Cultivating Change: Women Lead the Way in Regenerative Agriculture
Women play a pivotal role in smallholder farming in Ethiopia, making up nearly half of the agriculture workforce. Despite this, women often have less access to land, resources, and income than men. This disparity heightens their vulnerability to a changing climate, especially as Ethiopia confronts its worst drought in decades. Yet, when equipped with resources, women are more likely to invest back into their families and communities, making them critical leaders in efforts to end poverty and combat climate change.
Glimmer, in partnership with the IKEA Foundation, launched a new project in Debub Sodo, Central Region, Ethiopia, centered on planet-positive practices that improve farmers’ land and livelihoods, with a focus on empowering women. More than half (57%) of the farmer participants are women, and new income opportunities are designed to reduce barriers for women farmers. Simple adjustments—like ground-level beehives that are more accessible for women to manage—equipped them to take on new businesses and flourish in sectors traditionally dominated by men.
Women are working alongside men to learn how regenerative agriculture—practices that restore soil health to ensure long-term use of farmland—can produce more nutrient-dense and plentiful crops. With access to improved seeds, new crops designed to thrive together, and training on organic composting to replace chemical fertilizer, farmers are seeing an uptick in their harvests and incomes.
Women in the project are gaining a sense of purpose and agency as they take on new roles as income earners at home and leaders in community groups. One year into the project, women participants report a 51% increase in self-confidence, a 65% rise in household decision-making, and a 43% increase in community-group decision-making.
Meet a few of the women farmers leading the way in their community as part of Glimmer’s project.
Project Participant, Beekeeping
When Kuri was selected to participate in Glimmer’s project, she knew that if she worked hard, it could change her and her children’s lives. She and her husband were farming on a small plot of land, but skyrocketing inflation meant they were paying exorbitant amounts for chemical fertilizers that would often damage their harvests. After training and materials for regenerative practices like organic composting, Kuri’s land and harvests have transformed. Perhaps most exciting for her, though, is her new beekeeping business. She received training on beekeeping and learned how to construct a hive at home that was easier to manage. With plans to expand her beekeeping business, Kuri is passing on knowledge to her fellow community members.
"I want others to see my work and learn from my business. I want them to think that if she can do it, we can do it."
Project Participant, Organic Compost
Over time, Menen’s land became dry and degraded. After a while, even synthetic fertilizer was not helping her crops grow. Menen received hands-on training for regenerative practices like organic composting and intercropping—planting two or more crops for their mutual benefit. Now, Menen only uses organic compost on her land and has shown her neighbors how to do the same, helping them build a structure for worm composting, and providing them with worms to get started.
"I was told about compost, but this is new. I had never gotten to make it with my own hands. Now, on a single piece of land, we get two harvests."
Project Participant, Organic Orchard
Several years ago, Gobu lost her land and source of income when she and her daughters fled to escape abuse at home. She sold all her belongings to purchase a small plot, and when she learned about Glimmer’s new project in her community, she saw an opportunity to fully take advantage of her new land. Alongside her bee colony, Gobu uses regenerative practices to grow orchard trees, garlic, coffee plants, and a handful of other crops. She believes this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the access to loans and trainings. After years of struggle for her and her daughters, she now sees a way forward. As she looks out at her growing field, she envisions all of her land covered with plants and fruits.
"I had no work, so I was happy to get knowledge and work. I wanted to change. I have gained a lot of new knowledge from the training. I want to work and change until I die."
Project Participant, Intercropping
Lakech comes from a family of farmers, but she struggled to harvest enough food for her growing family on the land she inherited. When Lakech heard about Glimmer’s project, she saw an opportunity for additional income beyond her husband’s carpentry job. She took a loan to grow avocado, papaya and soybean. With a group of 19 other farmer participants, Lakech learned how to make organic compost and leverage intercropping to improve the health of her soil and maximize yields. After a lifetime of farming, Lakech has learned new practices that help her provide for her family and protect the health of the land that has been in her family for generations.
"My land used to be very dry. The difference on my land is very visible. The training is supported by results."