Livelihoods and economic empowerment

The best way for people to escape and stay out of poverty is to establish a sustainable livelihood.

By helping households diversify and strengthen their income streams for the long term, we ensure families will have better access to essentials like education and healthcare, and will be less dependent on government or overseas assistance to survive and thrive.

Women face particular challenges and disproportionate disadvantage in the developing world, including barriers to education, employment and finance. We place special emphasis on breaking down these barriers for women and helping them become agents of change in their communities.

Through our community partnerships in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, we:

  • establish women’s self-help and savings groups
  • offer and assist with micro-loans
  • provide women with technical training in areas like bee keeping, running a piggery business, farming and poultry production
  • provide training in budgeting, marketing, negotiation skills and managing small businesses


Case study: Ethiopia

livelihoodsTirunesh, 41, is a mother of six from the Gamo Gofa district of Ethiopia, where low rainfall, land shortages and poor roads make growing food and travelling to and from markets difficult. Tirunesh makes a living farming potatoes and, before we met her, was using local seed varieties prone to disease. Her harvest was poor quality and she struggled to feed her family between August to November – the main food gap in Gamo Gofa.

We selected Tirunesh for a training program to improve potato production. The program targeted women, who have limited access to land because of local traditions. They learned new agricultural techniques, such as ploughing, ridge-making, weeding and pest management. By providing basic building materials such as iron sheets and nails, the program also helped the women construct ‘dark storage’ facilities to preserve potatoes for four months, avoiding post-harvest loss.

“The new potatoes are disease-resistant, high-growth and have a good yield,” said Tirunesh. “Before the construction of the dark storage, I kept the potatoes under the soil and that exposed them to disease and reduced the shelf life of the product.”

In her first season using these new techniques, Tirunesh harvested three tonnes of potatoes, or 15 to 20 tubers per plot on her quarter-acre. In her latest season, Tirunesh sold 500kg of potatoes for USD$95 and kept 25kg for the next cropping season. She allocated the rest for household consumption.

“I reduced the hungry season by two months and used my income to purchase a cow and a sheep,” said Tirunesh. 

These animals have helped her diversify her income and put money aside for her children’s education.

“My family and I are very lucky. We have food for four months and a good income from the local market.”

Want to help more people like Tirunesh create their own long-term livelihoods? 

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Action on Poverty

Action on Poverty