Tapping into Ethiopia’s booming dairy sector

Agriculture in Ethiopia is the foundation of the country’s economy and accounts for half of the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2016, 85% of the labour force in the country was in the agriculture sector. According to the World Bank, Ethiopia’s GDP has increased substantially (from US$29,93 billion in 2010 to US$61,54 billion in 2016) as a result of the country’s booming dairy sector. In addition, the volume of milk products being produced in Ethiopia has tripled in the last 15 years.

The Ethiopian government plans to double its domestic milk production volume by 2020, thus increasing milk exports and decreasing imports from other nations. This will have a positive effect on the economy, such as increasing opportunities for foreign investment.

Australia Awards – Africa Alumna, Liya Girma Abebe from Ethiopia, has tapped her way into this growing sector. Liya completed a Masters in Agribusiness at the University of Queensland in 2015. On her impact in the sector, she says: “I wanted to test my newly added skills and knowledge, which I gained in Australia, within the booming dairy sector.”

Liya currently works as a Business Network Advisor at Dairy Business Information Service and Support (DairyBISS), a project at the Wageningen University and Research Centre, which is funded by the government of The Netherlands. “This pilot project is focused on strengthening commercial dairy farms and firms in Ethiopia. It was designed as an ambitious initiative to facilitate collaboration and networking in both the private and the public sector, with the objective to realise sustainable growth,” she explains.

Her role, as a Business Network Advisor, is to facilitate linkages and create collaborations. Ultimately, she will set up a commercial dairy business platform. The platform will enable universities to undertake a capacity-building program, form linkages and build relationships with other stakeholders within the sector.

The project is targeting 140 trainees who will each support and assist no less than five farms and firms. Moreover, the trainees are networked with each other, with universities and with commercial dairy farmers to participate in different dialogues and activities in the dairy sector.

“For instance, the capacity-building component of the project involves training advisors who are operating in the dairy sector to upgrade their knowledge and skills in the practical dimension so that their services will be desirable and they will be paid for delivering these services. As such, we have trained 60 advisors (of which 12 were women) on dairy production, business skills and dairy processing,” says Liya.

The project encourages female dairy farm owners in many of their initiatives, such as an innovation testing program, individual support and organising DairyBISS events so that they are accessible to women in consideration of the cultural orientation of the locations.

“The model adopted by this project is interesting from the point of view that it follows Aid for Trade principles, where assistance is not directly delivered to beneficiaries. The lessons learned from other projects that sustain change is a challenge once the project is phased out. Therefore, the DairyBISS model aims to trigger a change that satisfies needs, while working with existing systems to support these newly added changes,” says Liya.

During her final semester, she gained experience through a six-week internship at a mango production and exporting company in Australia. This is where she gained knowledge on how a value chain operates and the skills required of it. She is now able to put these skills into practice within Ethiopia’s dairy sector. Although the dairy sector is still in its development stage in Ethiopia, it has the potential for growth and can contribute to improving food security in Ethiopia.

Since 2011, Australia Awards – Africa has awarded over 800 African professionals within the agriculture sector the opportunity to study in Australia. Australia Awards – Africa provides a comprehensive package that includes study and living assistance. For Scholarships Awardees. This includes full payment of their tuition fees at an Australian institution, contribution to living expenses, return airfares, health insurance cover and full payment of pre-course English language training for those who require it.

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