Äthiopischer Viehzüchter mit seinen Tieren

Responding to crises and building resilience

Ethiopia Country programme

In Ethiopia Swiss Church Aid (HEKS/EPER) provides life-saving assistance to people affected by crises and it assists vulnerable communities to build their livelihoods and increase their preparedness and resilience to shocks caused by climatic hazards or conflicts. 


Ethiopia is a country characterized by stark contrasts and extremes. With a population exceeding 120 million, it stands as the second-largest country on the African continent. The nation has garnered global attention due to recurring instances of severe droughts and famines. Despite its status as one of the world's poorest nations according to UN statistics, with half of its population living below the poverty line, Ethiopia has experienced remarkable economic growth, boasting an annual growth rate surpassing 10 percent in recent years.

The political landscape in Ethiopia has undergone significant shifts, leading to a period of reforms frequently marked by moments of instability. Notably, the country faces the challenge of having one of the highest numbers of internally displaced persons, often living in conditions of high humanitarian needs. Approximately 80 percent of the population resides in rural areas and is predominantly engaged in grain cultivation for sustenance and cattle farming.

Ethiopia possesses abundant resources, including fertile soil, ample water, a wealth of knowledge, and deeply rooted cultural traditions. However, issues such as degraded agricultural and pasture lands, underutilized water resources, and a lack of sustainable practices have intensified poverty, food insecurity, biodiversity loss, and conflicts. As Ethiopia navigates these challenges, it stands at a critical juncture in its development trajectory. 

Objectives, priorities, activities

HEKS/EPER has been actively engaged in Ethiopia since 1972, dedicating its efforts to supporting communities in overcoming crises, fostering sustainable livelihoods, and fortifying social cohesion. Our overarching vision for Ethiopia is centered on the idea that «communities become resilient to crises and build sustainable livelihoods.»

In our experience, the concept of building resilience to climate and disaster risks goes beyond mere recovery from shocks; it entails cultivating preparedness to address the root causes of vulnerability among diverse groups. This involves enhancing social, economic, and ecological systems and structures that underpin these communities. Collaboration is fundamental to our approach, with projects carried out in partnership with a diverse range of stakeholders, including community groups, government offices, local and international organizations, the private sector, and research institutes.

In Ethiopia, we boast well-equipped field offices and a skilled, dedicated team intimately familiar with the local culture, fluent in the native language, and trusted by stakeholders. Our primary focus is on underserved areas where communities grapple with extreme poverty and vulnerability. Whether assisting internally displaced persons, pastoralists, or women-headed households, we adopt a people-centered approach tailored to the specific needs and contexts where we operate.

Our comprehensive programme integrates humanitarian interventions, emphasizing water access, recovery from food insecurity, and access to shelter and protection services, with development activities that prioritize access to markets and financial services, sustainable natural resource management, and gender-inclusive initiatives. Embracing the Triple Nexus approach, we collaborate with community groups to enhance peaceful coexistence within their respective environments. 

HEKS in Äthiopien
Karl Heuberger

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