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Partnering to empower communities around the world


Action on Poverty (AOP)


Vietnam and Ethiopia

SMEC has partnered with Action on Poverty (AOP) for the past year on projects addressing social and humanitarian issues around the world.

Action on Poverty (AOP) is a Sydney-based international development organisation that empowers marginalised communities across Africa, Asia and the Pacific to break the cycle of entrenched poverty.

New project: Using potato seeds to ease poverty in Ethiopia

Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition

AOP has been helping local smallholder farmers in Gamo Gofa and South Gondar in Ethiopia to grow their own potatoes, an initiative that offers both a sustainable food source and household income. Although Ethiopia has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, rural populations have yet to benefit and many communities remain living in poverty. Potatoes are the crop of choice because they grow more quickly, on less land, and in harsher climates than other major crops such as maize. They are also nutritionally dense and therefore key for combatting malnutrition, especially during the ‘hunger months’

This project is now in its fifth year and reaches over 13,000 direct beneficiaries in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Removing barriers to progress

Lack of access to quality seed at affordable prices is a major barrier to progress for smallholder farmers, who are forced to re-use poor quality, local seed varieties that have low levels of production. Therefore, a primary focus of the project is improving regional seed production and distribution systems so smallholder farmers can access high-quality seed.

In 2020, the SMEC Foundation partnered with AOP to fund and construct two new Diffused Light Storage (DLS) facilities in South Gondar that will each store up to 200 tonnes of quality potato seed. Diffused Light Storage (DLS) facilities can be used to store seeds without the use of electricity, maintain seed integrity, and reduce post-harvest losses. This type of facility has been successfully piloted in Gamo Gofa, where farmers are already reaping the benefits of access to high-quality seed to drastically increase their incomes.

The first DLS will be used by a seed cooperative with 41 members, while the second will service a cooperative with 43 members. The cooperatives have already been trained in seed multiplication but, to date, have lacked the appropriate facilities to do their work. Construction of the DLS facilities in South Gondar are now complete and have been handed over to the farming communities.

Project completed: Road infrastructure in Vietnam

In 2020, SMEC partnered with AOP to help deliver essential road infrastructure to Chien Village in Hoa Binh province, a mountainous region in northern Vietnam located approximately two hours from Hanoi. Read more about the project here.

More than 50 villagers eagerly participated in levelling, molding for concrete casting, and roadside embankment. Community members have contributed approximately 50 labour days for construction. A Community Investment Supervision Board (CISB) was also established to monitor the construction project, consisting of representatives from the community.

Despite a number of challenges including delays to the works caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic, construction of the new concrete road, including a slab culvert to replace the temporary wooden bridge over Ma stream, is now completed.

More than 400 people in Chien and neighbouring villages will enjoy a safer road for everyday commuting, including children travelling to school, and workers on their way to the rice paddies.

The road improvement will not only raise the quality of the villagers’ living conditions but also help Chien village attract more tourists. Chien has now established three homestays and a number of other tourism services, including cooking, trekking, art performance and handicraft groups, with the support of AOP.

Bringing basic infrastructure such as roads to Chien is essential to local economic growth, including the success of the burgeoning community-based tourism (CBT) industry, and thereby the long-term improvement of livelihoods for residents.

“Despite having sent guests our homestay location on Google Maps, every time they came, I had to go to the main road to pick them up. We took a detour instead of the main road as it was small and the wooden bridge crossing Ma stream was so slippery and risky during the rainy season. Since we found out the project would support our village in repairing the bridge, we’ve been very happy. From now on, my children can enjoy a safer road when travelling to school. With the newly constructed road, it’s also more convenient for tourists to experience our community-based tourism services.”
– Mr. Ha Van Than, homestay owner