Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program


Ethiopian Society for Animal Production

Publication Date



The outreach and action-research component of the Pastoral Risk Management (PARIMA) project began with a focus on the Borana Plateau of southern Ethiopia in 2000. Our goal was to use participatory methods to learn about development needs and apply the knowledge gained to benefit local communities. Today it is clear that the project has had positive impacts on the lives of thousands of people. This report helps tell this story by emphasizing the process we used.

At the start we knew that the traditional pastoral system was under intense pressure as poverty and hunger were common. Community-based problem diagnosis confirmed the need to increase incomes and diversify livelihoods, but the real challenge was how to do it. Further stakeholder interactions revealed that collective action and micro-finance could be important interventions. As collective-action groups formed we responded to new requests to assist with skill development via capacity-building short courses and field tours for group members to see other places and people. We also helped create new livestock marketing channels and provided long-term monitoring and problem solving concerning conflict management. Many specialized collaborators were needed to help us.

In the end, the intervention package was complementary and strong. Group formation and visits with successful peers helped inspire beneficiaries to envision a more hopeful future. Livestock marketing and small-business ventures fueled micro-finance, personal confidence, and generated a new base of diversified wealth that has reduced food insecurity and drought vulnerability. There is considerable evidence of success. One outcome has been the growth and sustainability of 59 collective-action groups created starting in 2001. With 2,300 founding members (76 percent women) and 13,800 direct beneficiaries, not one group failed over eight years. Over 5,360 micro-loans were extended with a value of US $647,600 (or 6.2 million Birr at the prevailing exchange rate of 9.6 Birr per US $1). Loan repayments included a minimum interest rate of 10.5 percent and 96 percent of loans were recovered.

By 2009 the groups were merged into government cooperatives. Government was a project supporter and co-owner as PARIMA phased out. In summary, our experience illustrates that an action-oriented project can make a difference in the marginal lands of Ethiopia. We learned some key lessons: (1) Start at a small scale and build trust; (2) encourage authentic participation and aim for impact; (3) build real partnerships with other development actors; (4) focus on women; (5) build human capacity and the ability to see a hopeful future; (6) use innovative peers in the learning process; (7) help establish market linkages and networks; (8) respect local cultures and use culture to integrate new concepts; (9) effectively manage conflicts that come with change; and (10) help create sustainable cooperatives. Other insights are provided in terms of how collective-action groups change over time, details of managing micro-finance activities, and how to overcome common obstacles we encountered in the field.

Creating sustainable impacts via collective action and capacity building requires time, patience, and skill—it is not a quick fix. The process of taking untrained, illiterate volunteers and transforming them into functional and durable collective-action groups took about three years, on average. Many factors needed to come together to allow the project to achieve impact. These included a strong network of collaborators, a traditional production system under pressure, long-term funding support, and devotion among team members to assist the pastoral community.

There are new challenges that threaten the sustainability of progress that has been achieved. On-going attention needs to be given to build human capacity at all levels, provide more funds to capitalize livestock trade, and improve access to information concerning livestock prices and drought early-warning. Finally, the process documented here is not a cookbook for ready application elsewhere. Rather, it is an approach that can be modified for other situations in rural Ethiopia and elsewhere.


Reduced file size and black and white versions of this publication are available below.

Additional Files

ESAPCoppockwebreduced.pdf (3052 kB)
Reduced File Size

ESAPCoppockBlackandWhite.pdf (14772 kB)
Black and White