A Future for Subsistence Farmers

May 13, 2019


Crises aren’t always hurricanes or typhoons. Sometimes the worst ones are slow-moving and silent, virtually invisible to an outsider.

That’s a truth second-generation Ethiopian farmer Mudin Mekuria knows all too well. He has spent much of his life tirelessly working his farm to support his wife and seven children. Unfortunately, his land is dry, sand-like, mineral-poor, and lacking a modern water supply system.

Just one of the 85 percent of Ethiopians who are smallholder farmers, Mudin has long struggled to make his crops grow. For these agriculturalists, the intergenerational cycle of poverty is exacerbated by a lack of access to basic farming fundamentals: the capital to buy what they need, the modern technology that can help improve yield and generate income, and the connection to a fair marketplace to ultimately sell their goods.

That’s where JDC’s Tikkun Olam Ventures program (TOV) comes in.

Launched in October 2018, TOV aims to lift Ethiopia’s most vulnerable farmers out of poverty through a philanthropic loan fund that provides fairly priced loans, Israeli agritech and training, and access to new markets for crops.

To enhance productivity, farmers are given access to irrigation and fertilization systems, and hybrid seeds designed to help grow tomatoes, onions, cabbages, and hot peppers.

Mudin was the first farmer to sign up for TOV.

“All of the tomato plots in my area were heavily infected with viruses, but in my plot, I’ve produced salable tomatoes thanks to this new method. That’s proof to me,” he said. “I believe this technology will change the entire community.”

To help tackle the problem of capital for these farmers, the self-sustaining loan program enables the farmers to purchase the AgTech seeds, equipment, and technical support they need to increase their yields. Local farmers’ unions and agribusinesses also help the farmers get fair prices for their produce in previously untapped markets, like hotels, universities, and prisons. Repaid loans then go back into the loan fund, to be used by farmers in additional locations.


Starting with a two-year pilot program in Ethiopia, TOV launched with seven demonstration sites and more than 30 farmers. It is set to expand to provide loans to agricultural enterprises supporting 300–400 farmers, with the goal of reaching 4,000–5,000 Ethiopian farmers over a five-year period, benefiting more than 25,000 people overall.

Today, TOV is already changing lives.

“Since JDC brought this technology to us, we’ve conserved manpower and increased our yield. It’s helped fulfill our needs,” said Endale Tadesse Wakjira, TOV farmer and manager of Tatek Lesira, a youth farming cooperative. “Moving forward, we believe the technology will only help us more in the future.”

By literally starting with the root of the problem, JDC is tackling this region’s quiet crisis of poverty by providing a path to independence and financial stability for farmers and their families.

JDC doesn’t wait for problems to turn into disasters — it intervenes and invests in Africa’s future with long-term, tactical solutions, leading people like Mudin toward a better future.

“Our family is happy,” said Mesai Aweke, the wife and daughter-in-law of TOV farmers. “We’re living a better life.”

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