Not long ago, Ethiopia was in the midst of a food crisis. But unlike a generation earlier, we didn’t see widespread starvation and instability. America’s smart foreign assistance is a major reason why. In 2012, CARE began implementing and managing a USAID-funded program called GRAD, which stands for Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development. The first phase concluded in 2016, but not before helping 65,000 of Ethiopia’s poorest families — once reliant on their country’s food-assistance program — climb out of poverty and leave behind that safety net for good.
They are families such as Admasu, Melkam, and their five children, who previously couldn’t harvest enough food from their farm in Ethiopia, even though it was the size of three soccer fields. “Most of the time our harvest was poor due to lack of knowledge on fertilizer use and improved seed,” Melkam says, “as well as on how to cope with erratic rainfall.” A food-assistance program run by the Ethiopian government supplied them wheat rations for six months a year, but it wasn’t enough to bridge the gap. They couldn’t sufficiently feed, clothe or educate their children.
Admasu and Melkam tripled their income by working through GRAD, which taught them better farming techniques and gave them better access to fertilizer and seeds.Through GRAD, Admasu and Melkam joined a village savings group so they could put away a modest sum of money each month.It worked for them, as it did for many others in the first phase of the five-year program: Average household savings for participant families soared by an astonishing 800 percent. Admasu and Melkam learned about nutrition, gender equality and climate change adaption.