CRS Work in Ethiopia
CRS agricultural initiatives include seed fairs, where poor farmers are provided vouchers to enable them to purchase seeds of their choice to increase food production. Photo by Kifle Abegaz/CRS
High population density, environmental degradation and recurring drought continue to exacerbate the overwhelming scale of poverty in Ethiopia. Extremely limited health care and potable water make matters worse, with people often being too ill or too busy collecting water to work in their fields. To help communities improve their food availability and economic standing, CRS Ethiopia focuses programming activities in four key areas.
Water and Sanitation
About 85 percent of Ethiopians live in rural areas, and of these, less than 15 percent have access to safe water. To help improve this situation, CRS Ethiopia includes water and sanitation activities in all of our projects, with an emphasis on multiple uses of water for domestic needs and productive needs such as gardening and livestock watering.
By providing a holistic set of services centered around water, CRS is helping Ethiopian communities build a stronger foundation for improving their food production, overall health and economic standing. In our rural development programs, CRS Ethiopia delivers integrated services within watershed areas to help neighboring communities maximize the benefits of available water. Project activities include water systems, agricultural support, natural resource management, health initiatives and support for increasing incomes. CRS has also donated several drilling rigs to the Ethiopian Catholic Church to tap deep, essential groundwater on a wider scale.
Emergency Preparedness and Recovery
Cyclical food shortages in Ethiopia have diminished the ability of vulnerable rural households to cope with shocks such as drought or floods. For this reason, CRS Ethiopia includes emergency preparedness and recovery in all of our programs, helping communities prepare and mitigate the impact of drought and protect lives and livelihoods. CRS Ethiopia's recovery program, through the provision of farming tools and supplies, helps to reduce the loss of essential household or farming assets, promotes positive coping strategies, and helps to increase income sources. These interventions also help communities withstand disasters in the future.
CRS Ethiopia supports disaster mitigation and recovery projects in drought- and flood-prone areas using CRS private funds as well as funding from the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the United Nations Humanitarian Response Fund. These projects aim to rebuild individual and community assets after emergencies through nonfood aid in the form of agriculture and livestock, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and capacity-building interventions. CRS also responds to acute emergencies, such as famine or floods, by distributing emergency food, water, and essential household items as required.
Agriculture and Livelihoods
The majority of Ethiopians are subsistence farmers trying to support an average family of five people on less than acre. Even in good years, the most vulnerable families — including those headed by women or the elderly — can only produce enough food to cover their needs for three or four months. To survive the rest of the year, they are forced to sell whatever precious assets they have, including tools, livestock and even wood from their house frames.
To help families grow more food and avoid destitution, CRS Ethiopia supports projects that increase agricultural productivity and enable poor farmers to better access existing markets. CRS also rehabilitates degraded land, teaches better management of natural resources and promotes microfinance projects to help poor families increase their incomes. In particular, CRS Ethiopia supports small savings-and-lending programs for women in and around urban areas, enabling women to expand their business opportunities and eventually lead their families out of poverty.
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HIV and AIDS
CRS Ethiopia is working to control the spread of HIV and reduce the social impact of AIDS by supporting local partners to provide related education, care and counseling. CRS programs teach youth and adults how to prevent infection and give care and support to orphans and families affected by the disease. The programs also include community-based activities that are designed to reduce the stigma and discrimination often experienced by orphans and people living with HIV and AIDS.
Reducing stigma is also an important component in facilitating community members to take a more active role in caring for and supporting people living with HIV and AIDS within their community. Participatory learning tools such as "We Stop AIDS" and "In Charge!" encourage communities to accept these individuals and offer them critical social support. These tools also work in supporting individuals and communities to consider HIV and AIDS and its prevention in relation to their own and their families' lives, empowering them with skills to protect themselves.