The Relief Society of Tigray has been working with and for the people of Tigray since 1978, promoting and enabling self-reliant, sustainable development in the region, with a particular focus on subsistent and semi-subsistent smallholder agricultural households and communities.
During its earlier years, REST worked with rural communities in the areas of Tigray under the administration of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and with Tigrayan refugees in eastern Sudan. These were mainly small scale relief, rehabilitation and employment generation activities, while slowly but surely building up relationships of trust and support with a range of international supporters. Through the successive severe droughts of the early 1980s and subsequent famine, REST’s operations escalated sharply in scale and urgency, establishing and managing refugee camps in eastern Sudan for the hundreds of thousands displaced from Tigray. Supported by two international NGO consortia, the Emergency Relief Desk (ERD), and the Tigray Transport and Agriculture Consortium (TTAC), and other international agencies, our cross border operations provided a vital lifeline of food, medical and other emergency assistance for the famine effected population still inside behind government lines. Even during the early years, despite the predominance of relief operations and the constraints and challenges of ongoing conflict, REST had always done as much as possible with a longer term, developmental perspective, including soil and water conservation, livestock improvement, and agricultural training projects. Then from 1986 on, with the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Tigrayan refugees from Sudan back to their homelands, the main focus shifted to rehabilitation and long term development, while always maintaining essential relief mobilisation and distribution operations to mitigate the impact of intermittent drought and crop failure.
With the end of the war against the military regime in 1991, cross border operations from Sudan were wound down, and REST was able to fully focus on working for rural economic growth and sustainable rural livelihoods in the context of evolving national and regional disaster preparedness and prevention. Now, with over a thousand full time staff, we operate in 34 rural woredas and have our headquarters in Mekelle, with field offices in 18 woredas of Tigray, and a liaison and logistics office in Addis Ababa.