Pastoral Communities Adapt Sustainable Land Management Practices to Improve Livelihoods

Fertile land is essential for smallholder farmers and pastoralists. Poor soil health leads to low agricultural productivity, affects the nutritional quality of food and forces pastoralists to migrate to seek water and food for their animals.

In Ethiopia, only six percent of the land is irrigated and poor land management practices have led to severe land degradation for decades, which has been especially detrimental to small-scale pastoralists. As part of the Feed the Future initiative, USAID and Mercy Corps are working with pastoralists in Ethiopia to restore degraded lands by implementing sustainable land management practices. Part of this effort involves facilitating participatory discussions to enable rangeland councils to prioritize their needs, mobilize communities and ensure that various resources such as water and grasses are properly managed.

One of the more serious culprits behind Ethiopia’s land degradation ironically arose from a well-intended effort to shore up soil quality. More than 20 years ago, mesquite was introduced to some of Ethiopia’s lowland areas to reduce soil salinity. This highly invasive plant quickly overtook native plant species and threatened livestock both by reducing pasture availability and providing shelter for predators. Since it was introduced, mesquite has severely degraded vast areas of grazing land, leaving pastoralists struggling to obtain proper nutrition for their livestock and exacerbating migration.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

Huda Dubno, a pastoralist in the Afar Region of Ethiopia and a participant in the program, has experienced firsthand the challenges of degraded grazing lands. “When my sheep and goats entered into the prosopis [mesquite] area, we could not find them and they would be eaten by predators,” he explains.

Huda had no choice but to move his livestock to a different area to find better pasture, taking him far from his family. Even then, the quality of the grazing area did not provide enough nutrition for his animals, and low milk production among the herd left him unable to adequately feed his children.

Frustrated by his situation, Huda seized the opportunity to become involved in his local rangeland council, and was elected as council chairman. Eradicating mesquite was a top priority for the council, and Mercy Corps provided training and hand tools to help pastoralists achieve this end. Under the leadership of the rangeland council, Huda’s village joined six neighboring villages to clear mesquite from 120 hectares of grasslands.

Since joining this Feed the Future-supported program, Huda and his community have seen extraordinary success. They are witnessing the restoration of native plants as well as healthier and more productive livestock because of improved grasses, all of which are resulting in more income-generating opportunities. Throughout the Afar Region, the program has reached five rangeland councils and mobilized communities to clear over 310 hectares of mesquite-invaded land.

Huda’s camels have become stronger after just six months of grazing in the newly cleared rangeland, and their milk production has increased, enabling him to earn more money and provide for his children.  With the improved conditions of the rangelands, he hopes that his livestock will continue to flourish and that eventually he will be able to sell animals, in addition to their milk, so he can invest in his children’s education as well as new agricultural endeavors.

Huda’s story is an example of how coordinated land management can help local groups identify problems and implement effective solutions. “We think about how we can continue to manage the rangeland in the future on our own. The most important thing we learned was how mesquite grows and how we can manage it as a community,” Huda says. “This will help us create change and better provide for our families.”

The Pastoralist Areas Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME) activity is a five-year, $62 million USAID-funded effort implemented by Mercy Corps as part of the Feed the Future initiative, designed to increase household incomes and enhance resilience to climate change through market linkages in Ethiopia’s dryland areas.


Small Grants to Enterprises Increase Income and Jobs


Guji Zone, Oromia Region, is blessed with one of the most suitable climate and soil type for livestock production in Ethiopia. It is also home to one of the best cattle breed (Borena) in the country. Abdul-kadir Ahmed, 27 and a father of two boys, lives in Negelle, the capital of Guji. Abdulkadir gave up teaching to start a small restaurant in June 2005, which he ran for a 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 the milk marketing system in Negelle could be more efficient. De-spite high production in the zone, Abdulkadir had difficulty obtaining quality milk at the right time and the right place. He also knew that pastoralists complained about lack of market for their milk. When Abdulkadir came across USAID-PRIME’s call for small grant proposals in August 2014, he knew that was the right opportunity to make contributions to improving the milk market system.

Abdulkadir applied for the grant immediately, and won in September 2014. Since then, he 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 also 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. In all, the subagents collect about a hundred liters of milk a day from more than 120 households. His products include fresh milk, home-made yogurt, but-ter, cheese, and buttermilk.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

The business is benefitting all the actors in the value chain. Pastoralists sell their milk at their doorsteps when previ-ously they had to travel 20-30km to Negelle to sell their milk. As the result of the business, pastoralists have access to a sustainable market and higher prices. The price of milk 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, resulting in contami-nation and wastage. For Abdulkadir, it presented a viable and promising business. In less than two months, Abdulkadir has already started to make a profit. October saw a huge upsurge of revenue. Just in two weeks’ time, he has made a profit of more than ETB 6000 (USD 300), expecting a monthly profit of at least ETB 12,000 (USD 600) for October. He is optimistic that the following months will be even more profitable. Due to lack of quality control, Abdulkadir lost some money in September, but it was a learning opportunity. Now, he has put in place a system to enable him to collect quality milk and keep track of his suppliers. Abdulkadir is sure that he has made the right decision and investment that would benefit not only him but also his clients. “Starting to make a profit in just two months of operation,” says Ab-dulkadir, “is an indicative of the potential for the business, the many benefits for me and my clients.”

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 is looking into options to procure.

USAID, through 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. This intervention contributes to meeting FTF’s goal of “Expanding Markets and Trade” and IR 1 of “enhanced human and institutional capacity development for increased sustainable agriculture sector productivity” under the program element of “Agri-cultural Sector Capacity”. In all its operational areas, PRIME is offering this opportunity and receiving more applica-tions from entrepreneurs in different agricultural and pastoral sub-sectors.


Exhibition Participation Raises a Union

Exhibition Participation raises a union’s income by more than 30 percent MakuloYayo, 27, who lives in Moyale Town, identified the gap between the production of and demand for livestock when he worked for government as a Cooperative Promoter and for an NGO called AFD (Action for Development) as a Community Development Facilitator from 2008 to 2010. He noticed that pastoralists were not getting the price they deserved because they did not have access to fair markets. Equipped with knowledge about pastoralists’ livestock production, promotion, and market, Makulo’s decision to join Oda Roba Pastoralist Cooperative Union (ORPCU) as the manager in 2011 was largely driven by his ambition to put his expertise into good use and support the union obtain access to fair market.

Under Makulo’s management, the union has come a long way. Before 2011, the union was struggling on its own, making little progress towards market access. Over the last four years, Makulo worked hard to link the union with a number of partners that can potentially transform the way ORPCU does business. Mercy Corps, AFD, ACORD, CARE, and CIFA are some of such partners that are currently working with the union to support it technically and in search of markets. PRIME’s (Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion) support to ORPCU to participate in the African Livestock and Exhibition” in May 2014 was a major breakthrough in the union’s search for fair markets.

The African Livestock Exhibition and Congress (ALEC) was an exhibition targeted at providing a platform to bring together all stakeholders across the livestock value chain, and presenting a unique opportunity for all related to the field to reach new horizons of effective cooperation and discuss vital issues that are standing in the way of the sector development.

Makulo’s participation in the exhibition took the union to the next level. It created the opportunity to meet a lot of exporters and bargain price. As a result of that exhibition, the union struck deals with three exporters that operate in Mojo: Halas, Organic Export Abattoir and Luna Export Abattoir. Before the exhibition, the union sold a goat for 29 birr on the average. In the exhibition, however, the union got a higher offer of an average of 34 birr for a goat.[read more = “Continue Reading..” less=”Less”] That is an increase of about 46 per cent in the income of the union and the members. ORPCU could have sold much more goats if it had not been for the challenges of a holding ground, a place near the abattoir to keep the goats for a few days until the goats regain the weight they lose during travel. After signing the agreement, the union found out that the abattoirs did not have holding grounds. Since December, however, the union has moved to the trade of camels as they found it more lucrative. In less than two months, the union has sold about 126 camels, earning a profit of more than 88,000 birr. Although Makulo cannot tell the exact figures, he reckons the camel trade so far has boosted their profitability by at least 13 percent. “Thanks for the ALEC participation,” says Makulo, “our revenues are increasing and we hope they best is yet to come.”

One of the objectives of USAID-PRIME is to improve livestock markets through enhancing market linkages and improving the flow of livestock market information. ALEC is just one of the many activities the project has implemented for improving market linkage. ORCPU is just one of the hundreds of exporters, traders and unions that benefitted from the exhibition.


Butu Seid, Water Pump Maintenance

In 2006, a lot of agro-pastoralists in Genale Kebele, Gorodola Woreda in Guji Zone of Oromia Region were starting to use irrigation for vegetable farming; the challenge of fixing and maintaining the water pumps popped up not so long afterwards, however. Agro-pastoralists had to travel all the way to Negelle or even Shashemene to get their water pumps fixed, spending more than 500 birr on transportation only. Sometimes, if the maintenance took long, their crops could get dry. To avoid loss of crops, some farmers would buy a new water pump, incurring undue expenses. This problem of agro-pastoralists turned Butulala’s attention.


Butulala Seid, a father of six, grew up watching mechanics fix vehicles and he sometimes even lent a hand, handing over tools to them. “Looking at those scruffy boys scuttling around to bring vehicles to life was the moment that I really cherished,” says Butulala with nostalgia. For most of his adult life, however, Butulala was a tailor until he got into the business of water pump maintenance in 2006. Motivated by his childhood love for vehicle maintenance, Butulala decided to try the business of maintaining water pumps, which he observed was becoming a serious problem for a lot of agro-pastoralists. Butulala had to learn the business the hard way. There was no one to guide him nor to observe and learn. It was mainly trial and error. His job was far from efficient, nor could he earn trust from his clients. A year later, however, a training opportunity by USAID-PRIME turned his business around.

In December 2014, PRIME facilitated a 7-day training on water pump maintenance to five people, including Butulala, from Genale Keble. The trainees were selected by the community. When Butula and his friends learned that PRIME was not going to pay them per diem during the training, they were unhappy. “We were used to per diem for trainings. Often, we considered the per diem more important than the training,” says Butulala.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

Today, Butulala and his friends realize that the training was more than a per diem. It is a life time career that provided Butulala and his friends the necessary knowledge and skills to support themselves for life. Butulala now realizes that he should pay for trainings like this. Butula describes the training as “an eye-opener”. “The trainers,” he says, “were seasoned professionals”. Butula enjoyed the training and liked the trainers. They learned everything there was to learn about in water pumps (both the water part and the engine part). They learned the difference between engines that run with benzene and diesel, and how they are maintained. The training was both theoretical and practical. After learning the different parts of engines, their functions, and how they are maintained, trainees went on practicing maintenance. They dismantled and fixed more than 10 engines to develop their maintenance skills. After the training, all of the trainees were tested on their ability to reassemble engines and diagnose problems before they graduated. After the training, Butula partnered up with two of the trainees to set up a small maintenance shop. So far, they have fixed about 72 engines in their workshop. They have also fixed additional 20 engines outside of their shop, travelling 20 to 45 km to vegetable farms. Before the training, the zone Water, Mines and Energy Department had brought mechanics from Negelle and other cities to fix water pumps that were out of service. The mechanics fixed some pumps but could not fix about 70 of them. After the training, Butula and his friend have been able to fix 68 of them. Talking about his success, Butula says, “I’m proud of our achievements within such a short time. Above all, I’m so happy that I was able to fix pumps that more experienced mechanics could not fix.” Butula’s work has improved productivity of vegetable farms a lot by enabling farmers water their vegetables regularly. Vegetable farmers have been able to save lots of money and time as well. Without the service in their kebele, they would have been forced to travel to Negelle or other faraway towns such as Shashemene; Getting the engines fixed would take them days, causing damage to vegetables. Today, farmers can get their engines fixed in a day or two without any travel cost or loss of vegetables. Butula and his friends are also reaping the fruits of their labor. Each of them earn about 1200 birr a month, 15 percent of which they put aside for expanding their business. Butula is using this additional income to improve the lives of his family. “There were times when I couldn’t feed my family three times a day, but with this additional income, my children and wife are much better off in terms their nutritional status,” says Butula. He admits that his ambition apart from feeding his family was getting money to spend on “chat”. The training, however, gave him not only knowledge and skills but also aspirations. Today, his dream is to be able to open a spare part store where he could sell stock of spare parts that are in most demand. That would apparently be beneficial to the agro-pastoralists, his community and Butula himself. The challenge, however, is their savings so far are not sufficient to start that business. With a little bit of support they hope to open that spare part store soon.


Berwako Story For Ftf Jetedits 2014

The first milk processing plant in the pastoral areas of Ethiopia starts continuous production and milk marketing with USAID-PRIME support

The dairy production market system in the pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of Ethiopia remains predominantly subsistence-based with limited market-orientation and poor institutional support. Producing for the market requires re-orientation of the production system and development of knowledge-based and responsive institutional support services. Investment in the value adding parts of the dairy chain has been identified as one of the key interventions to transform subsistence dairy production into market orientated one.pic_sucessful_story_131 The recently established Berwako Milk Processing PLC,in Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopian Somali Regional State, has an important role toplay in catalyzing a market-oriented dairy development. The USAID-funded PRIME (Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion) project has been providing technical and financial support to this enterprise which was established a local entrepreneur Mr. Amir Mukhtar. Working with two milk consolidation cooperatives in Danusha and Bombas, a relationship that was facilitated by USAID-PRIME, Berwako currently collects cow and camel milk from around 300 households to turn row milk into different milk products of longer shelf-life. The company has started marketing its productsin Jijiga and other urban areas of the country like Addis Ababa, and neighboring countries, including Hargessa in Somalia.[read more=”Continue Reading..” less=”Less”]

The collaboration of producers, Berwako PLC and USAID-PRIME in support of the market system development, has so far resulted in stabilized production, more stable and efficient collection of milk, and an efficient distributionof finished products. Less than five months into its start-up, the daily processing capacity of Berwako for December 2014 has reached 1,200 liters of milk per day- still on an increase at a promising rate. Moreover, the higher price Berwako PLC offers for quality milk has resulted in improved quality raw milk and increased income for the milk producing households.

The owner of the firm, Amir Mukhtar, is optimistic about the prospects of the company. He says, “While the completion of this project poses numerous challenges, the vision of working together with the milk producing communities and the support we are getting from USAID keeps us confident that what we are doing will bring tremendous benefits to the households-who we create markets for, the consumers, and the national economy.”


With 25 full time staff on board, the company is set to process 5,000 liters of milk per day by June 2015. It is anticipated that USAID’s support to Berwako will enable more than 3,000 pastoral and agro pastoral households in Duhusha, Fafan, Bombas, Babile, Awbare and Kebribayah to have access to a more reliable, fairer, and regular market for their milk, resulting in increased household income. A better access to markets will in turn stimulate more production of milk, improving livestock productivity and quality.

The Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion (PRIME) project is a five-year (2013-2017), $56.7 million USAID-funded Feed the Future initiative designed to improve resilience of communities and market systems in Ethiopia’s dry-lands to enhance prospects for long-term development where pastoralist livelihood systems prevail. The project cost-share investments and provide technical assistance in partnership with financial service providers operating in Ethiopia’s Afar, Somali, and Oromiya regions. By buying down some of the investment risks inherent in these environments, the project aims to stimulate the market and build resilient business eco-systems. [/read]