Abraham is back and back to school and life on the farm – Ethiopia
When he left his home in Lemu Mirt, a small town in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, Abraham Hailu had dropped out of 4th grade with the intention of traveling to Saudi Arabia to start a new life.
Until then, he also worked on the small family farm. But there was no escaping the difficulties. “My family had financial problems. I felt like I wasn’t supporting them enough,” he says.
Abraham left with a group of other young people who also hoped to turn their lives around. Stories of successful migrants in foreign lands were common in Abraham’s neighborhood, so he didn’t need much prodding to leave Ethiopia.
The group made contact with smugglers who were to take them to the Gulf region, first passing through Djibouti on foot and then crossing the Gulf of Aden by boat.
Abraham paid the smugglers about $400 and secured a spot in the group. However, the trip was difficult, especially because there was not enough food and water.
While a very large number of would-be emigrants began the journey, “by the time we reached the coast of Djibouti, there were about 60 of us left,” he says.
But that’s only as far as Abraham went. In Djibouti, tragedy struck when he was robbed of the little money he had. With virtually no other choice, Abraham decided to turn back.
After three days of walking from the coast, he ended up at the International Organization for Migration’s Migration Response Center in the town of Obock, from where he was supported to return to Ethiopia as part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (EU-IOM Joint Initiative).
Following a needs assessment, Abraham qualified for the support offered to returnees wishing to resettle economically. His plan was to make money the only way he knew how – through the family conspiracy.
He received training in livestock trading and husbandry, and with a grant from the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, he bought a sheep and three cows.
The program also helped him re-enroll in school. Three years after his return, Abraham is in Grade 7 and his business not only takes care of his needs, but also supports his nine siblings and parents who all work together on the farm.
“The number of our cattle has doubled to six and our sheep have increased from one to 20,” he says.
Abraham and his family also grow wheat and carrots. “Initially, there was a small piece of land that my family owned. But now, as we have a surplus, we rent the neighboring land.
Since the launch of the EU-IOM joint initiative in the Horn of Africa in March 2017, almost 10,000 Ethiopians have been helped to return to their communities of origin, while more than 5,000 have been helped to create micro-enterprises.
Many others are benefiting from community initiatives that aim to tackle some of the drivers of migration, such as the lack of viable livelihoods.
The EU-IOM joint initiative funded the establishment of 23 community projects in the country, with more than 50,000 direct and indirect beneficiaries. Initiatives include a fish farming project at the Gibe dam as well as a fodder and animal feed production project in the Oromia region, as well as an irrigation and spring water development project in the Amhara region.
According to Sara Basha, Coordinator of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Ethiopia, the aim of community projects is “to economically empower local communities and prevent the need and urgency of irregular migration”.
Ms. Basha adds: “We ensure that the respective communities are involved, from the conceptualization to the final implementation of the project, and that they definitely take ownership of the project once it is finished.
In addition, all community projects are developed in close collaboration with local government structures. “The involvement of government offices at different levels has continued to play a key role in the success and sustainability of community projects,” says Ms. Basha.
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative
Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the program brings together 26 African countries from the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa and of North Africa, as well as the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of making migration safer, better informed and better governed for migrants and their communities.