“I sell the males and keep the females for raising,” said Teklay, who earned about 2,500 birr—or about $117—for the five she had recently sold, leaving her with a small herd of 10. “From the goats I sell I buy food. I buy clothes for my children. And I save money.” Already, she had stashed away 500 birr, about $23, some of which she may use to pay back the two-year loan with interest.
And though her new goat-raising business wasn’t able to alleviate all the fears Teklay had about the drought—especially if it worsened in her area and began to affect the grasses her animals grazed on—the small herd was cushioning some of her hardships.
For Teklay’s neighbor, a farmer named Mulata Atsbeha, the money he borrowed allowed him to expand a small skin-trading enterprise he had started about four years ago to help meet the needs of his household. The problem was Atsbeha didn’t have enough capital to grow the business. The 3,000-birr loan, along with some technical advice offered through the R4 initiative, solved that issue.
“I became profitable and paid the money back before the repayment time—all of it,” said Atsbeha, who was planning to take out a second loan. “It’s when you have enough capital to run the business that you can make a better profit.”
Harvests in a time of drought
The super El Niño has struck hard in El Salvador, damaging or destroying the harvests of nearly every farmer in the country.
But catch a boat in San Luis La Herradura and make your way among the mangrove forests to the island community of El Ranchón, and you will find something to cheer about: lush fields of corn and beans.
“In the past, I could never produce enough corn,” says Cruz del Carmen Muñoz, a farmer and mother of two. But in November, she says, “On an area of land that used to produce eight quintals of corn I was able to grow 32.” (Thirty-two quintals is more than 7,000 pounds.) And in February, a parcel of land she cultivates with her neighbors was bursting with corn and beans nearly ready for harvest.
Their secret? Farming techniques that draw on age-old and up-to-the-minute knowledge of how to make the most of what’s available—introduced by Oxfam and partner FUNDESA as part of a program to help 425 struggling families in 13 communities strengthen their resilience in the face of drought.