Murabah is resulting in more and better animals

The demand for Ethiopia’s lowland livestock breed and camels in neighboring countries and the Middle East is well recognized. The large volume of livestock resources and proximity to the export markets gives the country comparative advantages. However, the sector is beset with problems, including inadequate market infrastructure, and lack or absence of capable exporting firms.

Umer Abdi, an animal trader, who took advantage of a loan scheme facilitated by the Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Improvement (PRIME) project and implemented by the Somali Microfinance Institution (SMFI). A few years ago, Umer was a livestock trader who worked on trust basis. He used to buy animals from pastoralists on credit. Not a lot of pastoralists were keen to sell on credit for understandable reasons. Thus, Umer supplied to local markets only; he could barely meet even the demands of the local market. Umer struggled to make ends meet. None of his seven children went to school. He also lived in a small hut.

PRIME realizes that improving the financial capacity of livestock traders and exporters is the key to address the bottlenecks of animal trade. The project worked with SMFI to support the pastoralist communities in the Ethiopian Somali Region by designing a new loan product, known as Muraba, tailored to livestock traders and exporters. Umer is one of the traders who benefitted from the scheme. In October 2013, Umer secured a loan of 200,000 birr. That money changed his life. With the loan, he bought more animals and started to supply to Sheikh Musa, a livestock exporter, who has a contractual agreement with Aljabir, a livestock importer in Dubai, to export 2000 ruminants a month.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”] Umer’s monthly transaction increased a lot, raising his monthly income by about 50 percent. His business is doing so well that life for his family and himself changed a lot. Today, five of his kids are in school; he built more comfortable houses for himself and for one of his wives. The recent change has make Umer optimistic about what the future hold for him. “A few years from now,” he says, “I’ll be a different person. I’m dreaming of helping not only my family but also a lot of small holder pastoralists.”

With this loan, Umer reaches 30-35 pastoralists, who are benefitting from the scheme in several ways. To begin with, now that Umer has a more lucrative and sustainable market, he can afford to pay more to the producers, about 50 percent more depending on the age of the animals and their body weight and look. Secondly, Umer goes to villages to purchase the animals, saving pastoralists a lot of time and money. Thirdly, the loan is encouraging pastoralists to raise more animals. For Somali pastoralists, livestock is the principal source of subsistence providing milk and cash to cover family expenses for food grains and other essential consumer goods. If pastoralists have a reasonably good market, they have the potential to double animal production and productivity, and that is what this scheme is doing. Fourthly, the scheme is contributing to improving animal productivity and quality. At the moment, Umer’s Dubai client has requirements; he is looking for two to three-year old animals that have good body weight.

Umer and other traders are sharing this information with producers, who in turn are working hard to meet market requirements.

Umer is just one of the dozens of livestock traders, who are benefitting from the scheme. With more financial products like Muraba, more livestock producers and traders will enter the market. The scheme will have an important role to play in enhancing animal production and productivity. It is an incentive for small holders to produce more and take a good care of their animals. Ultimately, it will contribute to building resilience among pastoralist communities and meeting Ethiopia’s GTP target in the livestock sector.


Increasing income and jobs through small grants to enterprises

Guji Zone, in Oromia Region, is blessed with one of the most suitable climate and soil type for livestock production in Ethiopia. The zone is home to one of the best cattle breed (Borena) in the country. Abdulkadir Ahmed, 27 and a father of two boys, lives in Guji’s capital, Negelle. Abdulkadir gave up teaching to start a small restaurant in June 2005, which he ran for little more than a year until he realized that dairy collection would be a more promising business. While he was in the restaurant business, Abdulkadir realized that milk supply to Negelle could be more efficient. He had difficulty obtaining quality milk at the right time and the right place. In August 2014, Abdulkadir came across USAID-PRIME’s calls for small grant proposals to entrepreneurs who could potentially benefit small-holder dairy producers by expanding and creating market for their products.

Abdulkadir applied for the grant and won in September 2014. Since then, Abdulkadir set up a center (Abdi Milk collection and Distribution Center) for his dairy business and bought equipment, including two refrigerators, a milk churner, and a lactometer. He employed four people (three of whom are women) who earn an average of ETB 750 a month (over USD 35). Abdulkadir’s business involves collecting milk from neighboring sub-districts within 50km radius of Negelle town. He is working with four agents who collect milk from about 10 other sub-agents each, bringing the total of sub-agents to forty. The subagents collect about a hundred liters of milk a day from more than 120 pastoralist households. His products include fresh milk, home-made yogurt, butter, cheese, and buttermilk.

Abdulkadir’s business benefits all the actors in the value chain. Pastoralists sell their milk at their doorsteps when previously they had to travel 20-30 km to Negelle to sell their milk. His business helps pastoralists to have regular access to markets and higher prices too. The price used to be highly unpredictable. Today, they sell their milk at 12 birr (USD .60) a liter to sub-agents, who sell it for 13.5 birr to agents. Abudlkadir pays 15 birr to agents for a liter of milk, which he sells for 21 birr (USD 1). Consumers also have access to safer and more quality milk while previously it was exposed to mishandling, direct sunlight, and unsanitary conditions in the collection process.[read more =”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

In less than two months from its start-up, the business has already started to make a profit. September was a learning period for Abdulkadir. Due to lack of quality control, he lost money. Now, he has put in place a system to enable him to collect quality milk, including the use of lactometers for testing quality and keeping track of his suppliers. He is very optimistic that things will improve. “Starting to make a profit in just two months of operation,” says Abdulkadir, “is indicative of the potential for the business.” October saw a huge upsurge of sales. Just in two weeks’ time, he has made a profit of more than ETB 6000 (USD 300), expecting a monthly profit of ETB 12,000 (USD 600).

Abudulkadir’s major challenge is reaching pastoralists, who do not have access to markets due to long distances from Negelle. There is abundant organic milk in sub-districts like Haddessa and Dido, which are about 90km from Negelle. Linking with these sub-districts would benefit not only his business and producers but all actors in the chain including, agents, consumers and processors. Reaching these sub-districts requires a modest investment in motorbikes, which he believes is worthy and is looking into options to procure them.

USAID, though PRIME, is working to improve the dairy value chain by giving small grants to businesses that have the potential to improve the income and livelihoods of producers and other actors in the value chain. In all its operational areas, PRIME is offering this opportunity and receiving more applications from entrepreneurs in different agricultural and pastoral sub-sectors.


Vegetable producers increase incomes by six-fold with PRIME support

Ato Abdurahman Hassen, a resident of Genale Kebele, in Guji Zone Oromia Region, was born to a pastoralist family and followed in his parents’ footsteps. For Abdurahman, the pastoralist life in the old days was a good one. He had more than 30 cattle. Pasture and water were abundant. There was plenty of milk and no one worried to make ends meet. In the last 20 years, however, Abdurahman has witnessed dramatic changes in the lives of pastoralists. Land has degraded and the number of livestock has decreased, resulting in the deterioration of pastoralists’ quality of life. The root cause of these changes has been the decrease in rainfall and precipitation. In response to the changing climate and way of life, Abdurahman started to grow some crops such as corn, sorghum and teff.

In 2007, Abdurahman decided to settle in the small town of Genale. He sold some of his cattle and bought 1000 hectares of irrigable land for 10,000 birr (USD 500) and started to grow vegetables, mainly tomatoes, onions, pepper and cabbage. Soon after, Abdurahman acquired another hectare of irrigable land from the Genale Kebele. The income he earned from his vegetables improved his life tremendously but crop diseases and lack of markets are the two major setbacks of his vegetable farming. The zonal and district Pastoralist Offices supported him with technical advice and seed provision. The market access problem, however, would continue. Farmers sold a kilo of tomato only for 50 cents of a birr (USD .025). There were times when they would even throw away their vegetables due to lack of buyers. “In 2010,” says Abdurahman, “I went to Negelle [capital town of Guji] to sell tomatoes; sadly, I couldn’t get enough buyers for them. I had to dump them in the market place. To add insult to injury, I was busted by Municipality guards and fined 70 birr (USD 3.5)”.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

After an international NGO that was helping agro pastoralists with the production and marketing of vegetables left, the community had no one to turn to. When they found out about PRIME, they approached the project to help them with seeds, transportation services, and crates. To their surprise, PRIME offered instead only to facilitate the vegetable market system to benefit the growers and all other actors in the value chain. The farmers were at first unsure of this approach but decided to give it a try regardless. As promised, PRIME identified three dealers and put them in touch with farmers. Soon, farmers started communication with the traders and business started. “In no time, our business turned around,” says Abdurahman. “The price of our vegetables skyrocketed beyond our imagination.” A crate of tomato (50kg), which earned them only 50 birr (USD 2.5) before the market facilitation, rose to a 100 birr (USD 5), a 100 percent increase.

Encouraged by the results, PRIME facilitated a one-day Vegetable Market Linkage Forum in Negelle in June 2014 with a view to streamlining the vegetable market system by improving linkages among value chain actors. “That forum was a game changer,” says Abdurahman. The forum brought growers, traders, cooperatives, government representatives and other stakeholders together to thrash out vegetable market issues. Traders and growers exchanged contact information. Soon, a number of traders came to the sub-district from as far away as Jijiga, Moyale, Dire Dawa, Shashemene and even from Shakiso. The price of a crate of tomato went up from 100 to 300 birr (USD 15). As a result of this intervention, Abdurahman’s annual income from vegetables increased from 10,000 to 60,000 birr (USD 500 to 3,000).

Vegetables are critical crops in ensuring the food and nutrition security of pastoralists and building their resilience. The horticulture sub-sector in the pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, however, has a number of setbacks that need immediate attention, one of which is market linkages. In recognition of the volatility of the vegetable market system, PRIME worked with government Pastoralist Offices and other stakeholders to improve the market systems in Guji Zone of Oromia, and implemented several interventions to stimulate the production of vegetables, benefiting 565 agro-pastoralist vegetable producers and other actors in the value chain by increasing their annual income from their farming, and creating job opportunities.


Opening fodder markets in pastoralist areas saves lives

For Debo Buru, a resident of Medecho sub-district, in Yabello, Oromia Regional State, pastoralist life is growing more unpredictable and precarious by the year. About a decade ago, life was good for Debo – she had six cows and plenty of milk, which was a major source of food; she even sold the extra milk to buy sugar, maize and clothes. Water was plentiful, and she never worried about where the next meal would come from.

That started to change about eight years ago, when Debo lost most of her cattle to a bad drought. Milk became hard to come by. Her two surviving cows were so weak and sickly that they hardly gave any milk. Since then, pasture and water conditions have deteriorated. It generally rains too little too late. Debo is struggling to feed her family of five with only one cow and three goats. She receives government support of 15 kg of wheat per family member a month. Moreover, she works for an NGO every other day to earn ETB 375 (less than USD 20) a month. The support enables her family to survive, but her life is nothing like what she dreamed for her children. With all the hard work, she can only feed her children once or twice a day and the only milk for her children comes from one lactating goat, which is far from enough.

The current drought is yet another blow for Debo –she is on the verge of losing her only cow. Debo says, “my family and I look at my cow with a broken heart. She has no more weight to lose but her life.” Debo finds it hard to imagine life without her cow and her feeling for the future is bleak.

In response to the recent emergency in pastoralist areas of Ethiopia, USAID’s PRIME project has recently worked with government and private sector actors to facilitate fodder distribution to pastoralists. Debo was one of the hundreds of beneficiaries selected, receiving vouchers worth 79 kg of fodder which will feed her cow for about 20 days. Debo thinks that the fodder support couldn’t have come at a better time. “I can’t be thankful enough for the fodder. Without the fodder, it would be a matter of days before my cow dies,” says Debo with a subdued voice. For now, she hopes that her cow will survive this drought and be able to continue to send her children to school.[read more =”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

PRIME responded to the escalating drought emergency in its operational areas through fodder vouchers and commercial de-stocking. Both interventions are aimed at reducing the pressure of deteriorating pasture conditions on households by having the means to maintain their remaining livestock assets and/or sale part of their herd and convert them into cash assets to be able to re-stock their herd. Based on the national guideline for livestock relief intervention in pastoral areas of Ethiopia, the project facilitated the distribution of 64,000 kg of hay in 30 sub-districts of Borena Zone, Oromiya Regional State in August 2014 only. The interventions will reach about 5000 heads of livestock, helping families maintain their living standards and nutritional status, and contributing to protecting PRIME’s market-based investment and development gains. For this intervention, PRIME provided vouchers to beneficiaries who collected hay from private businesses that were linked to wholesalers contracted by PRIME. The intervention has contributed to establishing a market system for fodder in Borena Zone. PRIME will continue to support the fodder market system so that pastoralists have access to fodder at an affordable price to improve the productivity of livestock and livestock products in dry and rainy seasons.


Celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

“Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Development Project observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities at Mercy Corps Ethiopia Office Addis Ababa. The Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) project coordinator at PRIME, Tesfu Equbeyohaness, delivered an awareness-raising briefing to PRIME staff. During the occasion, Ato Tesfu said, “PRIME is making a huge contribution towards the inclusion and creation of access to persons with disability in its operational areas”. He further reminded all staff and leadership to even strengthen the deliberate inclusion efforts further.