Ethiopia. Mekedes Regasa's redemption
27-10-2023 | di COOPI

Ethiopia. Mekedes Regasa's redemption

Mekedes Regasa is only a 28-year-old girl, but her life has been touched by complicated experiences and various vicissitudes. Nowadays, she lives in Hisu village, in the Sinana district, in the Bale zone, an area inside the regional state of Oromia, in Ethiopia. Today, she both studies and works. She proudly tells us she is in sixth grade and is a beneficiary of the project “Emergency Initiative to promote protection, economic integration and access to basic services for potential migrants, returnees and IDPs in Ethiopia”, financed by AICS – Italian Agency for Development and led mainly by Save The Children.

In the past, Mekdes has been struggling since she lost both of her parents in 2013. However, she had financial support from her close relatives, friends, and neighbors, so she went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2013 looking for a better life. However, she did not find what he wanted and life was very miserable for her in the Saudi state. She was arrested by the police and faced gender-based violence. Finally, after an 8-year struggle and three kids, she decided so to return to her village in Ethiopia in 2021.

Obliged to find a source of income to support her family, after her return to Ethiopia she started a small tea and coffee installment. She was selling the products mainly during the market day, in Hisu Kebele, but unfortunately, the business was not profitable as many of her friends were also engaged in the same activities in the same village.

Determined to change the course of their lives, Mekdes and some friends then organized a grain milling service. Their group, consisting of 21 women and 3 men, thanks to an initial seed capital provided by the project and support provided by COOPI, has been working to legalize and formalize the cooperative. Mekdes enthusiastically recounts the changes that have invaded his life.

Thanks to Jesus, COOPI support totally changed my and my friend’s lives and I was reborn by the project! The group members were supported with the installation of two-grain milling machines, seed money and also trained to save their earnings from the two trainings they received in addition to what they regularly save in the Sinke Bank, which is a local financial bank.”

Chaired by Mekedes Regasa, the group members are now earning a daily income of 2000–2500 birr per day from grain milling services. Moreover, they are also diversifying their income by engaging in goat purchasing and selling after fattening them with the feed from the leftover grain millings. “Each member gets 3,000 birrs when they cover their shift every week”, explains Mekdes. In addition, the Hisu Grain Milling has also created employment opportunities for more than 11 youths in their locality by loading, cleaning, and transporting the customers’ products.

We are planning to open the second branch of our activity in the distant villages of the Hisu kebele shortly. It is a miracle that is started happening in my friends and my life in less than a year. I am very grateful to the donors, AICS, COOPI, and the government”.

She concludes Mekdes. The Project, in fact, is aimed at supporting the Ethiopian government to rehabilitate returning migrants whose migration to Saudi Arabia failed due to the irregularity of the situation.

COOPI operates in Ethiopia both with emergency humanitarian assistance projects and with development activities, and the AICS-funded project aims to operate on both fronts, both by providing emergency kits to migrants in repatriation camps organized by the government, and by organizing training for the reintegration of migrants. The Ethiopian government hopes that the economic activities carried out by young Ethiopian returnees can be a disincentive to departure and an economic driver for the economic development of the rural communities.