Real and Lasting Change in Ethiopia

We are excited to introduce Resilient Economy and Livelihoods (REAL), a new project we are leading in the Wolayta Zone in Ethiopia. We have two main goals: to help smallholder farmers develop more profitable businesses and to improve sanitation in the region.

The Challenge

Communities in Wolayta experience repeated cycles of crop failure and hunger, which threatens livelihoods and leads to poor nutrition. Most years, 50% of the rural population face temporary food shortages; this increases to 90% in years of extreme drought. Many conditions work against smallholder farmers achieving success: outdated technology, poor quality seeds, and limited knowledge of the market and the true value of their crops. Compounding these challenges, less than 30% of the population has access to proper toilet facilities. As a result, communities—young children in particular—are malnourished and suffer from diarrheal-related disease.

Our opportunity

To escape the cycle of poverty and dependency on aid, Wolayta farmers need access to modern technology, improved seeds and knowledge of the markets. They also need opportunities to invest in their health by purchasing toilets designed for their needs and environment.

To achieve success, many initiatives work in concert. Here are a few select parts of our strategy

Farm business advisors | Farm business advisors provide training, guide farmers on best practices and sell improved quality seeds and other agricultural inputs. Forty new advisors will be trained.

Irrigation | iDE has developed innovative technologies that offer smallholder farmers access to affordable irrigation. Farmers will use this technology to grow crops in the dry season when prices are at their peak. Our goal is to reach 2,000 farmers.

Sanitation | There is strong demand for affordable toilets in rural areas. iDE has already completed primary market research, product design and market testing in Wolayta. Working with eight local businesses, our goal is to sell 5,000 toilets.


One of India’s top grossing films in 2017 is about a man who desperately wants to marry the woman he loves. She wants a toilet but he believes it is wrong to have one in the home. She leaves him on the first day of their marriage and will return only when there is a toilet. He goes on a mission to change the deeply-held beliefs in his community and convince his neighbours, family, and friends to install toilets in their homes!

Feminist International Assistance Policy

In July 2017, the Government of Canada announced their Feminist International Assistance Policy. The policy outlines six action areas including gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. By 2021–2022, the policy ensures at least 95% of Canada’s bilateral international development assistance investments will either target or integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Gender equity is already a focus for iDE around the globe, and we look forward to new opportunities to empower women and girls as this new policy becomes reality.