Empowering Youth and Women: Showcasing Innovative Sheep Fattening Practices in Amhara, Ethiopia

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In the heart of Basona Worena district of the Amhara Region in Ethiopia, a transformative narrative unfolded in the villages of Abamote and Gudoberet. A total of 150 determined young women and men, members of sheep fattening groups, arranged a two-day remarkable field days to showcase of their 90-day journey, culminating in the presentation of their market-ready sheep. The event did not only mark the demonstration of improved fattening practices but also heralded the beginning of an entrepreneurial culture in sheep fattening among the youth and women.

In these communities, sheep fattening is not just an occupation; it is a way of life, deeply rooted in tradition. However, on these two days, the youth and women were on a mission to share their newfound knowledge of enhanced and market-oriented sheep fattening practices.

In Abamote, the event started with welcome remark from Fikre Cherkos, the Basona Worena District Head of the Job and Training Office, who encouraged the group members by emphasizing “You are now ambassadors of your district,” igniting a sense of pride and purpose among the participants and motivating them to share their experiences and knowledge widely. 

The Genesis of Market-Oriented Sheep Fattening

The genesis of this initiative can be traced back to a larger sheep fattening project in Ethiopia initiated by International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) . In August 2022, six sheep fattening youth groups were formed in Basona Worena district, comprising 150 members. They underwent extensive training in improved sheep fattening practices, cooperative formation, entrepreneurial skills, and financial literacy. The project was a collaborative effort, with a dedicated Community of Practice (CoP) platform providing support from public and private stakeholders, as well as livestock researchers from the Debre Berhan Agricultural Research Center.

A Platform for Change

Recognizing the need for a platform to showcase their achievements, the youth came together to organize the field days. These two days served as an opportunity for the communities of Abamote and Gudoberet to witness firsthand the potential of sheep fattening as a business. The events were not merely exhibitions of their fattened rams; they were forums for inspiration, aimed at fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in sheep fattening. Each booth, staffed by 10 youth group members, delved into various themes, with at least one CoP member providing support. The field days garnered an impressive turnout of over 700 farmers and were graced by officials from the Agricultural Bureau, national researchers, development workers, extension workers, and government administrators.

Innovations that Speak Volumes

The community and youth-to-youth experience-sharing approach allowed for the dissemination of information related to balanced feeding using locally available feed resources with emphasis on the multi-purpose barley and dual purpose lentil, promotion of the youth groups’ feed mechanization project that has introduced the use of processed and balanced feed rations for sheep, use of feed and watering troughs to reduce feed and water contamination, castration and deworming prior to fattening, and improved husbandry for improved housing and health management. Other important themes included collective action, entrepreneurship and marketing in sheep fattening, financial literacy, data recording and women participation in sheep fattening.

The impact of these innovations was evident, with the first round of the use of improved fattening demonstrating a significant 49% increase in income from the sale of fattened rams compared to the traditional method.

Bridging the Gap

What truly made these events unique was not just the innovations themselves, but the manner in which the youth and women bridged the gap between generations. They actively engaged with adults and elders, sharing their knowledge on SF practices and seeking feedback, thereby highlighting their vital role in community development.

Membere Hailemariam from Abamote, expressed how the newfound knowledge had transformed her approach to sheep fattening, stating, “Previously, I was unable to buy sheep for fattening due to my limited understanding on right ram selection. But now, armed with knowledge, I can fatten my rams with proper feeds in three months and accurately calculate my profits.”

Women group members. Photo by Girma Tesfaye, Debre Berhan

A Step Towards Resilience

As we reflect on these events, it becomes evident that the key to sustainable community development lies in empowering the youth and women. By providing them with the tools, support, and platform to innovate, we are not only transforming livelihoods but also laying the foundation for more sustainable mixed farming systems. The journey of these communities serves as a testament to the power of knowledge, collaboration, and resilience in shaping a brighter future.




Featured image: Youth group members. Photo by Girma Tesfaye, Debre Berhan

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