Capacity Building Helps Pastoral Women Transform Impoverished Communities in Ethiopia

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Poverty, drought, and hunger devastate people on Africa's rangelands. We used an action-oriented approach from 2000 to 2004 to build capacity among thousands of pastoralists to diversify livelihoods, improve living standards, and enhance livestock marketing. The process included collective action, microfinance, and participatory education. Poor women previously burdened by domestic chores became leaders and rapidly changed their communities. Drought occurred from 2005 to 2008. We assessed intervention effects on household drought resilience with a quasiexperimental format that incorporated survey-based comparisons of treatment groups with ex post controls. Interventions led to major improvements in trends for quality of life, wealth accumulation, hunger reduction, and risk management. Human capacity building can be a driver for change, generating hope and aspirations that set the stage for the use of new information and technology.

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