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USDA awards WOCCU funds for Ethiopian project
MADISON, Wis. (5/28/09)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) roughly $7.9 million through the Food for Progress Program to help finance credit union development aimed at providing agricultural extension services and financial access to farmers in Ethiopia. The four-year initiative is WOCCU’s first long-term technical assistance program in the country.
Click to view larger image A credit union member visits her rural savings and credit cooperative in rural Ethiopia to perform a transaction. (Photo provided by the World Council of Credit Unions)
WOCCU’s “Enhancing Food Security and Rural Livelihoods in Ethiopia” program will assist rural savings and credit cooperatives--RUSACCOs, or credit unions--to finance agricultural production and investment, mobilize savings and provide non-financial services such as providing market information and training to their members. The program also will support small infrastructure investments to improve farmers’ access to markets. WOCCU’s program will target the regions of Tigray, Amhara and Oromia, which have a high concentration of farming households and existing RUSACCOs. WOCCU program activities in Ethiopia will begin in November. The program will continue through November 2013. “WOCCU has provided training in our methodology and tools to a range of rural and urban SACCOs over the past few years,” said Brian Branch, WOCCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. “In early 2007, we began looking for opportunities to increase our efforts in Ethiopia.” The RUSACCOs will work with WOCCU to improve their ability to extend new agricultural financial products and services for small farmers and other rural entrepreneurs. The program will target farmers who rely on agriculture as their primary source of income, and who struggle to produce sufficient food for their families. It is designed to increase the farmers’ productivity, connect them to markets and formalize farmer cooperatives for group training and support. “Many of the RUSACCOs are new, as are the entities that support them,” Branch added. “But they are well-positioned to alleviate rural poverty and increase food security if given the opportunity to develop the kinds of financial products and services the country's farmers need.” About 85% of Ethiopia's population relies on agriculture as the primary source of income, according to the U.S. State Department. However, the region suffers from frequent drought, unsustainable agricultural practices and poor transport infrastructure. Compounded with steadily rising prices for food and agricultural inputs, the densely populated country struggles to keep up with demand. The Ethiopia program will support self-help activities to build or improve infrastructure related to agriculture, including developing of storage facilities, irrigation systems, access roads, bridges and basic sanitation facilities.
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