loan availability, and membership,” she added.

Today, members can save monthly and access loans of up to 50,000 ETB. As the SACCO is currently in the third phase of facilitating loans for their members, the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Project has breathed new life into the SACCO, rescuing it from its prior challenges.

In the initial phase, Zenebu successfully secured a loan of 21,900 ETB, which she invested in purchasing a cow and a calf. The cow has given birth to a new calf and Zenebu sold the old calf for 18,600 ETB. Subsequently, Zenebu and her husband obtained loans of 35,000 ETB and 33,000 ETB, respectively, after successfully repaying their initial loan. These subsequent loans helped acquire cattle for resale and procure raw materials for their tailoring business.

“The benefits of the project have been immeasurable for me and my family. Firstly, the extensive training in leadership and assertiveness, business literacy, gender capacity building and financial literacy. provided by the project has enriched my understanding and knowledge, resulting in a positive impact on my life.” Zenebu stated. “Furthermore, the ability to access loans through the project has enabled us to engage in diverse businesses, such as cattle fattening for resale and the production of local beverages.”

SACCO leaders during training at Arerti town (Photo credit: Ethio Wetlands staff)

Zenebu’s husband’s tailoring business has also flourished. As a family, they have supported each other, maintaining a harmonious balance of responsibilities in both their household and businesses. Zenebu expressed her profound gratitude for the project’s significant influence on their lives, which goes beyond just income generation, as it also enhanced their collective knowledge and mutual support as a community. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Project has indeed become a beacon of hope, ushering in a brighter future for the members of the Kokeb SACCO and Zenebu’s story is a testament to its life-changing impact.

4R co-operatives in Ethiopia function as a secure forum for group members encountering challenges and provide a supportive environment for seeking advice and solutions. Moreover, these co-operatives deliberate on initiatives that enhance their collective endeavors and foster development within their communities.

Until now, the project has collaborated with eight SACCOs, receiving support totaling 8,784,52 ETB ($211,540 CAD). This has facilitated the distribution of loans amounting to 21,383,293 ETB ($514,781 CAD) among 1,611 members of these SACCOs, with 850 of them being women. Consequently, the 4R co-operatives play a pivotal role in elevating the socio-economic prosperity of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia.

Global Affairs Canada, Fertilizer Canada and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada contribute to the funding of the project.

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