When do fruit trees make you famous?


Samuel Abreha, a 43-year-old mother of three, started by depending on government handouts, and is now famous in her region as a successful business woman. How did she make the change? By planting trees.

Samuel lives in the Raya Azebo district, one of drought prone areas in Southern Tigray Zone, Ethiopia. She used to make ends meet with support from the government’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP).

Using skills she learned in the GRAD project, Samuel changed all that.  She created a nursery in her backyard to grow and sell fruit trees. She sells 2,000 trees a year, and earns 50,000 birr ($1,800 US). Now she’s even famous. The regional television station aired a 30 minute spot showcasing her journey of change. 18 months after the program ended, Samuel is doing better than ever.

Samuel got worked hard to change her life. She went to every training session the project offered, and wanted to learn as much as she could. The topics on climate change adaptation were her favorite.

Samuel says, “I had no idea about nursing fruits seedling until I took the training and went to visit another nursery. Though the site is located far away, I went again to understand more about the process from fruit seedling-growing farmers.”

It wasn’t easy to get started. Samuel had to carry water in a donkey cart from far away so her new trees could survive. The first year profit from the sale of fruit tree seedlings was only 20,000 birr ($725 US).

But patience paid off. Now she earns up to 50,000 birr ($1,800 US), and her business keeps growing. "I grow ten types of fruit seedlings and have become the main supplier to other farmers in the area.”

“Sometimes I regret thinking about those years I left my backyard idle. Now it generates the highest income for my family even better than my main farmland. I am planning to expand the business as the local administration promised to give me land. The income helped me to construct a better house at a cost of 110,000 birr (about $4,000 US), and invest 5,000 birr ($181 US) to access pipe water. I also have 45,000-birr ($1,630) savings in the bank.”

Samuel isn’t the only one to benefit. She’s using what she learned to spread the wealth.

“I helped five of my neighbors to start similar business since the demand for fruit seedlings in the area is still so high.” 

It means a lot for the community members to have a regular supply of fruit tree seedlings nearby since having a few fruit trees at backyard can improve household’s nutrition and income. Working with women like Samuel makes a change not just in their lives, but for their entire communities.


About the program: GRAD was a five-year (2011-2016) USAID-funded project implemented by a consortium of six partners under the leadership of CARE in 16 woredas of four regions across Ethiopia. The project supported 39,306 households (79% of 50,000 target) to graduate from PSNP ) in part by increasing each household’s income through helping them to engage in value chains, and various income generating activities. GRAD’s implementing partners include the Relief Society of Tigray, Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara, Agri-Services Ethiopia, and Catholic Relief Services (in collabora­tion with a national affiliate – Meki Catholic Secretariat). The Netherlands Development Organization (better known as SNV) served as technical partner for value chain development.