Cash for work pays Loko’s education
We are in one of the clusters of Gobso’s village in Borena zone. Nearby the scattered mud huts is a ‘playground’ looking land, where lots of children are gathered. It is school break, but the children on the ‘playground’ are not playing.
The children on the 'playground' are engaged in different tasks, such as looking after farm animals, collecting firewoods, and walking long distances to fetch water.
Loko Guyo, 11, is collecting firewoods. She is the youngest daughter of Jilo Huka, and she is happy that she is on school break. This is not because she thinks that she will have more time to play with her friends, but rather because she will have a break from the two hours walk that she does every day to get to and from the Kersa primary school. She is also happy that she will have more time to help her mother with housework, while she is doing labor work in order to earn some cash for the family’s support, including Loko’s education.
Helps her mother
“I am a fifth grade student. Before and after school, I help my mother with the housework. When there is no school I have more time to help. When I get time I study. In the last semester I was on 10th rank out of many students in my class,” says Loko who has spent the day collecting firewood and is now waiting for her mother to come home from labour work.
Loko’s mother Jilo works on rehabilitating a water source facility in the village. She states that it is difficult to find time for doing both the household duties and the labour work. To manage both, I do the housework before leaving for work or after coming back. On my way from the work, I collect firewood or fetch water and take it with me,” says Jilo and adds; “when my daughters are not in school they help me with the housework”. Traditionally men and boys do not involve in household duties, even though five of her children are boys.
Lost 60 cows and 40 calves
“When my husband and I first realized that the rehabilitation work on the water source facility was about to be finished, we got worried because we did not know how to support our family. Now we are happy to hear that our family is selected as beneficiary of another cash for work activity,” says Jilo.
The family lost 60 cows and more than 40 calves from the recent drought and ended up being categorized under the poorest of the poor although they were considered in good conditions before the drought. This is the main reason for selecting the family as beneficiary of the new Drought Risk Reduction project funded by DCA and ECHO.
“After the drought we were left with three cows, three sheep and two goats. We earned a little income by selling the skins of the dead animals and by doing labour works. We have bought one new cow after the drought so now we have a total of four cows each with a calf,” explains Jilo who seems very committed to continuing the education of her children, of whom six are enrolled in school.
A strong belief in education
“During the drought all the children were forced to drop out of school. Now they have all started school again, and the ability to cover the cost of their education is very dependent on the cash we earn from labour works,” says Jilo and adds that the younger girls’ education is in higher risk since the drought has limited the family’s assets while increasing the need for the girls to help more with the housework.
In the past we had to wait for the cows to give birth. With cash related activities we can support our farm animal keeping activities and our family at the same time.
Jilo “I have a strong belief in education. In my childhood all we did and thought was about farm animals. From the many cows and calves that we lost during the drought, we have learned that we can no longer depend on keeping farm animals alone. The money we spend on our children’s education is not lost because the children have learned many things,” says Jilo while explaining her reasons for believing in education for her children.
“In order to send our children to school, we need to cover the costs of exercise books, pens, pencils, food and the rents of the houses for those who are attending schools far away from here. So we depend very much on cash. The rehabilitation work we do to reduce the risk of drought is a means for us to earn some cash, which is partly used for our children’s education. There are also times when we have had to borrow from others in order to keep the children in school,” Jilo explains, and states that it is an economic challenge to keep the children in school.
Prefers cash for work activities
There are many benefits in involving in cash for work activities compared to getting the family income from selling firewood, charcoal or farm animals. Jilo says that she prefers cash for work activities, especially for rehabilitation work, because she can earn 300 birr in a month and when her husband works it doubles. In addition the activities contribute to bettering their lives e.g. by decreasing the number of hours that the family has to walk to fetch water or to find grazing land for their farm animals.
“In the past we had to wait for the cows to give birth. With cash related activities we can support our farm animal keeping activities and our family at the same time. This is necessary in order to send our children to school”. Jilo once again shows her gratefulness that she and her family have been selected for the new cash for work project, and starts her walk towards where she keeps the firewood that she gathered on her way back from the water rehabilitation work. She still has a lot of housework that needs to be done for today.
By Fikerte Abebe