Ethiopia is oftentimes seen as a place of extreme poverty and famine with no opportunities for the locals to improve their business. The situation is especially difficult for women, whose potential is limited by cultural and legal inequalities. However, there is an opportunity that is considered which could provide many women with a stable source of income. That opportunity is livestock. Although women still are not fully capable of making financial decisions in Ethiopia, the dairy sector is monopolized by small business farmers and processing the milk is mainly a women’s job.

This traditional role for women in the past could have been seen as disempowering, however recently there has been a fresh view and women are turning dairy into an economic opportunity for themselves and their families. With the help of training and financial assistance from USAID, these women are able to obtain the skills needed to empower themselves in spite of their obstacles. The main industries that employ women are livestock fattening and dairy production, however there are still areas in Ethiopia that women do not have access to the training and knowledge that others take for granted.

The USAID Agricultural Growth Program, Livestock Market Development, project is a part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative and it aims to improve nutrition and increase revenue for women. The way it plans on doing this is through training and investments in dairy, meat and live animals. Both men and women will benefit from this project but there will be special attention given to helping women become entrepreneurs with training designed specifically for their empowerment.

Strengthening Ethiopian organizations to build effective partnerships is one of the main objectives for the project as well. USAID funding is helping meet these needs with an advanced cattle cross-breeding program to create offspring that is 10 times more productive than the current cow. The project has a five year execution plan and so far there are significant results from it. About 100 women were able to receive training on entrepreneurship and leadership in one session in 2013. The same women now act as business role models within their own livestock market.

Although extreme poverty is still a major issue throughout Ethiopia, programs like this are making it easier for everyone, especially women to break the cycle and make their own business successful. Women finding success is something new to Ethiopia and this program looks to continue to empower them and help the whole country work itself out of poverty.

– Brooke Smith

Sources: USAID  Feed the Future
Photo: Flickr